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Do you feel compelled to explain your parenting choices?

I've recently discovered that I've stopped feeling compelled to explain or otherwise justify my parenting choices. However, if I mention my parenting choices to others, I often realise I've opened some kind of floodgate which compels other parents to explain or justify their own differing choices to me.

I always want to say, 'You know, I don't really care. I care about you as a person, but how you choose to parent your children and the whys or why nots of your various circumstances really don't worry me at all.' I don't say this because somehow it seems important to the other parents that I understand their valid reasons for choosing differently to me. Mostly, I just say something inane like, 'each to their own' or 'whatever works for you'.

Judgement is a big deal. There are innumerable posts about it in the blogosphere. It is found in every aspect of living, but parents seem to feel it very keenly.

I have judged. I have judged harshly. Then as I had more experiences and witnessed more of other people's realities, I found the basis of my judgements became ever more shaky. Finally, it occurred to me that I can't really make any kind of firm judgement on the how's or why's of other people's parenting choices (or other life choices) with any kind of certainty - it is a true waste of my time and energy. What's more, judging never, ever helps the other person - or their child. So, if judging doesn't even help the child, what's the point of judging? There is no point.

In the end the only circumstance I can have any opinion on is my own. Even then I find my opinions shift as I understand more about myself and my children. So, even judging myself is a waste of my time and energy.

If I say to you any of the following;

  • I breastfed three of my children to four and half years of age.
  • I breastfed one of my children to two and half years of age.
  • I co-slept with three of my children.
  • I home schooled my first two children to the ages of 7.5 and 5.5.
  • I have never used childcare.
  • I used cloth nappies part time for two of my children and full time for one of them.
  • I don't vaccinate my children.
  • I parent my children to sleep - whatever form that takes; breastfeeding, cuddling, rocking, laying with them, until they reach a stage where they can put themselves to sleep without distress.
  • I carried all of my children in various baby carriers, slings, wraps and backpacks, two of them until they were over three.
  • I only just got my twelve year old his first games console this year.
  • I don't pay regular pocket money for contributing to household cleanliness because I expect that to be contributed freely.
  • I send my children to public school, by choice.
  • I've let my older two take themselves to the park and shops, and ride on public transport alone since they were ten and eight.
Or a myriad of other choices, many of which are not mainstream, know this: it doesn't bother me if you make different choices for you children.

If you feel compelled to tell me why you parent differently, feel free to do so, but don't do it out of a fear of being judged by me. I assure you I don't consider your parenting choices to be any of my business. If you are hoping to influence my choices, then let me also assure you, you won't - because the only people who influence my parenting choices are my children.

The judgement has to stop. It's like a cancer in our society, eating away at all that can be good and supportive. When people expect judgement they are more inclined to shut themselves off from others. That is how parents become isolated. When parents are isolated, so are their children to some degree. For the sake of the children, the judgement and the fear of judgement has to stop. Please don't feel you have to justify or explain your parenting choices to me, you really don't.


Amy said…
I have nothing more to add other than WELL SAID!!!
It doesn't seem logical to judge the process, rather the results. Different approaches can still result in a confident, independent and loving child.
it is so easy for us all to judge. We have all done it, maybe not wanting to admit though... we have to do what is right for us and only that should matter :) x
Lee said…
Awesome post Sif. Totally agree.
Sarah Mac said…
I've been thinking about this quite a lot since your last post.

The conclusion I've come to is that maybe it's a form of deflection.

In judging others are we just trying to draw attention away from what we perceive as our own failings?

Are we trying to suggest that because we don't agree with one persons methods then we are automatically a better parent than them?

Other than in clear cases of abuse we have no right to do that.

Equally, if we understand what drive us to give our opinion then maybe we wouldn't feel the need to share it.

I wouldn't say that I don't care what other people think because it wouldn't be entirely true. I hope that generally people think I'm a good parent.

I know my own failings, I don't consider myself perfect. But I know my children, I know what works for us and I don't feel I need to justify my methods although I'm happy to discuss them if I'm asked.

I think it's a question of confidence and belief and generally, most of us aren't doing too bad a job.
Sif said…
Sarah, that's an interesting point you raise, actually. I care what other people about my parenting. I don't care how they parent their children (I try not to care, that is because it's none of my business at the end - and I'm not referring to clear cases of abuse, of course, but those are relatively rare).

Which brings us back to judging ourselves. I think we often care more about how we are perceived by others than by what others actually do, which is why parents so often launch into justifying their own differing choices. We're worried because we've chosen something different for our children (who are different to their children) we might be perceived as doing it wrong, being bad or ignorant parents... We judge ourselves, then we become defensive and if that is not accepted we move onto judging others to justify our own fear of being judged. It's a vicious circles.

I care what other people think of me as a parent, so I'm trying to teach myself to be more confident in myself choices, knowing that I am doing the best I can for my children from what I know of them and what they need - which is not the same as what every other child needs, something only their parents can determine...

I think, hahaha!
Anonymous said…
I think it's a lose lose situation, defending your parenting choices. I try not to get into discussions about it. Because once the convo starts, it's a very slippery slope that often no good can come from. No one is going to change their parenting style based on someone else's beliefs. I also feel like when people defend their choices to me, that they're judging me for mine. I'm sure they're not, but I can be overly sensitive. I'm not a perfect parent, I don't think anyone is. My son right now is watching the Flintstones on my iPhone while I catch up on blogs, and he'll probably need glasses by the time he's 5, but you know...I know we all care what others think of us as a parent - no one wants to be thought of as otherwise. But I think it's recognising that the people who really matter, won't judge you on your choices at all, and those are the people to concentrate on. Gosh I ramble. Sorry.
Janelle said…
You're so right Sif, the judging has to stop. Since becoming a mother I've never felt more judged in my life. I feel it a lot, and I hate it. But it won't influence my choices, and I try not to judge back because it's just pointless.
And I think you are a FANTASTIC mum. Some of your choices you mentioned above wouldn't work for me and mine, but it's not about that. I think you are fantastic because you know you have made the right choices for YOU and you're not afraid for others to know. Thanks for the awesome post!

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