image from here
Parenting is one of those things that almost everybody over a certain age has some experience with. If they haven’t been parents themselves, they’ve at least observed enough to form a few opinions. And boy, do they make their opinions known. When Jack was younger, people would say things like, “Oh, look at the cute baby! Where’s his hat?” Or they would ask whether he was sleeping through the night and tell me what I needed to do to make him. Or ask conspiratorially if I was one of those moms who breastfeeds in public. One lady even told me I was holding him wrong! As he gets older, the comments have changed. Now it’s all about how I respond when he acts out and whether I’m keeping a close enough eye on him. People act like he has no sense of self-preservation and I should be on constant suicide watch.
No matter how active Nick is in parenting our child, others will always view me as the primary caretaker and address their comments as such. I’ve struggled with accepting criticism for as long as I can remember. I developed a much tougher skin after my first few years as a social worker but parenting brings it to a whole new level. Add to that the fact that I bristle at unsolicited advice or being told what to do unless it comes from someone who’s paying me and you have a recipe for frustration. I can seethe for days over one comment.
In my line of work I have seen some people really do their kids a disservice. You’d think that this experience would be reassuring, but really it just makes it easy to see all the ways that I’m falling short. It’s like a friend of mine who’s a social worker on a neuro unit and thinks every headache is a stroke. I know too much.
But at the same time, I know that there are only a few ways to really mess up your kids and a million ways to do a perfectly fine job. I feel like my mantra these days is, “he’s fine.” And you know what? He IS fine! Just because somebody says something doesn’t make it true, and even if their way of parenting is actually right that doesn’t mean that my way isn’t also right. But more importantly, I need to stop taking these comments so personally. What kind of example am I setting for Jack to get so worked up about what other people think?
Parenting is a lot like living in a fish bowl. Everything you do is under scrutiny by the general public. I can’t do anything to change that, but I think I can work on letting those comments roll off my back. Any tips?