One thing they don’t teach you in your high school sex education course is that everyone has an opinion about everyone else’s parenting styles. (I wish I were exaggerating.) Go anywhere while pregnant or with your kids, and you’ll be sure to receive unsolicited advice or judgmental stares from grocery store clerks, random passersby, and, unfortunately, your friends and family. While we’ve known for a long time that women often feel shamed for their decisions, a new study shows the majority of men feel criticized for their parenting choices, too — to which many moms say: boo-hoo, here’s the world’s tiniest violin.
The study, conducted by the University of Michigan’s C.S. Mott Children’s Hospital, found that 52% of respondents felt criticized at some point over their parenting styles — and interestingly, the dads indicated that most of the criticism (44%) they experienced came from a co-parent. The second leading source of judgment stemmed from men’s parents and in-laws (24%), while other sources of criticism came from strangers (10%) and friends (9%).
Roughly two-thirds of men (67%) reported that they primarily felt scorned for their discipline styles. Other criticisms included nutrition (43%), being too rough (32%), and not paying enough attention to their kids. Some (23%) even felt others judged them for their kids’ physical appearances. Still, 90% of male respondents said they thought they were doing a good job (which, good for them; the world needs as many confident parents as it can get).
C.S. Mott Children’s Hospital released a similar survey focused on women in 2017, and, unsurprisingly, quite a few more women than men reported that they felt criticized. Sixty-one percent felt judged, citing their families, friends, and strangers as some of the main culprits; the majority of participating mothers (56%) reported that they “get too much blame.” Overall, men and women both said they consider external criticism when making parenting choices — though men were more likely to make changes to their parenting styles as a result.
These numbers actually seem low considering, say, the insane amounts of judgment mothers receive for breastfeeding in public and at work, cooking with their children, working after giving birth, letting their kids use iPads, and wearing bikinis, just to name a few. (The list goes on.) Often, outside commentators levy their criticisms against the mom instead of both guardians (for instance, John Legend recently said wife Chrissy Teigen shoulders the public-shame blame for decisions they make together).
All of this isn’t to say there should be more shaming spread out between co-parents; instead, we could all benefit from fewer unsolicited opinions and more support. Let’s assume most parents are doing their best, yeah?