I read so often about not judging one another as mothers. I see shining examples of moms who never utter a word against another mother. And I see the opposite as well. Those moms who can’t wait to talk about what every other parent is doing wrong.
I see moms judging other moms for working, and moms judging other moms for staying at home. I see judgment passed on the contents of lunchboxes or snack bags. I see the whispered tsks about behaviors displayed between four year olds on a playground.
I fully agree we need to cut each other some slack as mothers. We need to stop shoving all the Pinterest perfect pictures in each other’s faces and just be real. Overall, I think the judging needs to be set aside when it comes to motherhood.
But, where do we draw the line between judging others for choices different from ours and thinking someone is actually parenting badly? Has it become so politically incorrect to question another parent, that we’ve started accepting poor parenting, and even supporting it?
It’s easy to see the far ends of the spectrum. It’s just petty when you criticize a mom for feeding her kids boxed mac & cheese at the end of a long and exhausting day. And it’s clearly horrible parenting when a child is being neglected or abused.
But what about the middle ground? What about the parent who turns a blind eye to inappropriate behavior? What about the parent who doesn’t watch their child in situations that require supervision? What about the parent who sets limits outside the boundaries of safety?
This isn’t a post about different parenting styles. There are as many parenting styles as there are kids out there. And I can completely respect when someone chooses a different approach to parenting than I do. What I’m tired of, is feeling guilty for thinking someone is doing it wrong.
There’s a difference between an opposite parenting philosophy and parenting poorly. I get judged from both sides for my schedule choices with my kids. I get criticized for limiting our activities to have more time at home, and I get criticized for the amount of activities we engage in that take us away from home 3-4 nights a week. I am very picky about what I do and don’t feed my kids, because that’s my philosophy. But, I’m not going to judge another parent for feeding their kid only organic food or only processed food. We simply have different philosophies when it comes to feeding our kids.
However, when kids have out of control behavior and idle threats are doled out and no real action is taken, I don’t think of it as philosophy, I think of it as poor parenting. When I witness near misses of injuries and accidents because parents don’t watch their children, it’s not a different style than mine, it’s poor parenting. When parents make excuses for their kids bullying another child and criticize the adults for calling their kids out on it, that’s not a different approach than mine, it’s bad parenting.
I’m tired of pretending that I don’t think they’re doing it wrong. I’m tired of wondering what kind of message I’m sending to my kids by passively accepting that type of parenting with my silence. Even worse, I wonder about the message I’m sending when I answer their questions about disrespectful remarks to parents and malicious actions going unpunished with a simple, “we have different rules in our family, honey.” I worry that I’m putting all my faith in teaching them to parent by example, and simply hoping the example they see of quiet acceptance of bad parenting doesn’t stick.
I don’t think I always parent right. There are tons of times when I know I’m doing it wrong. And I think I would initially take offense to someone pointing out my shortcomings to me. But at the same time, I think I would ultimately respect them as a parent for not shying away from thinking I was doing it wrong. For not letting political correctness overshadow the importance of parenting kids right.
I don’t want to judge. But I do want to say sometimes, “You’re doing it wrong.”
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