You are not a failure! Do you hear that? No? Then listen again.
You are not a failure.
You are most likely a great parent who is doing the best for your individual child, in your own individual ways, which are most true to who you are and your own experiences.
The best parents are true to themselves and follow their instincts.
Recently, I've read a few articles written by parents who for some reason or another feel like a failure. They are not, they really aren't. And unsurprisingly these thoughts have come after they've been criticised for something someone else thinks about their parenting.
I know I've felt like a failure a few times; even earlier this year I was worried that my friends thought I should have potty trained my oldest already. Perhaps they did think that, but even if they did... who cares? As an adult, has anyone ever suggested that you are a better, healthier or a more successful person because of when you were potty trained, or because your parents sleep trained you or didn't sleep train you. NO of course not. The world of parenting is bat shit crazy!!
We've all been on the receiving end of unexpected and perhaps indirect criticism.
"Oh wow do you let your children eat/drink those?"
"Goodness me, are you not breastfeeding? Are you still breastfeeding?"
"Awww did Daddy dress you today?"
"I see he has the ipad again."
"Does she really still have a dummy, a comforter, a bottle?"
"HE SLEEPS IN YOUR BED????"
"Ooooooh I could never do controlled crying and let a baby be that upset."
"You do realise he's winning..."
"Perhaps you don't praise them enough."
Honestly I could go on and on. We've all had comments said to us; perhaps we've even thought some of these comments ourselves. I confess that I've thought the first one.
But I often think people say these things (rather than just think them in their heads) because they don't have anything else helpful or interesting to say. Some people are programmed to have an opinion on everything, but unfortunately for many, that programming doesn't come with a satisfactory filtering process. People just don't think about whether they are saying something offensive to someone who is sensitive or exhausted, or to someone who no matter what, wants to do the best thing for their children.
I think the time has come for us to take control of this situation. We need an easy way to deal with these comments in a way which doesn't require too much thought. So here's my guide on how you can deal with comments that you perceive as parenting put-downs.
STEP 1 - Say to yourself
I am not a failure. This person lacks empathy and tact. I am a great parent.
STEP 2 - Respond to them
There are a number of options for you to choose here, depending on their comment. You just need to put them in your 'tip of the tongue brain bank'.
1. Don't say anything. Give them your best, 'are you actually serious, you crazy, crazy person' look, whilst slightly shaking your head. And then carry on with what you were doing in a seemingly perfectly happy and calm state.
2. Take a deep breath and say with emotion, "I'm just doing my best". No one wants someone to start crying on them.
3. Say serenely, "every baby is different, it would be a boring world if we all did everything the same".
4. A genuine laugh followed by, "hah you're funny you are" in a non-sarcastic tone.
5. Say with real empathy and concern, "is everything ok with you? You don't seem your usual kind self today".
For me, I find number one works well; it gives off the 'don't mess with me today' response without actually saying anything. It makes the person realise that what they've said isn't kind or acceptable. And if they then comment negatively on your reaction, you can say, "I haven't said anything" - putting emphasis on the "I".
I hope you find these suggestions helpful; they're slightly tongue in cheek, but I feel a quick light hearted response is better than losing your rag or getting into a long winded monologue justifying yourself. You don't need to justify yourself. Remember step 1 - you are not a failure!