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When Someone Criticizes Your Parenting, Remember This

Haters gonna hate, right? It doesn't happen frequently but when it does, if it's about your parenting, it can sting. I recently had a friend (who's trying to get pregnant but has exactly zero experience with actual kids) suggest that my five-year-old, who'd just sat coloring quietly for an HOUR during a meeting, should be more respectful when other people are talking. He'd shown me two pictures he'd created during those 60 minutes. And no, he wasn't whispering. Because he's five. But anyway, my friend said a kid his age should understand that there are rules and... then I stopped listening, because you know what? She doesn't know what she's talking about.

Same goes for food allergy stuff; I've long since let go of caring whether someone might think I'm a helicopter mom or whatever—I have to keep my kiddo safe and, you know, alive, so I do what I have to do.

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I see a lot of new moms trying to make everyone happy, apologizing in advance for their babies' cries or the type of diaper they use or any number of things that they really have no need to explain. In the face of actual spoken criticism, they practically crumble. Having a second child is widely recognized as a more relaxed parenting experience in many ways, not the least of which— for me, anyway—has been letting go of investment in others' opinions about my parenting choices and style.

You can't make everyone happy. It seems like as soon as we finally figure this out as women and stop trying to do the impossible in this regard, we become moms and face a whole new level of expectation and unsolicited commentary from everyone and their sister. But it's worth letting go of the need to please all over again. In fact, it's especially worth it when we have kids, because a) we have bigger fish to fry than pleasing everyone (like real live humans to raise) and b) we are modeling for our kids how to respond to others' opinions about us, or of our kids themselves.

And you, too, don't need explain yourself. You don't need to get angry. And… you also don't have to care.

I want my children to grow up respecting themselves, feeling confident and comfortable with themselves, with their choices and with their voices (both their inner voices and those they use to speak). And what that looks like, sometimes, is just peacefully—and yes, politely—letting go of what other people have to say. Meanwhile, I also work to model how to respect others in kind, including holding off on making opinions about people or criticizing them. I remind myself, and my kids, that we should try not to judge others because we never know what they're feeling, what their day's been like, or what their story is. We only know that, like us, they're simply human.

So please, mamas the next time someone—in-laws, strangers in the supermarket, best friends, anyone!—passes some judgment on your your parenting, remember this: they (seriously) don't know what they're talking about. In the same way that no one can really understand a marriage who isn't actually a part of it, no one else knows your kid or your family's situation in the way you do. I'm sure you're teaching your child not to hit or bite others. I'm sure you're being mostly patient and loving and kind. If someone throws you shade because your kid is fussing in a restaurant or because you let your little girl leave the house with dirt on her face or whatever other petty passerby-commentary comes your way, let it go. I'm sure you are doing your best and you are doing just fine. By all means, keep working on improving your parenting skills and strengthening your relationship with your children, but don't let anyone else's negativity get you down.

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I had talked to my son before the meeting mentioned above; we spoke about how kids were welcome there but it might be boring for him. I asked that instead of running around and being loud and crazy (his M.O… Because he's five), he draw quietly for its duration. When he did, I was proud of him. He rocked it! Other people who were at the meeting also told me later how impressed they were with his behavior. When my friend raised her issue, I kindly but firmly told her I disagreed with her, but I didn't get into a big explanation or try to justify my stance. And you, too, don't need explain yourself. You don't need to get angry. And… you also don't have to care. If something resonates, you can choose to reflect on it, but you don't have to. No shits given is A-okay.

Later, my friend told me she realized she'd been raised with a "children should be seen and not heard" ethic and that her low tolerance for kiddo distraction likely stemmed from this. It was a good insight for her as she approaches motherhood herself, and for me, too, as a reminder that people's attitudes around children differ for all kinds of reasons, and not to be too hard on anyone who seems unduly annoyed by kids. But still, her issue is ultimately not my issue, and I'm glad I didn't make it mine—and you shouldn't either.

Image via Twenty20/chanelpluscat

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