A New Year’s resolution for fellow parents: Let’s stop judging each other

Parenting is a tough and often thankless job. What makes it harder is knowing that your every move can be critiqued no matter what choice you make.
(Gianluca Foli / For The Times)

If you are a parent, chances are someone somewhere thinks you’re doing it wrong.

We judge poor parents for not having enough and rich parents for throwing money at their children. We judge new parents over 40 for being too old, and teen parents for being too young, attachment parents for keeping their children too close, and free-range parents for not keeping their kids close enough. And don’t even think about trying to bring your kid onto a plane or having a drink at the bar with your toddler in tow -- the wrath you will incur will make your head spin. When you are a parent, it takes a village to tell you your choices suck.

Parenting is a tough and often thankless job. What makes it harder is knowing that your every move can be critiqued no matter what choice you make. Which is why in 2014 I am calling on everyone, myself included, to stop the parent-judging.

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Parent-judging has become a sort of national sport: From The New York Times parenting trend pieces that many of us love to hate, to the attacks on single mothers for society’s problems, parents in every social strata are targets.

Poor parents bear the brunt of a whole host of attacks, but single moms get the harshest of the parent-judging. Here are some recent highlights: This fall, an editor at the Connecticut Journal Inquirer blamed the decline of the newspaper business on single mothers. Conservative columnist George Will blamed Detroit’s bankruptcy on “unmarried mothers.” And during the 2012 presidential campaign, Mitt Romney “basically” blamed single parents, rather than unchecked gun laws, on the nation’s increasing gun violence.

And while it’s harder to be sympathetic to wealthy parents -- especially when they are shelling out $2,500 to train their nannies to cook gourmet meals for their tots -- they’re just doing what most of us are trying to do: our best for our kids.

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Some of the worst offenders of parent judging, however, are other parents. We are so filled with anxiety over what being a good parent means that we turn against each other. And we judge ourselves as parents because we know we’re being judged. It’s maddening, and creates a vicious feedback loop that undermines the parenting decisions we make because we’re plagued with the fear of being judged. Perhaps if I quiet my inner “sanctimommy,” I can make peace with my own fears about falling short as a parent. Maybe we all can.

In truth, none of us know what we’re doing. We’re all winging it. “You don’t have to buy organic groceries or join the PTA,” says Suburban Snapshots blogger Brenna Jennings in her piece “The Best We Know How.”

“We all do it right, and we all do it wrong, and I really believe that we all do it the best we know how.”

So let’s ease up on parents in 2014. Instead of judging parents, let’s support them.



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Susan Rohwer is a freelance journalist. Follow her on Twitter @susanrohwer.