Thursday, April 24, 2008

Here are the kids on Liam's birthday. Oh my how cute. He might kill me when he's older about that jacket but I couldn't resist. Later he donned his John Deere cap and looked out of this world.

Now onto my thoughts for today, mused on while making the curtains for Aoife's absolutely succulent new bedroom which I finished painting today:

It would be nice for all of us if everybody would cease to judge others for how they parent. But we all do it. So here I'll talk about two things. One, how I choose not to judge others. Then I will admit the ways that I do judge people, and why I think it's okay to judge just a little. And then again why I shouldn't be doing it anyway.
I felt sad when I read Jen's comment from my last post, where she indicated that her parenting had been criticized. Now, it turns out that I happen to actually know Jen, and she is a great mom. I think she does follow her heart, and her daughter is beautiful, smiley and full of joy. My guess would be that somebody is just not minding their own business, and is judging her just on the way she chooses to do certain things. These are the things that it makes me CRAZY when people stick their nose where it doesn't belong.
Let's just use the example that maybe the person was critcizing her for co-sleeping (I actually have no idea what was upsetting her, but we'll just use this as an example.)
Because here's the thing: I don't sleep with my kids, not really. I do a little, when they are babies, but by 6 months or so I am ready for them to be mostly just nearby, and by a year, I am really and truly ready for them to sleep for as much of the night as possible in their own bed, down the hall. This is how I work, and this is the arrangement that works best for my family. But if someone else wants to just keep sleeping and sleeping and sleeping together? You go for it. It's not my house, not my night's sleep, and not my kid. I have one very close friend whose kids who are older than mine still need her or her husband there in the room with them in order to fall asleep. So there they sit, frittering away their entire evening with a book and a flashlight. My thought? Not, they are dumb. Just, I could never do it. I would explode. I am too selfish for that. I need my evening. I can look at their situation through my eyes, and I can decide, "Nope, not for me." But that does not, DOES NOT, mean that what they are doing is wrong. You know?
So here's where I confess, I do judge. I can't help it. I judge for things that for me, seem inarguably wrong. I judge when I see somebody pushing a stroller and smoking a cigarette. I judge when I hear of kids watching hours of cartoons unsupervised. I judge when I see people doing things that seem to be endangering their kids. I judge in those situations, and I do think that I am making better choices for my kids than those people. I can see that I might be judged for choices that I make, for example, a vegan might judge my choice to give my children dairy and eggs ad nauseum and even a little meat every now and then as harmful and awful. I might also judge the vegan for depriving their child of essential amino acids that help to develop the nervous system (and just so you know that comment actually came from a child I taught who was neurologically delayed and the docs thought it was diet related). So we kind of do, whether we like it or not, all sit around and judge each other.
The other area where I feel a little guilty about judging, but I blame it on my slight loss-induced mental illness, is that I do judge people who choose, electively, not to breastfeed. I can't help it. I wanted to nurse Charlotte so badly, and it was so incredibly painful to have that milk come in and not use it, that I just want to jump out of my skin at the idea that anyone would electively go through that agony in order to feed their child an inferior product to the one they just chose to waste. So I do admit to feeling incredibly guilty about that one, just because I know people don't mean to do it to harm their kids, but I do think it's just ridiculous to not even try to do it for a while, anyway. And I'm jealous that their baby lived and they got to make that choice.
So, having said all that, I do think it would be nicer if we didn't judge. We all have to get through the day. Why do I judge the person who lets their kid watch 3 hours of cartoons, if maybe she can be a better mom for the 3 hours she actually plays with her kids if she does that? I have no idea what is going on in people's lives. I have no business judging. So I will try harder not to. And I will assume all the smoking moms are trying to quit. And I will try not to feel that feeling of being better.
And as for hearing of other judging people just based on sleep, or nursing, or other more benign issues? I will encourage people to mind their own business, by supporting both the criticized and the criticizer for the ways in which they are both right, both entitled to their own opinion, and both entitled to not really worry so much about what other people are doing in their own homes.
Enough for tonight. I am surprised I even got that out. My dear mother in law is in town to play with the kids, and I am getting so much accomplished it is making me feel almost manic. I am giddy with how much can happen in a day. The weather has been glorious. Aaahhh...


Jen said...

Liam and Aoife look so sweet!

Ah the minefields of judgment... I am not immune to judging either, particularly when it involves clear danger. And I'm with you on the breastfeeding, although I understand that not everyone has access to the same information about the benefits, and the pull of culture and peer pressure can be fierce.

I was upset the other day because the criticism was unsolicited, one source was a young male co-worker (M) who doesn't have kids, and the other was an older male co-worker (D) who does have a kid but thinks his parenting is right and mine is not. M doesn't even know what he's talking about but was still annoying and hurtful; he said I was overprotective, to Lily's detriment. (Um, hello, Lily is 12 months old... hell, yeah, I'm going to protect her.) D was even more hurtful. And it was an issue related to sleeping; D apparently thinks I'm a bad mama because Lily doesn't have a definite bedtime (just a range when she generally falls asleep), and he thought our nighttime sleeping arrangements weren't right. Oh for crying out loud. This isn't the first time he has unabashedly criticized my parenting choices. I try not to respond too much but it really upsets me. All these negative comments came at me on my birthday, no less, which they were aware of.

It would have been far nicer if they had kept these thoughts to themselves.

Another thought I had is that criticism about one's parenting is different from many other kinds of criticism, somehow... it feels so much more hurtful. Not that I especially enjoy being criticized in other ways, but it hurts to be told that I'm screwing up the most important job I will ever have- being Lily's mama.

Sara said...

I have to admit, I'm sensitive about the breastfeeding issue. I know and understand the benefits of breastfeeding and think we as a society should encourage women to do it and make it easy to do, I couldn't breastfeed. I really wanted to, but my milk never came in. Nobody ever said anything to me about not breastfeeding, but I still always felt like I had to justify why I wasn't.

I was probably particularly sensitive about it because I was stuck with a choice I didn't want, and I know why I should breastfeed, so I was stuck with a second-best choice. I felt inadequate on my own and certainly didn't need anybody to tell me why I should breastfeed. Even the bottles from the pump mocked me, reminding me breast milk is best as they remained stubbornly empty.

I want to clarify that I'm not taking offense at the comments about breastfeeding, but had to offer my own perspective on the judging-breastfeeding issue.

(While I'm at it, I'll admit that I'm equally sensitive about the fact that I had to have a C-section. Here again, I felt judged. I almost had to quit prenatal yoga because it made me feel so bad about how I was going to have my baby. And as with breastfeeding I felt like I had to justify why I was having one.)