Parenting Judgement: I’m All Over It

As a parent, there are many things to fear.

Potential abduction, getting lost at the beach and disappearing forever, the dawn of World War III, threadworms….

And those are just the things that you worry about happening to your child.

There are also things that you worry are going to happen to YOU, and I don’t mean going grey or pulling out your own hair with stress over the child’s eating habits and whether they are doomed to a life of obesity and being lifted out of the house by crane as part of a Jeremy Kyle special on Britain’s fattest people, after they refuse to eat anything but Pom Bears for several days running.

I mean Parenting Judgement.

It’s always there, the looming spectre of Parenting Judgement, looming behind every hedge and rock.  Waiting to pounce on every unsuspecting passer by with a pushchair, if they so much as dare to kiss their child on the lips, use a dummy for slightly longer than the Daily Mail deems acceptable, brush the child’s hair a certain way, feed them with a metal spoon or fail to cover their feet to the standards expected by a random at the station.

I find myself actively doing things, or avoiding doing them, in order to avert the judgemental wrath of the Gods of Parenting, the Great British Public, the ordinary people on the street who are so quick to sit on their golden thrones of majestic judgement upon a poor mother trying to do her best.

And so it was that this week, when I was invited to dinner at a restaurant, with my brother and his partner, in the actual (in my defence, early) evening, on a night when my resident babysitter (my mother) was out painting the town red (also known as “book club”) I hesitated before accepting the offer, for I would have to take Piglet, a child whom most people seem to think should be in bed by 7pm, seen and not heard, and certainly not allowed out in an actual restaurant in the evening when there are adults trying to have a civilised conversation without having to duck to avoid pieces of flying garlic bread.

I hesitated, and then I thought about it, and then I hesitated some more, and then I thought “screw you world.  Who cares if people judge me for being out at 7pm in a restaurant with a two year old.  He never goes to sleep before 10pm anyway, and besides, he had a very late nap.  You can all keep your Judgey McJudgey faces to yourselves.  Parenting Judgement, I am Over It.  I am properly over you.  No longer will you dictate to me what I do with my own child.  I know I’m no Rose West.  I’m an intelligent and capable individual who knows her child better than anyone else, and loves him unconditionally.”

So off we went.

And reader, it was absolutely fine.  No one batted an eyelid, everyone was polite and friendly.  The restaurant even gave us free Prosecco (no, not for Piglet.  Put down those phones, people.  No need for social services here).  I even started to relax, drink the free Prosecco, and enjoy a pleasant evening meal in the company of the adorable Piglet, who loves being in the company of his uncles and ate a bit of bread and even A BIT OF POTATO (exclamation marks all round!!!!)

And then it happened.  Just as I was getting comfortable, just as I was thinking maybe this isn’t so bad.  Just as I was losing my conviction that the world was out to get me, and was just waiting for me to slip up so that they could get on the phone to social services, crowing, “I KNEW SHE WASN’T CUT OUT TO BE A MOTHER.  I ALWAYS SAID SHE WAS MORE INTERESTED IN CLOTHES AND BOYS.”

There came, of course, the inevitable point when Piglet got a bit bored.  He’d finished his pieces of bread and one bit of potato, and was refusing every other tasty morsel that one of Bristol’s most critically acclaimed restaurants could offer.  He’d started throwing Bigjigs Rail, his trusty toy train that had accompanied him on the trip, on the floor, and my brother and I were starting to exchange worried glances, fearing that if we didn’t act fast, Bigjigs Rail was going to launch straight into the head of our retired former family GP, who happened to be sat behind us.  Desperate conversations were had.  Conversations along the lines of, “does your phone have any data?  I’m out for the month, AGAIN.”  And, “QUICK!  We need Youtube.  Someone find Youtube!”

Youtube was duly found, and Chuggington was proffered, along with a large glass of wine for me.  Then Chuggington lost its lustre, Bigjigs was ready to launch and the desserts still hadn’t arrived, which sent us scrabbling for an episode of Fireman Sam.  And then, before Fireman Sam could get Jupiter out of the fire station, the woman at the next table was giving me a massive lecture about the dastardly effects of screens on the under-fives.

