Becoming a parent isn’t easy. My journey as a brand-new mom was both exciting and challenging. The sleepless nights, the countless diapers, the poop, and spit-up - this was only the beginning. Little did I know, one of the hardest parts of parenting wasn’t caused by me or my baby.
Looking back, I’d say the hardest part of being a new parent is facing judgment.
Although people have babies of all ages nowadays, becoming pregnant in the middle of my undergraduate studies was definitely frowned upon. I wasn’t even old enough to legally drink, but I was about to have my own child. I had years of experience babysitting and volunteering in my church’s nursery, and I felt confident in my knowledge of babies and children, but when faced with my own parenting journey, I had many more questions than I had answers. So I did what I knew best: bought all the pregnancy, childbirth, breastfeeding, and parenting books, and read them all. I joined countless online forums and downloaded apps for my phone to talk to other mothers. I went to childbirth classes, parenting classes, and got CPR certified. I was young, but I was not ignorant.
And despite this, I still faced judgment - and it hit me hard. I felt like as a young mother, I always had something to prove. I needed to show people that I could successfully raise a child, to prove I had a place in the parenting community.
It started with comments from some people at my church. Whenever I shared with someone anything special or exciting about my baby, they’d always respond with, “When are you going to get married?” People that had no knowledge of my life, my goals, or my baby’s father, felt entitled to make judgment calls on what my next steps should be.
Even strangers in public would come up to me and point out completely random things I was doing wrong. I had one person run up to me as I was crossing the street with my baby in the stroller, just to tell me that the sun was in his face. The sun. We actually need sun exposure for so many reasons, and that stranger had no idea how much sun my baby had actually gotten at that point.
As a young (and single) mother, I relied on my own parents for a lot of help in the early years of my son’s life. I am eternally grateful for their help, but it also led to a lot of clashes when they didn’t agree with my parenting decisions. I often felt like I was facing judgment from all angles.
Even now, eight years later, as a second-time mom, I still find that I face judgment. I’ve gotten judgmental comments about religious decisions, my son’s hair length, how I’m teaching language to my son, whether I’m disciplining him the right way, how much screen time he gets, how I did baby-led weaning instead of purees, whether I’m sleep training him or not, the fact that I’m still nursing him as a toddler, etc. The list goes on!
But there is a difference: I am now a confident parent.
There were no books I needed to read, no blogs I needed to follow, no family members I desperately sought approval from, no one I needed to prove myself to. Whatever decisions my husband and I make for our little one, are decisions that I am confident in.
I don’t let negativity get to me.
I’ve learned that deep down, there really aren’t many issues in parenting that are completely black and white. There aren’t a lot of “right” or “wrong” answers. There is no “good way” versus “bad way.” That means what works for me, and is best for my kids, may not be the best for yours.
And that’s perfectly ok.
I still respect you and honor you as a parent.
My hope for all new parents is that in time, they will learn to trust themselves and have confidence in their abilities. I hope that strangers will think twice before opening their mouths and spouting off a comment that might seriously hurt someone’s feelings. We’re all in this same wild and crazy ride of parenthood - so let’s support each other and be there for one another.
Parenting is awesome. Sleep is overrated. Every day is an adventure.