Being a parent is a bit like what I imagine it’s like being a celebrity. You are, or at least feel like you are, under scrunity all the time. Everything is out there to be judged…kids state of cleanliness…clothing…pram status…
The judged parent
This feeling was particularly strong with my first, but still very prevalent by the time I started raising the twins, who were my third and fourth babies. Having a baby is the hardest thing you will ever do, and sleep deprivation only adds to the challenge. It is easy to feel that everywhere you look, at Mums and Tots, the supermarket, the coffee shop and so on, everyone is doing it better than you. Un-vomited upon shoulders, dry dribble bibs, designer baby wear un-sullied by black banana squidge, babies who actually sleep in prams while mummies eat muffins with friends (I believe all of this to be true, although I have not personally been the parent of a child who has achieved any of the above).
As you progress through your parenting journey, you will begin to be able to stop judging yourself so much, and start being able to judge others with some conviction. If you are finding things really tough right now, and feel like you are failing as a parent, think again. Please take the time to think about what makes you feel bad or judged, and start forming your own opinions and making your own judgments right back. You will gradually start to feel more balanced and confident. Something about becoming a parent can lead you to lose your confidence and start believing that others know better than you. This is not true!
I want to emphasise that in feeling how you do, you are completely normal. When you have a child, or children, suddenly the world which you have known for the last two or three decades transforms into an alien planet. This happens to every parent. Let’s take, for example, doing the shopping.
Pre-Kids Shopping Trip
Gets into car, nips to Sainsburys with fairly short list, whizzes round in 20 minutes and comes home with a weeks shopping.
Post-Kids Shopping Trip
Gets kids ready amidst an uncontrollable tide of wailing, baby vomit, running away, and protests about missing Peppa Pig. When nearly ready, and you think you might just get out alive, someone will do the pooh from hell. Clothes will be soaked and a complete change will be required. While changing this child, another child will undoubtedly have injured itself requiring savlon and plasters. While applying savlon and plasters, someone will find their way into a muddy puddle or tip a whole glass of milk over themselves, thereby requiring a complete change of clothes. While undertaking the second to third change of clothes, someone will do a pooh from hell. Clothes will be soaked and a complete change will be required. This cycle may repeat for 1-2 hours, but you will eventually get out of the house.
Upon arrival at the supermarket, you will inevitably run into the un-intentional offender.
The Un-intentional Offender
This is the part of the journey where you can start to gain control and perspective. Not immediately, but I hope this heads up will bring it sooner than might otherwise be the case. You see, if you are anything like me, the first 100 times you meet the un-intentional offender, you will be left in floods of tears at your own inadequacy as a parent. Those in the know will recognise some of the un-intentional offenders key phrases…
‘Oh, I can see somebody has had their lunch then! In my day we ate it not wore it’
‘Oh dear, did you run out of baby wipes then?’
‘Oh dear, your baby doesn’t seem to be very happy. Don’t you know what’s wrong with him?’
‘This is a supermarket, not a playground’
‘My children never behaved like that. I suppose it’s all this modern parenting’
‘You look really ill! Baby’s not a good sleeper then!!
What to do
I suppose that what I could have done is fairly limited. I could have cried (which I did), I could have answered back (rare for me) or I could have joined social media, enjoyed the support of others, and learned through them (which I didn’t realise at the time)
What should you do? Learn not to be judged, but make your own judgments. No-one is better than you and no-one has the right to judge you. You gave birth to this child, you are raising it and those two things make you bloody amazing! Snot, baby vom and banana mashed with rice crackers are an every day normal!!!
DO NOT SUFFER IN SILENCE. IF YOU ARE FINDING IT TOUGH, LET ME OR SOMEONE ELSE KNOW. YOU ARE NOT ALONE. WE ARE HERE TO LOOK AFTER EACH OTHER, AND YOU WILL NOT BE TURNED AWAY. XXX