Children do not come with instruction manuals, but they do often come with a lot of unsolicited advice and criticism from all-knowing friends, family members and strangers.
From the moment they announce that a baby is on the way, parents hear all sorts of comments. “You’re too young for this.” “You’re too old for this.” “You really shouldn’t eat that.” “You’re naming your baby what?”
When the baby arrives, people comment about the clothing, diapers and food parents choose for their child. “Put a hat on that baby.” “You use disposable diapers? That’s so bad.” “You really should supplement with formula.”
As the years go by, the comments, though often well intentioned, don’t stop and can wear on a parent.
Bluffton mother of three Heather Nix was young when she had her first child, and because of that, she was insecure about how people perceived her as a mother. “I wanted to prove to those around me that I was a good mom,” Nix said. “This ridiculous, paranoid way of thinking would cause me to overcompensate for everything.”
Parents are open to even more criticism in this age of social media – it’s a lot easier to make rude comments on the internet than it is to say them to a person’s face.
Remember when the 3-year-old boy fell into the gorilla enclosure at Cincinnati Zoo & Botanical Gardens in 2016? The gorilla, named Harambe, was shot and killed after dragging the child around its moat.
The killing of the animal outraged people, some even saying that the boy or his parents should have been killed instead.
Just a few weeks ago, the internet had a field day with a viral video of a father who was caught off guard in an embarrassing parenting moment. International relations expert and political science professor Robert Kelly was criticized after a video of him being interviewed by the BBC went viral.
Kelly was speaking live over Skype about Korean affairs when his two young children crashed the interview. Some viewers found it hilarious. Others were appalled at the way Kelly nudged his daughter away from the camera and how his wife, Kim Jung-A, abruptly pulled the child out of the room.
But what would those people who were sitting at home watching do if they were in the same situation?
“If you find yourself on the other end of someone judging you and how you raise your children, hold your head high and know that their judgment is an ugly insecurity that is probably making them miserable inside,” Nix said. “And if you find yourself judging someone, you better get yourself in check because there are no perfect parents.”
Amy Coyne Bredeson of Bluffton is a freelance writer, a mother of two and a volunteer with the Tuberous Sclerosis Alliance.