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Saturday, 7 April 2012

Different, not wrong.

Lately I have noticed an upsetting trend: mothers (and people in general) sometimes have a particular way of doing things, and they become so set in this that any other way is 'wrong'. I have seen debates on various forums ranging from the classic 'breastfeeding vs. bottle feeding' debate to 'how old is too old to have your child in a stroller'. It's ridiculous to see the way some people will say, "I can't believe you would do that" about the silliest things. Seriously, how does something as simple as when to ween your child from a dummy (and indeed, whether to use one at all) become so controversial?

In addition to this I also read an article recently from a mother basically apologising to all the mothers she judged before she had her own children and it got me to thinking that sometimes it's not as simple as one way is right and the other is wrong. It's just that there are two different ways of doing things. It's a shame that we (whether intentionally or subconsciously) judge each other's decisions. To be clear, there are of course some situations where things are definitely right or wrong; using proper child restraints and not abusing your child, etc. but these situations are fewer than the former.

An example: It's bed time for your youngster but their room/play area is a mess. Some parents would consider bed time more important, others would put a higher value on getting the child to be part of the household by helping to clean up first. Neither is wrong, it just depends what you value more.

I really think we need to be more supportive of one another and recognise that we don't always know the reason behind why a person does something a particular way. I'm also not suggesting that it's bad to give or receive parenting advice... but there is a difference between that and telling someone that you do things better than them. By all means listen to someone's advice, but in the end you know what is best for you and your family.

I remember one day doing a bit of grocery shopping and it was a rare occasion where we decided Jonathan would stay home with the kids while I went... there was a woman walking up and down the aisles at the same time as me. She had a young'n and he was relatively good but being a bit noisy, and she kept looking at me as though she thought I must be annoyed by this. After a while I said, "It's fun shopping with kids isn't it". After that she seemed a lot more relaxed and I was surprised by how something so simple can make us all feel better about these kind of stressful situations instead of feeling like we are the only one who doesn't manage things like that very well.

I think that each of us have things which we do for our sanity that might not be as important to someone else too. For me one example of that is having baby gates that prevent our kids getting in to the kitchen. This is something that I do for my sanity so that I an clean or prepare food without having to worry about whether my daughter is climbing up on the table, pulling all my clean dishes out or grabbing a knife from the drawer! It's not about restricting her freedom, but eliminating an unnecessary stress. Other mothers might have different ways of dealing with this situation and that's ok too.

More or less people, take care of each other - and when you see that tired looking woman in the shopping centre towing around the toddler who's having a tantrum... maybe you could smile and say, "hang in there."

I'd love to hear about the things you do to prevent common situations becoming stressful :) and how an onlookers attitude has influenced how you've felt at these times.


  1. Great post! I have to say I've found that being a mum has meant that its open season for other peoples opinions - parenting seems to be that one topic (other than the weather!) that everyone has an opinion on - and for some strange reason people think its completely OK to share it!

    I've sadly no tips as to how to prevent these situations being stressful, I tend to adopt a flight response when my darling girl is going into meltdown mode. It saddens me a lot and makes me feel like a failure that I can't intercept her behaviour and calm her down, like you see some (super)mums do. I also get really anxious when I'm thinking others are judging my parenting in public places - I consider this karmic payback though because when I was childless I too frowned at the frazzled mum in the supermarket with the screaming toddler (can I say I am SO sorry to her??). So yeah, my solution is - pack up and get the heck out of Dodge when baby goes off the rails. Would love a more sane solution though!

  2. Being a mum is the toughest job in the world and because of that it's hard when people judge you for not doing it, what they consider the 'right' way. Think we can offer advice, but then it's up to the person to either try it and find it doesn't work or not try it. Even when you've had 5 children, as I have, you still don't know everything. I love your post Tracey .... such wisdom as always.


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