Parenting Feels Like an Open Invitation for Criticism

“Give me the baby” my aunt demanded as I handed her my four-month-old daughter. My aunt was meeting my daughter for the first time at a small family gathering. My baby immediately began to cry, and I reached out to take her back. My aunt stepped back telling me forcefully “she is fine.” I awkwardly laughed and responded with “she isn’t used to a lot of strangers and I’d like to hold her.” She quickly fired back, in front of ALL of our extended family, with “are you going to just rush in and comfort her every time she cries? She’s fine.” I recoiled a little and felt my cheeks flush with a tinge of shame. Was I doing something wrong? I calmly took my daughter back. Then I made an excuse to leave and go home.

This was one experience of many in which people expressed differing opinions and unwelcome judgment on how I chose to parent. I felt like the mommy shaming train took off the second I got pregnant with people openly commenting about my weight (what!?). It then picked up steam once my daughter was born, with a constant barrage of judgment, usually formed as a question that was really a statement about what I was doing wrong.

 “You let your baby sleep on you? How will she ever learn to be independent?”

 “Why don’t you ever leave your baby and go out? You need to get away.”

 “How could you choose to sleep train and let your baby cry it out? I could never do that.”

 “How will your kids ever learn to socialize if you keep them isolated during the pandemic?”

“Oh, come on, why won’t you just let her have some more cake? She loves it.”

“Is your baby cold?”

“You haven’t potty trained yet?”

“Wow, you already let her play with an iPad and watch TV?”

“Why is your baby so skinny? Why don’t you supplement with formula?”

The second I became a mom I was shocked by the amount of unsolicited advice I received. I felt like becoming a mom had extended an open invitation to others to offer up judgment, advice, and opinions. Often, advice was given with a strong tone of “I know better than you.” It felt as though others wanted to correct me and overrule my decisions. And then when the pandemic started, the mom-shaming went into overdrive.

As a parent, I have learned that there are many different paths to successful parenting, and we each choose what works best for us and our kids. Parenting is certainly not one-size-fits-all, and we make choices based on our values, our experiences and how our kids respond. So why is it that so many people in my life feel passionate that their own opinion is the only way to get kids to behave, sleep, potty, socialize, and eat?

I am typically a people pleaser and hate confrontation, so parenting was the exact life assignment I needed to find my voice and have confidence amid frequent criticism. Through all of the judgment, I have learned that I, as my child’s mom, truly know what is best. My intuition has served me well.  That doesn’t mean I don’t make mistakes. I make them all the time. But mistakes aren’t a bad thing, they are part of my process for learning to be the parent my child needs. And I do like advice when I ask for it and it is from someone I trust.

The other thing I have learned is to shut down my judgment towards other parents. I will hardly ever express my judgment openly, but you better believe internally I have thrown some daggers in another parent’s direction. I usually judge others to make myself feel better when I am feeling insecure as a mom. I commit to working every day to not be a part of the problem. I will celebrate other parents making choices different than my own and cheer them on rather than tear them down. 

I will leave you with several quotes that have helped me to love myself and my choices throughout this crazy parenting journey:  

“Every time you are given a choice between disappointing someone else and disappointing yourself, your duty is to disappoint that someone else.” – Glennon Doyle, Untamed

“It never ceases to amaze me: we all love ourselves more than other people, but care more about their opinion than our own.” – Marcus Aurelius, Meditations

“Don’t shrink. Don’t puff up. Just stand your sacred ground.” – Brené Brown, The Gifts of Imperfection  

“The root cause of all judgment is the fear of not being good enough, not being worthy of love, and not being safe.” – Gabrielle Bernstein, Judgement Detox


  • Loved this article. It really is lose lose situation no matter what you do someone always has something to say. You can’t please everyone so just do you! Only advice I offer to new moms is not to listen to everyone’s unsolicited advice. Which is ironic I know lol and if it’s someone I know on a personal level I just say hey I’m here if you ever need anything literally anything even if its a nap or to do your dishes. I only offer advice if I am asked and won’t be offended if my advice isn’t for you. Live and let live.

  • This is 100% spot on. As a long-time people-pleaser myself, parenting has been the definite assignment for me as well to gain courage and stand strong. You are strong, mama. Keep doing what you are called to do to love and nurture your children—because we are the very moms that our children need.

  • I’ve enjoyed the freedom that having 9 kids had brought. Nurses at the hospital don’t even tell me what to do anymore and assume I’ve got this! 😆
    But on the flip side there are some who believe I deserve no grace whatsoever since I “should” have it all together by now. As I learn to let go of the stupid little things, people freak out that I’m “obviously” not taking care of the important things. If everyone could just keep their opinion about my kids to themselves my life would be so much less stressful

  • I have been a mother for 33 years. I have 11 children. In my experience, young mothers are overly sensitive and do not respect the wisdom of mothers who have walked ahead of them on the motherhood journey. This is not the case in some cultures, but is too often the case in American culture. Even Scripture admonishes older women to teach the younger women. But nowadays, the younger women often do not have a teachable spirit. They are easily offended and peer-driven. Yes, sadly, some older women are not sensitive to the younger mother’s needs, but it is results that matter. Society has not benefited by the methods of many of today’s snowflake mothers. I kindly suggest older mothers offer support and if the younger mother does not respect or value your insight, give her space to fail on her own terms. I am thankful for the older women who helped me.

    • I try to respect the wisdom of the older women in my life, but lots has changed. I’ve been told to sleep my babies on their side with a pillow to prop them up, to give my 4 year old cold medicine for a cough, to use “a little” Benadryl to help my toddler sleep, to let my 7 month old teeth on a whole carrot, and the list goes on. Much of the “wisdom” of the past has been proven to be dangerous. I try to be gracious when I disagree, I mostly smile and nod, but I’m not going to ignore science and medical best practices. I know that some of the older women in my life resent that and feel like I am disrespecting them, unfortunately.

    • Wow, great read, and was the pep talk I needed. Your comments, however, gave me pause, especially considering as women and mothers, we should be lifting each other up, not tearing new and young mothers down by saying how easily offended the are….how is that helpful? I have definitely asked experienced Moms for help as I have needed it. I never hesitate to ask, but I have to agree with SC that a lot of the “wisdom” of the past has proven dangerous…there’s a reason we have car seats and seat belts now, and why “back to sleep” is the tried and true method. It is also rather rude to call young mothers snowflakes, and assume that they are to blame for society’s issues. You also cited that Scripture says the older should teach the younger, but seem to have forgotten about the NUMEROUS times it mentions about “judging not.”

    • Lol you sound like a real treat. Has it never occurred to you that many younger women already have older mentors they trust and want to learn from, and you might not be who they chose to trust? Maybe because of this exact attitude. The absolute entitlement to think that everyone must listen your advice, and not wanting to learn from you personally is somehow a character flaw.

  • Sometimes it doesn’t hurt to take some advice from elders even if you don’t like or want it. It could be very helpful!! I had to learn that the hard way.

  • Love this! I am not a people pleaser but realize that i can come off strong or rude to others. I’ve tried to work on that since moving to the south. However, I will take my baby when she’s crying because I know what she needs and that person doesn’t. I am her mother and I do my best to not let others’ opinions influence what I feel is right for me or my family.

  • I once had a male church elder observe me getting my 2 babies into the church just so he could tell me how I was doing it wrong. I’m only a few weeks postpartum, in heels and a dress, trying to rangle a wild toddler, an infant, purse, diaper bag, and a breast pump towards the door. Help carry something or shut up!

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