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My Parenting Choices Are My Business

Image courtesy of Thien-Kim Lam
Image courtesy of Thien-Kim Lam

When it comes to being judged as a parent, it feels like we’ve all been there. At Babble we like to say there’s only one way to parent: yours. We’re starting the #ThisIsParenting campaign to celebrate all the ways you get things done — and end the cycle of parenting judgment.

Growing up I hated how strict my parents were with me. Now that I’m a parent, I get it.

Their Asian parenting style clashed with the parents of my American classmates. They had high expectations of everything I did and didn’t tolerate mistakes well. I dreaded my father’s disappointed look at the one B+ in a line of A’s on my report card while my neighbor received $20 for his C’s. I vowed to be more relaxed with my own kids.

You know what I learned rather quickly? Parenting is hard.

I thought living in the DC metro area put me one step ahead of the parenting thing. I grew up in a small southern town where my family and I were the only Asian-Americans. The diversity on the streets of DC made me giddy with excitement. We started a family here because we knew our children wouldn’t be the only biracial kids in our community.

My biggest surprise was how complete strangers (most of whom are also parents) would judge my parenting choices. Everyone had an opinion and was happy to share it: nannies at the park, strangers in the grocery store, and other parents. Add these well-meaning strangers to the criticisms from my mom and mother-in-law, and I thought my head would explode.

When my kids were not yet in school, we made daily treks to the park. They needed the space to run around, and I needed a little break. I’d settle myself on a bench where I could easily spot my children and open up my book. If I forgot my book at home, I’d fiddle around on Facebook or play games on my smartphone.

It was a win-win for all of us. Or so I thought.

Depending on which park and what part of town, I became the recipient of ugly looks from fellow parents. Some “helped” my then-preschooler up the slide while saying loudly, “Let me give you a boost and make sure you don’t fall.” Mildly annoyed, I’d respond with, “He doesn’t need help.”

Then it hit me. I was being judged for not being a helicopter parent. Apparently I was ignoring my children by allowing them to go down the slide by themselves. Oh, and forcing them to make friends at park by not playing with them. The super-mean looks and comments came from people who thought I was a nanny ignoring her charges.

Sometimes I would dread taking my kids to the park. I worried if the other moms would judge me for packing non-organic snacks or, heaven forbid, fast food for my kids. I found myself sitting away from other families at the park just to avoid any potential ugly looks. I was not going to tell them I couldn’t bring organic snacks because we could barely afford the Goldfish crackers my kids loved. Our family’s financial situation was none of their business.

Judging parents is not a new thing. I did it plenty before I had children. As a mother, it hurts to have another mother silently (or not-so-silently) judging me for my parenting choices. Thanks to social media, this silent judging has turned to public shaming when people post photos on Facebook.

I’m not a saint either. Just like I catch myself before asking other multiracial families about their kids, I try not to jump to conclusions about other moms I see. I stop and put myself in their shoes. The mother whose child is screaming on the floor in the grocery store is already having a bad day. Why make her feel worse by giving her a look or making a snarky comment? I try to give her a sympathetic smile — we’ve all been in similar situations.

There are many days where I think I’m being a horrible mother. The fact that I (and you) worry if we’re good parents means we are good parents.

Instead of shaming other parents for their decisions, let’s come from a place of compassion. We’re all making our decisions from a place of love for our children, and we’re all in this together.

Join our campaign! Share your real parenting moments — the good, the bad, and the sticky — on Instagram, Twitter, and Facebook using #ThisIsParenting. Because at the end of the day, we’re all in this together.

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Article Posted 4 years Ago

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