Recently I was out with my babies on a lovely crisp, winter morning. Bub was in the pram with a snuggly blanket and the pram hood was up. After a while he got grizzly so I got him out of the pram and carried him. We were making our way back to the car with our groceries and I mentioned that the day was turning. It had suddenly gone cloudy and chilly. Around that time a woman came up and said to us, ‘Your baby really should have a hat on. I’m a nurse and babies lose all their heat through their head. You should get a hat onto him.’
Part of me wanted to say, ‘Shove it, lady. Don’t tell me how to parent my kid.’ But if I’m honest – she was right. It had become colder and he really should have had a hat on. She probably wasn’t trying to make me feel like a crap parent, she was just looking out for my kid. I suppose I should thank her for it. As they say, it takes a village, and she spotted something that I’d missed.
You see, I’m not one of the ‘don’t judge me’ brigade. There seems to be a whole movement around not judging mums now. Apparently, we are all queens and we are all doing our best and should be congratulated for doing a great job, no matter what. Something about that just makes me a little uncomfortable.
Firstly, I wholeheartedly agree that we are all doing the best we can with what we’ve got. No one is trying to be a crap parent. We’re all working with the experiences we’ve had and the support we’ve got. But I also agree that no one is perfect, which means we’ve all got plenty of room to grow. We should be encouraged to chase our dreams and seek the best from life, but that shouldn’t mean we can’t be hard on ourselves or give us the right to ignore people who want to help us improve ourselves in some way.
I am often hesitant to admit that I genuinely want to strive to do better at this mum gig. To be honest my striving does my head in a bit. I have a bedside table covered with books on parenting. I want to be the ‘zen mum’, the calm and empathetic parent who never loses it at my kids. But I’m human and some days I’m not the mum I want to be. I am sure that our neighbours have heard me raise my voice at times and have all sorts of opinions about the way I parent.
Making judgments of other people is a very natural and even necessary part of who we are. We assess other people and form our own perceptions of them to determine where they fit into our lives. To say we should never do that is unrealistic. I’d like to say that I don’t judge other parents, but I suppose in a way sometimes I do. I look at how some mums are and it makes me look at myself. Seeing a parent yelling at their kids makes me think about the times that I’ve done the same. I don’t want to be the scary mum. I don’t want my kids to ever hide things from me out of fear of how I’ll react.
I’m not striving to be ‘the perfect parent’ either, but I do wish to be the best that I can be. I have a job and a business and a life, but being a mum is the most important thing that I do. And just like in my work, I want to have a red-hot crack at doing it well. You don’t get a second chance when it comes to shaping a human. The things I do and say to these little people each day are what will form their values and beliefs as adults, and that is the stuff that tends to keep me up at night.
So I invite you to judge me and judge my parenting. If you see something I’m doing that you believe I could be doing better, please share that with me. Just do it with love and respect. Judging doesn’t have to mean labelling or gossiping. I’d love to see us swing the pendulum back just a little and reframe this whole ‘don’t judge me’ movement.
There are many mums have done this parenting gig long before me. They didn’t do it perfectly either, but sometimes giving support looks like asking someone to do better, because you believe in them and you know they can.