This week’s Prompt is “I was Saddened by…” and I have really struggled to know what to write for this, or whether to write at all. There is a lot of sadness in the world, and for my part, I would say I have had more than my fair share of sadness at times, however I am not ready to write about those times, at least not yet and not here. I started this blog to chart my journey into becoming a stay at home mum, and whatever I write, I want it to be true to that theme.
So after a lot of thought about what saddens me in the world of parenting, I realised that one of the things that saddens me the most is that when you become a parent, you enter a whole new world of judgement. There is something about being a parent that makes people feel entitled to judge you, and no matter what you do or however hard you try, it always seems that somebody, somewhere, is judging you for it.
It starts when you are pregnant – and you can be judged on how much weight you’ve gained, what you are eating, whether you are exercising. And you can be judged either way by different groups of people. I have written about how I struggled with pregnancy and I have never felt so judged in my life, as I truly believe some people thought I was just putting it on. Then, when thinking about the birth, will you want pain relief, or will you ‘tough it out?’ If you want a natural, painkiller free birth, some will say you are naive, if you want pain relief, others say you’re a wimp or something. Damned if you do and damned if you don’t.
I’m not even going to get into the breastfeeding/formula feeding debate! And it by no means ends there – weaning, with purees or babyled? Sleep training? How much TV does your little one watch? Are you in a routine? Then as they get older it becomes about discipline and how well they eat. There is judgement about whether you choose to go back to work – with studies about how being in nursery or childcare is bad for your child. Then if you stay at home you are judged for being a sponger or of lower intelligence for not wanting to go to work.
The judgement comes from everywhere. Well meaning family and friends. Healthcare professionals, midwives. The media, politicians. Everywhere you look there is someone who has an opinion about the best way you should be raising your child. It leads to so much worry and doubting yourself because it is so easy to take all this judgement to heart and feel that you are clearly not doing something right, when I think that all any of us are doing is trying to do the best for our children.
What really saddens me though is the fact that it is everywhere. As a society is this really what we are like? That we judge people for everything that they do? Do we all think that we are so perfect that we therefore have the right to judge others? Whatever happened to people in glass houses not throwing stones? Whatever happened to supporting each other? To respecting others wishes for how they choose to live their lives or raise their children?
I guess there is a flip side to this. There are always so many stories in the press about children being harmed. Harmed by family members, or parents whose job it is to protect them. Being harmed by the people they trust most in the world. I read something recently about how we should all be responsible to report something wrong when we see it. To step in before something dreadful happens. Of course I can see the logic in this, if making a judgement about a family and the way they treat their child may protect that child from harm.
I worry though, where to draw the line? Wasn’t there a story recently where somebody called the police because they saw a mother and child out on the seafront and thought the child was too cold? The police went, but was it a waste of their time? Should we put more trust in the mother that she is looking after a child? Or should we report every tiny worry? I guess it’s a case of the acts of the minority of bad people affecting the lives of the many,who would never harm a hair on their children’s heads.
Is this even the same thing though? Is judging someone for whether they wean with purees or do BL weaning really comparable to judging someone for something that may be a sign they are harming their child? If a parent chooses to go back to work because they feel it will enable them to provide a better life for their child, should we judge them for that? Likewise if a parent chooses to stay at home to raise their child because they feel that is the best option for them, do they deserve to be judged for it? Where does this judgement come from? I don’t believe that these judgements are based on worrying what is best for the child, so where does it come from? Is it about protecting ourselves? Are we judging the way others choose to parent in order to convince ourselves that we are doing the right thing? Why can’t we support each other while accepting that we choose to do some things differently. Does there have to be a ‘right’ way and a ‘wrong’ way?
I don’t know what the answer is to any of this, I really don’t. Can you offer support to someone who you think is struggling without them feeling judged? I’d like to think you can, but in reality I’m not so sure. The more I think about it, the more I realise that this judgement isn’t confined to the world of parenting as throughout society people are judged. Judged by their looks, by how much money they make, by their gender or sexuality. Maybe it’s just a part of human nature. Maybe I just feel more judged now because of the weight of responsibility that is raising a child.
It saddens me…
Do you feel judged as a parent? Where do think it comes from?