“Look up the research on Google!” she cried, as I nodded and smiled, trying to pretend that I was a poor ignorant soul who had never read anything on Google before, and needed to be lectured on the Right Way to Raise a Child by a random woman in a restaurant.  “There’s a nursery in what’s-that-place called-in California?  The place with all the tech billionaires?”

“Silicon Valley?” I offered.

“Yes, that’s it-and it has a NO SCREENS RULE.  And all the children of the tech billionaires go there.  They won’t have screens, you see.  Because they KNOW THE DANGER.  It messes with the wiring of their brains!”

I thought about this.  And I thought three things.

1.) I have read about this nursery in Silicon Valley.  I have heard about this research.  But I am not clear on how the famed holier-than-thou Silicon Valley nursery is any different from the one Piglet attends, as they don’t have any screens there either.

2.) I have read many things about the wiring of children’s brains (and brains in general).  It is an interesting area of research.  I once listed, both rapt with attention and crying into my sleeves, during a talk by Camila Batmanjeilih of Kids Company fame, where she explained how children’s brains were permanently damaged by trauma and neglect.  But screens do not cause trauma and neglect, and the studies Camila was talking about involved children who had been exposed to extreme levels of trauma and neglect.  Fireman Sam has its moments, but even I wouldn’t place it under the category of “extreme trauma and neglect.” Even Naughty Norman has some social skills.  I can see how it might not be advisable to allow a child to do nothing but look at screens all the time, but Piglet doesn’t.  He plays, he has stories read to him, he has conversations with adults, and he goes out every day.  Screen time is just one small part of his varied experience of the world.  Hopefully, with his lovely plastic child-brain, he learns from ALL of those experiences, not just those involving CGI talking trains.

And most importantly,

3.) It’s none of her business.

And the interesting thing was this.  After she had gone, I felt no shame.  I didn’t even need to hear my brother’s partner point out that screens were part of our lives now, and anyway she had just spent the past hour unsuccessfully trying to fix her laptop, while Piglet, as a fully paid up member of the Digital Age, would have fixed it in seconds.  I didn’t feel any remorse that I had tried to ply my child with Fireman Sam to stop him making a far greater nuisance of himself in the eyes of the other diners by screaming repeatedly or throwing toys or food.  Quite simply I did.  Not.  Care.

Because we cannot live our lives worrying about the judgement of others about our parenting, any more than we can live our lives worrying if we will be social outcasts if we don’t like Game of Thrones, or if we look a bit fat today.  It is, of course, right to want to be a good parent, to be the best we can for our children, but not at the expense of our own wellbeing.

Parenting Judgement: It has taken me a while, but I think I can finally say I’m all over it.

The Pramshed
3 Little Buttons
Cuddle Fairy
Diary of an imperfect mum
Petite Pudding

59 Comments Add yours

  1. Alan Herbert says:

    I have to say as long as Little Miss OMG isn’t being too bold, I pay no heed to the “Oh look at that child!” Glances when out in public.

    Mrs OMG is a different story and won’t let her leave the house unless her clothes are spotless for fear of a call to social services or disapproving comments.

    Love the remark about Norman Price not causing trauma.

    1. Min says:

      Haha, love Norman Price! He’s the best one in Fireman Sam. Thanks for commenting.

  2. Sassy says:

    Are you not so subtly trying to tell us you don’t like Game of Thrones? Because if you are, you have publicly named and shamed yourself as a social outcast! 😉

    Unfortunately it seems part of the societal norm to judge others , especially when we dislike being judged by others! I’m glad you’ve taken a stand, you are doing the best job you know how and your child is loved and cared for and that is all that matters! Xxx

    1. Min says:

      Yes I’m sorry I’m not a GoT fan! Too violent for me-sorry! Thanks for commenting. x

  3. I’m got to the point where I don’t care now what people think about my kids when we’re out. No they aren’t quiet, yes they giggle and argue with each. Yes I ask them to keep their voices down a tad so not to be too noisy but kids are kids!

