Soon after becoming a mom I found out that the North Germans, of whom I had thought of as people who are generally good at minding their own business, can be pretty chatty with strangers. If the stranger is carrying a baby, that is. Most of the conversations that I have had and the comments that I have heard have been overwhelmingly positive, but every once in a while a “kind” stranger will inquire whether my baby is too hot, too cold, or getting enough air in the baby carrier. Why, thank you very much. I am her mother, do you really think that I would be overheating, freezing, or suffocating my darling girl on purpose?
That said, I probably should not complain about the nosiness of Germans too much. Apparently there are nations out there with a much higher ratio of people with emotional and highly opinionated interest in other people’s parenting decisions. If you want an example check out this great article: The Scariest Part of Parenting is Other Mothers.
Parenting can be hard even without having to worry about what passersby or random strangers at a store might think of how you treat your child. So hubby and I have one simple rule: we do not judge other parents.
Yes that is right, no judgement even if you say “our” when talking about your baby’s milestones. The fact that I personally cannot imagine doing it, does not mean that I think worse of mothers who say “we” and “ours” left and right. What works for other parents will not always work for us, and vice versa – the fact that something works for us does not mean that every other parent should do it too.
I see little point in the seemingly endless debates on co-sleeping, “crying it out”, feeding formula, or whatever else is the divisive issue du jour. Each parent and each baby have their own personality, their needs and priorities, so why would one parenting method work for all? Whichever solution keeps everyone happy, or at least functioning from one day to the next, is good for that particular family. And the fact other parents are doing things differently does not mean that they (or you) are doing something wrong. Quite the opposite.
I have to admit that not making snap judgement is not always easy, so our rule sometimes leads to the following kind of conversations:
- I: She is using the baby carrier wrong, the baby is much too low.
- H: Maybe she has back pain and this is more comfortable.
- H: She was so busy playing with her phone that the bus doors closed in front of her and her 3-year-old got off alone.
- I: Maybe she had just received an important email.
If I have learned one thing from the countless interviews that I have carried out in my work and studies of sociology, it is that you first need to listen and observe, try to see through the eyes of the person in front of you, and attempt to understand why they act the way they do. And then, only then, are you allowed to make evaluations and conclusions about their actions. If you approach others this way you will often find that, although you may not agree with them, you can understand where they are coming from.
Therefore, I try not pass judgement on other parents. I am sure that they, just as I, want the best for their baby.
Actually, let me rephrase that. I will not judge you and your parenting methods unless you are being judgmental and dismissing everyone who does things differently than you.