Something I’ve noticed for years now – long before we ever decided to start a family, in fact – is how very judgemental some parents can be.
(Desperately resisting the urge to caveat that statement with some long-winded, apologetic paragraph stating that I obviously know not ALL parents are like that, and if you’re a parent who’s reading this, then this is OBVIOUSLY not aimed at you, because YOU’RE lovely, you are. I won’t, though.)
Seriously, I thought blogging was bad for this, because a lot of people view bloggers as having basically “asked for it” in terms of commentary on their lives and decisions (“But she was wearing a short skirt! What did she expect?!”), but when I see the glee with which some women like to tear into each other for their parenting skills, it honestly makes me worry for the generation they’re raising.
(Er, that sounded a bit judgey, didn’t it? Like, here I am folks, just judging people for judging people, and singing “Judging me, judging you – AH HAAA!” to the tune of Abba’s Knowing Me, Knowing You. Just a few sentences into this post, and I’m slightly regretting it already, but will soldier bravely on. Good luck getting that song out of your heads now, though…)
It’s true, though: I’m scared of being judged by the sanctimommies. You know those women who are just better than you? At everything, really, but particularly at all-things parenting? Those women are everywhere, and they’re here to tell you about all of the things you’re doing wrong as a parent – or might possibly think about doing wrong, even although you haven’t even given birth yet. (You will definitely do it wrong when the time comes, though, just FYI…)
Until recently, I thought Sanctimommies only existed on the internet – mostly on the type of parenting forums I’m too scared to venture into. Lately, though, I’ve been encountering them in real life, too, because I’ve found that, as soon as people find out you’re pregnant, they’re going to have OPINIONS to share with you, in order to pre-empt any bad decisions you might be planning to make.
Like, you shouldn’t dress your baby in nice clothes, for instance: that’s just WRONG. Babies should only wear onesies, silly! (*Surreptitiously closes down the open Pinterest tab with all of the cute baby clothes in it*) And babies shouldn’t be toilet trained at 3, they should be toilet trained at 1 year, 2 months and 7 days exactly. MY baby was toilet trained by 6 months, though. Did you hear that so-and-so’s baby is doing x/isn’t doing Y yet? Can you even BELIEVE it? YOU would NEVER do that, would you? And on, and on, and on, through countless iterations of apparently trivial decisions that affect no one but the parents, but which everyone has an opinion on, anyway.
This week, I found myself the unwilling participant in a conversation about parents who – gasp! – use cellphones, sometimes even letting their children look at them. There was a story about a mother on a bus, who’d given her tantruming toddler an iPhone to look at to calm him down: cue scandalised tut-tutting from around the room, and me being asked to confirm that I would NEVER do such a thing, like those bad bad mothers of nowadays!
Honestly, though? Couldn’t do it. I have absolutely no idea how I’ll react in various different parenting situations: none whatsoever. (I expect I’ll probably spill things a lot, though: that’s pretty much a given with me…) What I do know, however, is that I’ll make mistakes – probably a lot of them, in fact. I might even buy some of those cute baby clothes I’ve been pinning: imagine that! I know I’m going be judged – and judged harshly – for every single decision I make, from how I choose to feed my baby (As far as I can tell, you either breastfeed exclusively for the first 19 years, or you’re Hilter: up to you…), how I give birth (“I mean, c-sections are FINE, as long as the only other other option is death, you know?”) and so on and so forth, down through the years, until that baby is finally an adult, and he’s in therapy because I once took a photo of him and posted it on Facebook.
I also, however, know that, however many mistakes I make, and whatever I choose to do differently from the people who judge me, I’ll be doing my absolute best: just as they are, and just as I expect that woman on the bus was, too. Isn’t that all ANYONE does, after all?
I’m still scared of the sanctimommies, though, and of this new world of non-stop judgement I’m about to enter into. I already know, for instance, that there are certain subjects I’m probably not going to want to talk about here on the internet: feeding, for instance. Or sleep training. And I definitely won’t be sharing any photos of babies in car seats, because, from what I’ve read, no blogger in the history of the internet has ever managed to get that one right and, well, it’s unlikely that I’ll be the one to break the chain, isn’t it?
No one is perfect, is what I guess I’m trying to say. But while I’d like to be able to be totally honest, and continue to write about my life with the same openness I always have, I know perfectly well that I probably won’t be able to handle the constant level of judgement and criticism that seems to be levelled at parents, and which has genuinely surprised me over the last few months, as my pregnancy has, I guess, made me much more aware of it.