    1. Min says:

      Yes absolutely. Kids are kids-as long as they’re not being completely anti-social it’s fine. They are not adults and can’t be expected to behave as though they are. Thanks for commenting.

  4. Is it a generational thing? My Mum is awful, she points kids out all the time and compares how “BAD” they are compared to her grandson! She thinks he never plays with screens, nope just when she is about to entertain him. As soon as she leaves I hand over my phone! Stop being judgy people! #triballove

    1. Min says:

      Haha, you’re lucky your mum obviously thinks you’re doing something right! Thanks for commenting.

      1. Calling back from #familyfun. Great post n o judging here ?

  5. Oh Min I can’t believe this happened – well I can because people can be like that but I can not believe you coped with it so well – I am certainly not over parenting judgement and I so have to be – I’m too sensitive for my own good but I salute you – amazing control!

    1. Min says:

      I think I’ve just reached a point where I’m more confident with my own decisions than I used to be. I’m not perfect, but I feel like I’m doing OK, and as for the screen time thing-I’d already read quite a bit about it so she wasn’t telling me anything I didn’t already know!

  6. Point no. 3 sums it up for me – it’s none of other people’s business how you choose to raise your child (leaving aside if you were actually being abusive or neglectful which you clearly weren’t). Glad to hear that you are over being judged – it makes life easier when you get to the point of no longer caring what random Mrs McJudgeyPants thinks. At the end of the day you are the one raising your child, you are the one who knows him best not Mrs McJudgeyPants. As for screen time – I would have done exactly the same in your shoes. Sounds like you had a good evening out on the whole in spite of rude strangers. #triballove

    1. Min says:

      We did have a lovely evening, and very often in restaurants it’s a choice between a bit of screen time or screaming the place down, so I know what most people would prefer! Thanks for commenting.

  7. JerseyGirl says:

    I can’t believe the cheek of people. Parenting is such a personal thing and people should just mind their own. I can’t believe how well you handled this I would have lost the plot or gone home and cried! I get judged all the time for not having children so it comes from all angles, let’s just empower each other’s choices rather than being judgey so and sos

    1. Min says:

      It does-whatever we do we cannot win. Everyone thinks they know how to live our lives better than us! Thanks for your comment.

  8. I can’t believe that woman said that to you – it’s definitely none of her business how you raise your child. I would never say something like that to another parent, because you never really know what the situation is. Also, I totally use screen time to calm down the Popple when she’s losing it. Do I feel guilty? Hell no. You gotta do what you gotta do.

    1. Min says:

      I know! Whatever keeps everyone vaguely sane is my motto! Thanks for commenting.

  9. I used to really care about those glances and comments, especially with my three year old who is WAY more than a handful, but after a while I was so used to it that I barely even notice it these days. I would never dream of judging another parent for their childs behaviour, partly due to the fact that my four aren’t exactly angels, but I know so many people who do. Whatever happened to parent solidarity?! #stayclassymama

    1. Min says:

      I know, it’s ridiculous! I used to be quite judgemental, but since having a child myself I have realised that most people are just doing the best they can in their circumstances. Thanks for commenting!

  10. Lydia C. Lee says:

    I am a firm believer of ‘Good for her, not for me’. My opinion is naught to you, and yours is naught to me. As long as the child is safe (and relatively happy), we’re winning, right? #FortheloveofBlog

    1. Min says:

      Completely agree! Thanks for commenting.

  11. First time around I was so conscious of all of this…now though. 3kids in amd 10yrs older, wiser and with much thicker skin I have learnt to stand up for myself and the kids. I no longer take the tripe that is so freely offered, I respond, politely if somewhat sarcastically (although some of those nosey bods don’t get it!) and hold my head high. Well done you! Huzzar! #stayclassymama ?

    1. Min says:

      Thanks! I think that’s it-with time and maturity we get more confident in our own decisions, so what other people say is less likely to affect us.

  12. Claire says:

    This is so true. How do people dare lecture parents in public?! Great post, I’m glad you paid no attention! #DreamTeam

    1. Min says:

      I think it’s one of those things where everyone either has children or knows someone who does, or was a child once, and so has their own opinion on how children should be raised and sees it as a personal affront if not everyone agrees! Thanks for commenting.

