Having a baby brings in huge changes. If that’s not an understatement, I don’t know what is. Being a first time parent exposes you to whole new world. A world that you didn’t know anything about previously. At least, I didn’t! It’s fascinating, intriguing and, sometimes, weird.
You’d think that having a kid meant that you and all the other parents are part of this exclusive club. You’re part of the been-there-done-that group. And they empathize with you, coz raising a kid isn’t as easy as it looks. Behind those gummy, toothless, sweet smiles are super naughty kids who don’t want to have a nap. Or think playtime is at 4am… but that’s a post for another day.
But I don’t know what’s it about being a parent, that makes you an open target for advice (well meant, I’m pretty sure, or atleast, I hope!), judgement and some downright criticism of your parenting style. And the weird part is that it’s not just from other parents, it also comes from teenagers! The way people wince or make ‘tsk tsk’ sounds if your kid starts crying in a long line at the checkout counter of a store or, god forbid, on a plane. Oh and the holier than thous!! Woahh!! Go to any forum or mommy blogs and you’ll know what I mean. And it’s not just idle remarks. It pure judgement being passed around. As a member of the fairer sex, I’ve had more than my share in indulging in this pastime. I mean, c’mon! Gossip is 3/4th parts judgements! But then you grow up. You get mature. You realize how high schoolish all those comments are. And also how much hurt they can cause. Because there comes a time when YOU are the topic of discussion. And when you become a parent, you pretty much don’t have time for all this. Your ‘busyness’ reaches a whole different level. That’s when you start appreciating every little break you get. When someone helps you out, when someone lends a hand by not getting in the way. And especially when someone decides to look the other way during one of your not-so-shining-parent moments and gives you a hang-in-there smile.
Is it really necessary to give an opinion if you can see that the child is acting out? Does it really help the parent if you say ‘I would have done this another way’ or ‘I would never do that’? Let’s be honest, when it comes to parenting, we are just winging it. We take the ‘whatever works’ approach. Atleast, I know, I do. That’s why you see all these different methods for everything, like getting the baby to sleep longer than a few minutes, introduction to solids etc. And people who swear by each of them! So please, the next time you are about to say something about how things should be done, hold your tongue for minute and think about the merit of voicing your opinion. Would it be better if you just said nothing or if you actually ask if you can help a parent who looks distressed.
Update: I started writing this post almost a month ago. And as luck would have it, most of the blogs, magazines I read seem to have articles talking about just this. Some of the really good ones:
1. Stop the Mommy Wars project
2. Matt Walsh’s excellent article on how parents are being judged by non-parents
3. And countless others that I can’t find a link to. (sorry!)