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“You can’t claim to care about the welfare of children if you’re shaming other parents for the choices they’re making.”Brené Brown
Because I talk about parenting issues and share my beliefs and opinions its inevitable that some of them will sound judgey. That is never my intention. For example, I share my positive feelings about breastfeeding because, for me, personally, it’s one of the greatest joys of my life. It did NOT start out that way! But it is. I’ve also formula fed and bottle fed breastmilk. And I made it work! And I don’t have negative feelings about it. I did what I had to do and what was right for me and my baby at the time… but I LOVE breastfeeding.
We are all so different. Our children are all so different. So, why don’t we all just keep our opinions about parenting issues to ourselves? Right? WRONG!!! SO much of our way of doing things in our family was not the way we started out. SO MUCH was learned through trial and error but that came first through exposure to new and different ideas. Some of them seemed horribly offensive to me at first blush and it took me ages to get comfortable enough to explore and find our place.
Because of the way I’ve come across so many methods that work for my family while I’m scrolling through my Facebook feed MID-STRUGGLE, pushing a futile agenda, I have an appreciation for the respectful sharing of different ideas. I think withholding information, beliefs and experiences about different parenting methods and lifestyle choices is the opposite of helpful even though it will rub some people the wrong way and cause some contention.
Stop parenting AT ME
If you’ve been around the mommy wars for more than a few years you may remember Glennon Doyle’s aha moment about this. She was feeding her kids pizza and chicken in a mall food court and along came a mother with an impeccably groomed child who pulled an avocado and a spoon out her her bag and promptly began feeding the child that avocado. Glennon said, “I am telling you that I decided right then and there that this mother was feeding her child avocados AT ME. “ She went on to explain the many ways that this woman was parenting AT HER. Her, specifically, in a spiteful and premeditated way. (I recommend you read the whole story HERE.)
Do you ever do that? If so, how many decisions are you making for your family not based on your own belief system and values but rather what you think others expect of you. What their behavior demands that YOU do.
I am super guilty of this. And as I’ve begun to examine it I’m left thinking, what a waste of my time, my energy and my time with my children. And how sad for my family that I spin them around in these wild goose chases so I can check the box that says I mommed “right” today.
I’m on a mission to sift out my own values from those that I thought were mine but are actually ones I just thought I should have or I even want to have. I’m also still trying to determine what things are genuinely important to me but not all that important in the grand scheme and go against the nature of my family as a whole and the other individuals in our circle.
Who remembers Runaway Bride? Remember Maggie’s eggs? Spoiler alert: A reporter was doing a story about Maggie who was a serial runaway bride- leaving groom after groom at the alter. As he interviewed each of the jilted men he asked them how Maggie had liked her eggs. They each rattled off her exact order, followed by the words, “same as mine”. The reporter had realized that Maggie had never taken the time to figure out how she liked her eggs and just went along with the order of whoever she was eating them with. Not a big deal but representative of a larger problem in her life of never figuring out who she was.
Lots of us struggle with this our whole lives long but now we have not only ourselves to figure out but us and however many other people we manage and make decisions for. It’s not just our identities in questions, but our families’ as well. This has most recently been called our family culture. Our family culture is comprised of beliefs, values, priorities, and strengths and weaknesses of individuals and the family as a whole.
When my kids were younger I thought they needed to be in soccer and book group and science co-op and baseball and preschool and robotics club and on our days off we should go to the zoo or the science center or schedule playdates… and….. truth be told my kids really love all of those things….. but do you know what they love EVEN MORE??? Free time. Space. The ability to do nothing… to be creative… they love to read… they need to move at their own pace which is not even the remotely the tempo most of the rest of the world is moving at.
It is really hard to say no to these amazing opportunities… these good things … because of what is even better for my kids.
I did all of those things because I thought that I should. That’s what the other mothers were doing who talked about how bored their kids get and what can they do to keep them busy. And I didn’t want them missing out on things that I would have loved to do as a child and didn’t have the opportunity.
Did this serve them well? Did they appreciate what I was doing because of my motives? No. They sometimes loved those activities but at the expense of what they REALLY wanted which caused stress and threw our whole family groove out of alignment. When we fall into this trap our time and lives become unmanageable. And frankly, they loved the idea of doing most of those activities more than the activity itself.
Know your family. I have so much more to say on this subject and over time will have lots more information coming out about how to create a life that better suits your family and brings out their strengths. Very much still a work in progress over here but something we are getting there.
When I allow my people to be who they are and create a schedule and environment that works with that, somehow the invisible judgement I feel lessens. I feel more confident in my ability to meet my family’s needs and their ability to live their lives in a successful way.
But what about true judgement? The in your face kind that comes from people we love and people we might be stuck with. I came across this quote recently on Instagram attributed to Leah McDermott of Your Natural Learner: She says, “It is not your responsibility to make other people comfortable with the choices you make for your family.”
So first of all, of course you don’t owe anyone an explanation for the choices you make for your family. That is your business. A clear boundary is needed there. The only boundaries you can expect people to respect are the ones you set. So this is up to you. Determine what you are comfortable discussing and not and be clear and firm about it. You don’t have to be angry and in fact making these decisions in advance can help you keep a level head in the moment. Have a plan in place for when people push or cross your boundaries and let them know what to expect there too. “We don’t want to argue with you, so if you are unable to respect our boundary on this subject, we will quietly leave… or hang up the phone…” Or whatever it is. This is your business so you write the rules.
This can be super uncomfortable. Forgive me for sharing a second Brene Brown quote in this one episode but she has some great info on this topic… she says, “Clear is kind. Unclear is unkind.” When we beat around the bush and aren’t clear about our feelings and needs, we still expect people to meet our expectations and they usually won’t. When we are clear we really give the people in our life a fair chance to do right by us even if it’s not the first reaction and it’s uncomfortable at first. Brene calls that conversation a “rumble” which is appropriate. (More info HERE.)
If you’ve got people in your life who really won’t respect your boundaries and you’re unsure how to handle it, consider seeking help from a therapist or someone who can help you determine the impact this is having on your life and to create a game plan for how to keep yourself and your family safe.
If you found this episode useful, please share it with a friend who might need it! As always I would love to hear about your experiences. Have you ever felt judged as a parent? Was it the invisible judgement I often feel or the true, in your face kind? And how did you deal with it? Email me with your stories at firstname.lastname@example.org or leave a comment here.