  13. I can honestly say I don’t like Game of Thrones, the parenting judgment thing I’m still working on. It’s strange I’ve found that the most judgmental are the older ladies, I had a lecture on a bedtime routine when Bear was only 2 months old. I was like WTF how is a bedtime routine going to help him sleep? And actually to this day I still don’t really think it helps and its my least favourite time of day. I’m glad you had some prosecco and wine, I think your brothers partner is right the kid is going to live in a screen world. Made me chuckle when he said Piglet would be able to fix up the laptop in a split second. Thanks for sharing with #StayClassyMama!

    1. Min says:

      I’ve found the same. Nothing is going to work for every baby, and I have basically given up on strict bedtime routines because they never seemed to make any difference to Piglet. I think a lot of older ladies think they are experts because they have brought up their own children successfully and their children are fine, so they think their way must be the best way and the only way!

  14. Great post! I have a child with SEN and I used to hate the sideways glances at my normal looking child who was still in nappies at 4yo. none of your business! I did catch myself looking at a big child the other day walking around with a dummy and was starting to think some judgey thoughts…and then I reminded myself that I have NO idea about this child and their family. Maybe the child has ASD and can only cope in public with a comfort dummy, who knows. But it’s not for me to judge!

    1. Min says:

      Exactly. It’s easy to judge when we don’t know each other’s situations. Thanks for commenting!

  15. Ellen says:

    I love this Min. I am still a bit cautious of parenting judgment but I’m not as sensitive as some. Last night we were in a pub! At gone 7.30pm!!! Shock horror. I guess it’s more acceptable to Joe Public when one of the parents owns the pub though. I just don’t understand why people get involved and think it’s ok to make any comment! It’s literally none of their business. And yes, most nurseries don’t have any screens! #ablogginggoodtime

    1. Min says:

      Yes, I don’t know why everyone raves about this Silicon Valley one as if it’s any different to any other nursery! Just a good news story I guess. Thanks for commenting!

  16. blabbermama says:

    Loved reading this, your writing style is fab and made me chuckle. Parenting Judgement is probably an epidemic- it completely sucks. I’m glad you went to the restaurant, and that woman? Well, does she not know we will soon have little microchips in our skin (probably not but could happen) good for you for not rising to it. #ablogginggoodtime

    1. Min says:

      Thank you. Yes, hopefully it is an epidemic, and like other epidemics, it will pass. Thanks for commenting.

  17. This post has made me so angry! Why do people think they can comment on our lives and how we raise our children?! Why can’t we as a society just support each other and trust in each others judgement? If that was me I wouldn’t have been able to have been polite and would have needed to say my piece back so well done for keeping your cool! #ablogginggoodtime

    1. Min says:

      I know, it’s ridiculous isn’t it. Thanks for commenting!

  18. The Pramshed says:

    Ah well done for taking Piglet out with you, there is nothing wrong with that at all, and don’t listen to what the other woman was saying. You sounded like you did all the right things to keep Piglet under control, just like any other normal parent would do. I certainly would as well. I think that screen time is absolutely fine, as your Brother said we live in the digital era, there is no getting away from screens. I hope that you held your head high Min. Thanks for linking up at #fortheloveofBLOG. Claire x

    1. Min says:

      We were getting increasingly desperate by the time we resorted to the screen, but that’s the way it is, as everyone who’s ever been out with a toddler knows! Thanks for hosting and commenting.

  19. Hurray!!! Someone speaking my language. 100% agree with everything you said. Jog on lady… No one has the right to jude your parenting ever! My son needs his screen to hel him cope with the sensory overload of life and if anyone dared to judge is be furious! Thank you for linking up to #ablogginggoodtime ?

    1. Min says:

      Quite right. We can’t judge others as we never know their circumstances. Thank you for commenting!

  20. Love it. While filling out some papers for the teacher to “get to know” her new students better, I might have mis-wrote how much time the TV spends on here. She can worry about what happens in kindergarten, I’ll worry about what happens here #blogginggoodtime

    1. Min says:

      That’s a bit of a nosy question for the kindergarten to be asking! Thanks for commenting.

