I have come to realize many things since having a child. For example, I now know that I can read “Dr. Seuss Green Eggs and Ham” seven times in a row without going insane. That no matter what people say, throw-up is throw-up and I will never get used to being thrown up on, which is usually after I have already bathed my child. I am a really fast diaper changer. And it’s true: love grows with your child.
But perhaps one of the biggest realizations I’ve made as a relatively new parent (my son turns 2 in May) is how incredibly judgmental other parents can be. It hurts. And it happens way more than I thought it would.
You, the woman at Kohl’s who stared at me as my child threw a temper tantrum because he wanted to push the cart instead of sit in it, you judged me.
Friend who saw I have TV on almost all the time. You judged me.
Parent at the park who saw I did not pack an organic, free-range, all-food-groups-represented, no-dessert lunch complete with sandwiches cut in cute little shapes, and instead fed my child cold pasta noodles and (gasp) potato chips? You judged me.
Friends who tell me how to correct my child? You judged me.
Not always out loud, of course. But internally, they were smug. They thought things like I would never have children who would behave in such a manner in public. Or, Doesn’t she know the American Academy of Pediatrics recommends no TV until the age of 2? Or, How can she possibly be feeding her children that crap? Has she not read any of Michael Pollan’s books?
And what’s worse, now that I’m a parent, I am realizing internal smugness isn’t so internal. I know when I’m being judged. I can sense it, even when nothing is being said out loud. It’s in the look. The double-take. The whisper to the companion they’re with.
It’s hard not to care about what other people think. That quiet judgment can sting, especially on days when my nerves are shot and my child is in the worst mood — a combination that often leads to a situation judge-worthy by many.
Pre-child I will admit I thought I would be better. That I wouldn’t do that. Ha! How naive I was. Parenting is like jumping on a rollercoaster mid-flight and trying to buckle up while going 60mph.
Pre-child: I was going to cloth diaper.
Post-child: Ha! I go through Pampers like they are water.
Pre-child: No TV until age of 2 and then only 30 minutes a day.
Post-child: Mickey Mouse Clubhouse. Need I say more?
Pre-child: Only organic, healthy, homemade food.
Post-child: My kid sometimes eats day old cheerios off the floor.
Pre-child: Public tantrums are unacceptable.
Post-child: Removal of the child is only sometimes doable; predicting when a tantrum is going to strike is often impossible.
Pre-child: Complaints about childrearing and its hardships annoyed me (this was your choice, no?) and saddened me (parenthood is supposed to be a wonderful thing!).
Post-child: Parenthood isn’t wonderful 100 percent of the time.
My day-to-day routine isn’t what I envisioned it would be. Some of the things I imagine I’m judged on now are minor, others, a little more major. But mostly they are simple faults and I now know that they don’t make me a bad parent. Sometimes I leave dirty diapers on the changing table. My son’s socks don’t always match. I forget to brush my son’s teeth. I use TV as a way to take a breather. I’m sometimes too easy. I’m sometimes too hard. I sometimes make the wrong decision, give the wrong punishment, ask too much, ask too little. But within all these minor and major faults is a singular truth: Most days, I’m doing the best I can. And I honestly believe that’s a truth that can be applied to most parents: Most days, we’re all doing the best we can.
I guess what I am trying to say is that parenting is difficult enough – please do not add to it.