Judging

I see a lot of talk in parenting (mommy) areas about judging- specifically, why people shouldn’t do it. How awful it is to be judgemental (of people I agree with). How horrible parents are for judging others.

Thinking about it, I’m actually not that bothered about being judged. I’m very bothered and concerned about the people who will call child services out of spite or over perfectly normal behavior (apparently people have called CPS because a baby was teething)- because that has a large effect. I’m very concerned about people who try to enact laws or policies that prevent others from making non-harmful choices, like laws prohibiting public breastfeeding or hospital policies that stop hospitals from providing formula even to babies who need it. I’m concerned about things that will have a direct impact on me and my children. Those are important things to care about.

Caring about whether someone in a restaurant is giving me the stinkeye because I’m bottle-feeding my baby? Not high on my to-do list. Caring because someone thinks I’m a bad parent because we don’t do CIO because it did not work with our baby? No thanks. Caring that someone thinks the mei tai is a “baby prison” or that “your baby will never walk if you carry them like that” (kiddo started walking without support ages ago, thanks)? I’m more likely to laugh.

I admit, it may be that I have a thicker skin due to being non-binary. There are very, very few spaces where I won’t get severely judged and ridiculed for my gender. There are people who think I’m an unfit parent simply by virtue of my gender even if I do everything “right”. If my children end up being wildly successful, it will be in spite of me, not because of me.

Most people aren’t accustomed to being severely judged, and parenting choices are a harsh thing to be judged for. Parenting is a delicate job, we all want what’s best for our kids… we just don’t really know what that is. We’re doing the best we can with highly conflicting instructions that change from generation to generation and culture to culture. Not many people are so completely positive they’re doing the right thing that judgement doesn’t hit at those little doubts hidden in the back of our minds. If we are doing the wrong things- the results can be devastating. Parents can drive their own kids to suicide, and that’s one of the most severe situations. There’s a lot of other damage kids can do. So when people judge us and tell us we’re doing it wrong, there’s worry. There’s doubt. There’s confusion.

That’s why judging really hurts, at least judgement by strangers. Judgement by those we respect and care about is a whole other monster. It plays up on self-doubt that already exists. People who are confident in  their choices often aren’t as effected as judgement.  They’re effected by mistreatment and bullying (which judgement can lead to), but being judged by strangers tends to be water off a duck.

It does grate on me sometimes, but more because I know about the damage it does to others. I dislike the people who treat formula as akin to rat poison because it hurts people who fail to breastfeed. I roll my eyes at people who decry one parenting philosophy while holding up their own.

It also grates on me that the “don’t judge” seems to have gone too far. I’ve seen people insist that saying “That could hurt your children” is unsupportive and judgemental. Warning parents about potential harm to their children is now unacceptable because we want to be non-judgemental? Really?

When our baby was a newborn, we had a ring sling and didn’t read the instructions as carefully as we should have, and had kiddo in a bad cradle carry. This is dangerous. Someone who’s familiar with slings pointed this out to us. Was this being judgemental and unsupportive? No, it was expressing concern because we were unintentionally endangering our child.

Now, yes, I acknowledge the difficulty that it’s not always so black-and-white whether something is or isn’t harmful. Cry it out, not crying it out, formula feeding, breastfeeding, baby wearing, strollers, carrying a baby in the car seat, introducing solids early, introducing solids late, weaning at 1 year, not weaning at 1 year, etc. Some people will say each one of those is harmful, and we’ve again ventured into the realm of “we don’t know”. But when someone truly knows that something is harmful (even though it may not be), I can’t fault them for saying “You could harm your child”. I don’t consider that wrong. If being supportive means I have to support harming children, welp, I’m going to be a judgemental jerkwad.

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