Recently I have been feeling the fear. Not the fear of all the spiders creeping into our house for the winter (although that does terrify me) or the fear that Christmas is looming and I am so not ready for all the chaos that the festive season brings. No, this is a fear that only people with children can truly understand. Lately I have been worrying about people judging the choices I make on how I decide to bring up my kids. I think all of us feel judged at one point or another but when you are trying to bring up a child it seems everyone has an opinion on how you choose to parent. The old lady in the shop, that person online, your best friend’s dog – everyone has something to say when it comes to how we bring up our own kids, whether we ask for their opinion or not.
I have been feeling the fear of judgment over the past week or so as Alex is almost one now and I am still breastfeeding him. In fact, I have zero intentions of stopping breastfeeding him any time soon. There is something about how mums decide to feed their babies that brings out all the judgey, perfect ‘my-way-or-the-high-way’ type parents, the ones that love nothing more than to criticise any mum who’s feeding choices differ to their own. Yes, I feel proud of myself for sticking at breastfeeding and planning to continue until my baby wants to stop but I can’t help but worry about what people are going to say when they see me still feeding him at a year old. I only know a handful of other mums who have breastfed and of those mums, only about 4 have continued to breastfeed past their child’s first birthday. With breastfeeding rates in the UK being one of the lowest in the world, it is not a surprise really that I feel like one of the only mums still feeding their baby into toddlerhood.
This fear of judgement, it could really get me down if I let it. Stressing over what other people think could potentially result in me not following my heart and stopping breastfeeding before both Alex and I are ready. Worrying about what other people think or what other people might say is something all of us parents do at one point or another. Well, I am saying, no more! It is time we all stand up to judgement, the disapproving tuts, the hurtful comments and snooty stares. Parents, why do we care so much about what other people think? It is our decision how we choose to raise our children, no one else’s.
I often get odd looks as I let Alex, who isn’t walking yet, crawl around on the floor when we go to the playground. I, as his mum, feel it’s ok to let him have a crawl about and get a bit messy, it’s more fun for him than sitting in the pram and a bit of dirt isn’t going to do him any harm. Some parent’s don’t feel the same and that’s fine. I’m not judging them so I don’t really see why they feel the need to judge me. When Leo is having a tantrum over wanting a cake in the coffee shop and I’ve said no, for example, in the past I have let the angry eyes burning into me really upset me and make me question myself as a mum. Now though, more often than not, I let those people sit there being angry and judgemental and not let their looks of disapproval get to me.
The fear of judgement is very real in parents, we all want to feel like we are doing a good job and to sometimes be met with nasty comments or dirty looks can have a real knock on our confidence. The best way to get over this fear is to be as confident as we can possibly be in ourselves as parents and in the decisions we make on how we raise our children. Remember, no one else is living your life. No one else knows your baby like you do. Just because one parenting style worked for Mrs Judgey Pants, doesn’t mean you have to do things that way too. It could be easy for me to say, as a mum who has breastfed two babies successfully, that every single mum should breastfeed but I would never say that. While I am passionate about normalising breastfeeding, I would never think myself superior to mums who choose to bottle feed. Just like I don’t look down on parents who don’t like babywearing or those who decide to sleep train. Whatever floats your boat and each to their own, as the sayings go.
So, if you want to breastfeed your baby, do it without fear that a stranger might sigh disgustedly when you feed in public. Do it with confidence. If you want to use baby formula, do it with the knowledge that formula milk isn’t poison whatever some breastfeeding fanatics might say and own the fact that you know what is best for you and your baby. If you want to co sleep, go for it (just do it safely). If you want to babywear, awesome. If you want to follow a strict routine, that’s your call. Gentle parenting, cry it out, baby led weaning, shop bought puree, designer baby clothes, a wardrobe full of hand me downs: however you decide to bring up your child, don’t let the fear of other people judging you stop you doing things the way you want to.
My blog may be full of tips and advice for lots of different parenting challenges but I am not saying my way is the only way to do things. I am simply sharing my experiences in the hope that my hindsight and knowledge might be useful to other parents out there. Just like the posts on this blog aren’t parenting law, neither is the information you find in all the baby books or the opinions of other people. Take the advice if you want it, ignore it if you don’t. Whatever you decide to do, that decision belongs to you and if it’s something you truly believe is right for you and your family then go for it and own it. When it comes to being a mum, just do you and you won’t go far wrong. Remember, your kids will always love you regardless and that’s the most important thing.
Have you ever felt judged for the way you choose to bring up your kids? Have you ever been in a situation where someone has negatively commented on your parenting style? I would love for you to share your views and experiences in the comments below.