People, I'm a vocal, opinionated, judgmental parent. I always have been. Even before I was a mother I silently watched the lady across the street who was always yelling at or ignoring her kids (but there was never communication in between) and I thought, "That can't be right." I'd hear a mother talk about how she gave up her career because all she EVER wanted to be was a mother and something didn't gel with me there. I watched family members give their kids very gender-specific gifts and it bothered me. I didn't say anything, but I definitely had opinions.
Now that I've got a kid I've seen more of the sides of the arguments, plus I'll be honest I feel like I have a little more license to judge. So that's why I'm being public about it.
What's up with this idea that we have an imaginary right to make parenting choices in some criticism-free bubble of politeness? When I go to work as an engineer, I have to listen to a dozen other sides, I have to defend my design decisions, I have to back off and admit I'm wrong sometimes. Sometimes I even make a wrong decision, sometimes it ends up costing the company money, and I have to (gasp) FEEL BAD ABOUT IT. I correct and move on.
So what's with parents telling me they should never have to feel guilty? I think the benefits of breastfeeding have been proven in multiple studies, if you don't at least try to breastfeed and try to make it over some of the early hurdles, maybe you should feel guilty! Science has also shown us that vaccination is a good idea. If you don't do it you're a detriment to public health. If your kid ends up being a measles carrier just because the shot gave you the heebie jeebies, maybe you should feel guilty.
I chose to use disposable diapers. I know they're bad for the environment. Sometimes I feel guilty! Judge! I feed my kid processed food out of jars sometimes instead of making my own purees. Sheer laziness. We're trying to move to more "baby led weaning" finger food, but until then, I'm fine being subject to some judgment on this issue.
When I was still pregnant I made a post in pregnant saying that if my baby was crying uncontrollably and I was unable to calm her, I might set her down for 10 minutes to let her cry it out so I can regain my sanity. Well I didn't know that "cry it out" is an actual term for a controversial & not beneficial sleep-training technique that has nothing to do with parents taking a 10 minute breather. People called me out on it. A LOT of people. I got blasted in that post. I did some more research. I learned not to use that term anymore, and I gained some valuable knowledge about sleep patterns in infants. They all "judged" me, told me I was wrong, and it ended up being a good thing.
Parents, are we really being supportive if we just lay back and say "whatever's right for you must be right"? I don't think so. I think we need to be sensitive, sure. But open, and willing to explain ourselves. I have a friend who had so much trouble breastfeeding she saw four lactation consultants, no one could figure out how to get her supply up. Obviously I'm not going to hold it against her, she tried! But she also explained, when I asked her "why aren't you breastfeeding?" she didn't roll her eyes and say I had no right to ask that because it's her precious choice. I didn't tapdance backwards and say I was so sorry for even bringing it up. I just said "Well, I have to ask everyone about it, I'm a big supporter of breastfeeding. Sounds like you gave it a good try so go you." Done.
If other people are making you feel bad or guilty about your parenting decisions, I think it's a sign that you might want to review things. Guilt is a natural feeling we get when something isn't right. If you can't brush off a debate thread online as being stupid, maybe your gut's telling you to hear all those voices out.
So parents, if you want to be supportive I say be honest. And if you want parenting advice on the internet, you might need some thick skin. We're calling each other out. But it's good for us to be analytical about this whole adventure, I think good will come from it.