  21. I completely agree with you! I have spent so long worrying about the parenting squad but recently I’ve decided I’m over it too! We have a friend who exclaims very loudly every time I say the children have watched TV, got kindles or watched a DVD – and I honestly now don’t care. I watched loads of TV when I was small – way more than my kids – and I think I’ve turned out oK! My kids are adopted and have both experienced trauma – and none of it is relating to screen time or footwear!! I’m with you all the way! #abloggingoodtime

    1. Min says:

      I watched a fair amount of TV too, and I don’t think it’s done me any harm either. And as you’ve quite rightly pointed out, watching a lot of TV and other little things we beat ourselves up about are hardly traumatic for the children.

  22. Love it! Go you! I’m afraid I still worry what people think of me but I’m starting to let go a bit.. I love going to places and seeing other parents with toddlers kicking off, and it makes me feel so much more welcome!

    1. Min says:

      There is a certain satisfaction in seeing others going through the same trials and tribulations, isn’t there? Thanks for commenting.

  23. I am amazed that someone even dared to be so outspoken like this in the confines of a restaurant space. Surely they could see that they weren’t being helpful. It’s my complete pet hate when people get really judgey like this. I am joining you in being over it 🙂 Thank you for linking up to the #DreamTeam x

    1. Min says:

      I think she genuinely thought she was being helpful! Thanks for hosting and commenting!

  24. Oh no I cannot actually believe that happened. Do you know what I think I have gone way past worrying about what people think. You’re doing fab! #EatSleepBlogRT

  25. Barrie says:

    Haha! Fireman Sam! My son used to love that show!

    I’ve learned to not care what people think…took me three kids, but it happened!

    1. Min says:

      I think everyone gets there eventually! Thanks for commenting.

  26. claire says:

    Good for you! I must admit i’ve been quite lucky (touch wood), i’ve never had to deal with judgemental crazies on public, but I know people who’ve had the most ridiculous comments! Like you said, as long as the child isn’t being harmed, it’s none of their business! #eatsleepblogrt

    1. Min says:

      Completely agree! Thanks for commenting.

  27. I always dread the judgey people – it makes me not want to take the kids out! I need to be tougher and not take it to heart #eatsleepblogrt

    1. Min says:

      I think sometimes the worry is worse than the reality!

  28. Suchitra says:

    Good for you, I say!!
    Oh also, I live in the Silicon Valley. Was so surprised to see the mention here. And no, sadly, we aren’t all billionaires. Not even close by 6 zeros. #bloggerclubUK #familyfun

    1. Min says:

      Haha, I know. I have been there before and most people were pretty normal and not billionaires. It was just so funny the way she referenced it, like people who make computers have some sort of special knowledge about how dangerous they are!

  29. Tammymum says:

    I don’t know why people deem it ok to give you their opinion on your parenting choice. The decisions you make for your child are yours to make without some stranger butting their nose in where it isn’t needed or Warented. I bet she would have a thing or to to say if your child wasn’t sat quietly whilst she was eating her dinner because he was bored. You can’t win sometimes and someone will always have something to say. I hate the feeling that I am being looked at when we’re out and judged. I often take my iPad out for a meal with us to pacify my daughter. Whilst I don’t stick her intron of it all day I do believe I am doing the restaurant a favour by keeping her quiet with this particular screen – if she wants it of course. Sometimes she doesn’t and sometimes it s not needed. Sometimes she will sit quietly and scribble on paper, but this is obviously more acceptable….?!?!? Anyway it is the debate that will run and run, I fear people will always, unfortunately, have something to say on the choices parents make. I for my part however will never ever pass judgment on a fellow mum just getting through the day! Thanks for sharing with us at #familyfun. Hope you can come back next week xx

    1. Min says:

      Thank you, and thanks for hosting and commenting. I feel exactly the same way. I thought I was doing everyone a favour by stopping the little one from screaming and annoying everyone, but you can’t please everyone, it seems!

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