There are many different parenting styles and most parents, as you probably know, are highly vocal about which method is best (based on their opinion and their families unique circumstances). However, let me be one of the first, and hopefully not the last, to tell you that there is no one "right" way to parent. One method may work better for my daughter while another may work better for your kid. Which, of course, is why the "mommy wars" are so hurtful and why the things every new mom thinks when another mom criticizes her parenting are detrimental and unfair and, usually, bring about an unending barrage of self-doubt.
There have been many times in my short time as a mom that I have doubted my abilities to parent. Honestly, it almost never stems from something I do or have done, but rather from the reactions and criticisms of other moms when they hear about something I do or have done. Other moms are "experienced," while I am "new mom" and still learning. While I had automatically assumed becoming a mother meant I'd be joining a "tribe" of women who constantly supported one another, I've found the opposite to be (usually, and sadly) true. Because my style of parenting is different than some of my friends' parenting styles, we've grow apart rather than closer together. I've heard more judgement than I have support. I've been made to feel like I need to defend my decisions, instead of feeling like I really and truly am the best person for the job of my daughter's mom.
While you may encounter differences among parenting styles, never let another mother tell you that you're "wrong" just because you're making different choices. There is no one way to parent. No one is perfect. Every single family is different. We're all just doing our best and seeking the validation that makes a job as tough as parenting, worth it. So, with that in mind, here are some of the things I think when other mothers start criticizing my parenting skills. I have a feeling that, sadly, most mothers can relate.
"Thanks For the Help, But No Thanks"
I know you're also a mom and, I'm hoping and going to automatically assume, you're really just trying to help. However, I did not ask for your help, and even if it looks like it, I probably don't need your help.
"You Don't Know Anything About My Child"
Each child is different and unique. What works for one child might be a totally useless and unnecessary choice for another. In other words, what works for your child might not work for mine. There is not just one way to parent, so don't assume that since something works for your family, it is the best and only way and will automatically work for my family. That may not be the case.
"If It's So Easy, Why Don't You Do It Better?"
Sometimes, it's difficult not to want to just throw my hands up in the air and let this stranger take a crack at parenting my child. I mean, if it's so easy, why don't you come on over and stop the public toddler tantrum from hell? Let's see if you really can parent my child more successfully.
"Well, This Isn't Your Kid. So..."
This is not your child. Don't get me wrong, I am thankful for all the help and support I get, but usually only when I ask for it. The unsolicited advice is really just judgement and criticism, and I don't have the time (or energy) for that, my friend. Please respect, and trust in, my parenting abilities. It might not always look like it, but I got it.
"I Bet She's Just Having A Hard Day..."
I tend to think that when mothers criticize other mothers, it's because they're unsure of their own decisions or having a really difficult day. This job is no joke, and it can be difficult to constantly feel like you're doing the right thing, especially you see another mother doing something differently (and it actually working). This mom, like most moms, probably just wants to feel validated in her decisions, so she's lashing out against someone who does something differently because she feels some lingering self-doubt. This is when I try to calm down and collect myself, because we're all fighting battles very few people can see.
"...But, Like, Stop Already."
However, I've been sitting here listening to you for a full goodness-knows-how-many-minutes and you still are criticizing me. While I try to be understanding and kind, I also don't have to take any kind of abuse or harassment. So, fellow mothers, if someone is continually judging or shaming or criticizing you, get up and leave. You don't have a social obligation to "sit ant take it." False.
"Oh, And You're So Perfect?"
Everyone is doing the best they can and I'm sure you have had days when you feel like you're failing. Please don't talk to me from atop a pedestal that really, and truly, doesn't exist.
"Wait. What If She's Right..."
Here comes the self-doubt and, honestly, this isn't always a horrible thing. You really can learn from other parents, and I'm not daft to the chance that someone really does know a "hack" or a "trick" that could benefit me and my daughter, in the long run. I try to sit back and really evaluate what this other mom is saying. Maybe she has a point. Maybe she is really coming from a nice, helpful place.
"...Am I A Bad Mom?"
Does that mean I'm a bad mom? Am I a failure as a mom? Nope. I'm not, and you are not. It's difficult not to feel like you're messing up when someone is criticizing you or suggesting a different parenting method, but I promise you are not. Everyone has their own opinions and makes their own choices on how to parent. The grass isn't always greener, and you're doing a great job on your side of the fence.
"She Could Have A Point. I Never Thought Of It Like That."
There are times when you really can learn something from another mom, and hopefully her delivery of her criticism was tactful enough. Obviously, some people really are just hurtful and there's not a whole lot you can learn in those situations. However, there are other moms who really are out to help (like when they point out the fact that the carseat harness isn't on properly) and those instances are worth taking advantage of.
"Well, Everyone Is Entitled To Their Own Opinions"
Eventually, if the criticism really is vindictive in nature and I can't learn anything from this interaction, I will just tune you out. Everyone has an opinion and you clearly feel the need to share it so, well, go on. I'll be thinking about Pokémon Go and watching my kid play at the playground.
"There Are Plenty Of Ways To Parent And They All Work Differently For Different Kids"
Different kids react differently to different methods of parenting. It's as simple as that. Maybe your method would work with my child, but maybe it wouldn't. This is my choice and, in the end, I am the mother. It's best if we just agree to disagree.