I think the easiest thing in the world is to judge people on something you know very little about. It seems to be a "thing" these days (thanks internet). I mean, just look at the Harambe incident and the Disney alligator incident are any indication. People become over-night parenting experts, dishing out "parenting advice" in 140 characters or less. While other parents are often the ones judging (let's be real), there are plenty of ways people without kids unfairly judge parents, too.
The majority of my own friends who are childless have done a pretty great job of not judging my parenting choices, but when I worked at a particular retail establishment where many of the full-time employees where childless (by choice), I encountered some strange moments of judgement and shame. The biggest offender once questioned my choice to breastfeed my baby past one year of age. I believe the answer I gave was, "Because it's my choice."
Parenting is hard enough without having to sift through and essentially survive other people's judgement. I know there are parents out there who are neglectful and make poor decisions, sure, but the majority of us are just doing the best we can. As I have said before, until you've been in my exact situation, you can't possibly judge the decisions I've made. So, do everyone a favor and hold back on the snark, on the judgment, and on the backseat parenting, especially if you aren't a parent yourself. If you're wondering if what you're saying is, in fact, judgement, just take a look at the ways people without kids shame parents (even unintentionally):
I have to tell you, even my husband seems to think I should be packing "lighter" when we go places. Then we'll try it his way, and inevitably, the kids want or need something I didn't bother to pack; whether it's snacks, or a toy, or a change of clothes or something similar and equally important. The fallout of that situation is always a lot of fun to deal with, as is the chance to say, "I told you so." That is why you can't pack light.
Anyone with a child knows that they wait to poop, pee, or ask to bring along a toy that no one has seen in weeks as soon as you're all at the front door with shoes and coats on, ready to head out into the world in the hopes of actually being on time for an appointment or a meeting or a playdate. In order to not be late, you basically have to plan to leave an hour before you really need to.
What's that? You want to go on a hike at 2:30 today? Well, you should have mentioned that before I put my kid down for his nap.
I remember scoffing at the parents who needed to leave parties with their kids as early as 6:300 in the evening so they could help their kid "stay on schedule." My kid certainly wasn't going to be like that. Nope, my future offspring was going to be adaptable, because we were going to be more free with schedules. And that's when we learned that kids don't sleep in later to make up for the time they lost the night before.
I'm not saying spontaneity has been ruled out completely, but it's a lot harder than it used to be, thanks to extra-curricular activities, nap schedules, and many other variables associated with parenting. These days, spontaneous means making plans a week in advance, instead of at the very last minute or ditching plans altogether.
Judge away, child-free adults. I know I used to. Sometimes, you just need to get out of the house and you can't afford a babysitter or you can't get help from friends or family. My kids are crazy when they go out to a restaurant, but I'm paying for my meal just like everyone else is, and there are no rules against bringing your kids to a more family-friendly restaurant.
When my daughter used to have a tantrum at the zoo because we were leaving the sea otters (after 45 minutes of standing there), I would continue walking with her, despite her cries. Why? Because we had only been there for 45 minutes and it cost me $38 dollars to get in and I know that as soon as she's distracted by another animal, she will be totally fine.
Oh, how the mighty have fallen. I swore up and down that my kids would only play with ethically produced, eco-friendly toys and, sure, I've purchased as many of those as I can but they are expensive. I just can't afford them every time we decide to get our kids something new.
I was that judgmental person, too. You never know the other person's whole story, though. Maybe this is a once-a-month treat, and the kid usually eats really well. Maybe the parents needed a break. Maybe they can't afford that organic, farm-to-table produce. Until you've walked a mile in that parent's shoes, you can't judge.
When you visit with a friend who has kids, you will be overwhelmed by the sheer volume of toys, especially if you don't have kids yourself and your living room hasn't turned into some oversized toy bin. You will wonder what kid needs that many toys, and the answer will inevitably be, "none." I guarantee you half of those toys were gifts though, and pretty much all kids are pack rats, which means it's virtually impossible for you to throw out anything of theirs without them going ballistic.