Last week, an old friend of mine from college posted on social media about an experience she had taking her two little boys to the park. She let them run and play, and ordered some lunch while she watched them. They ran around the small lake nearby, laughing at the ducks swimming in the lake, and excitedly picking flowers along the banks. They laughed and played while my friend watched from a distance, constantly evaluating in her mind how long it would take her to jump up and run over to them should a problem arise. Her boys, despite her motherly warnings, couldn’t help themselves but to reach down and touch the water – it was so tempting on a beautiful warm day! After warning them a few times, she became concerned for their safety and called them over to be near her.
Moments later, a woman dining nearby approached her. The woman praised her for watching closely, but allowing her boys to explore and play. She commended my friend for giving them space to examine and appreciate the world around them while keeping a close eye on them to make sure they were safe. My friend smiled and thanked her for the sweet compliment, understanding fully how precious these moments are.
She sent her boys off to wash their hands, and as they got ready to eat their lunch, an elderly man made a beeline toward her with his finger wagging.
“That’s got to be the worst case of parenting I have ever seen! There would have been no way you could have gotten there fast enough if they fell in! He would have drowned before I could have pulled him out for you!”
My friend, a kind and gentle person, thanked him for his concern and gently guided her boys away, feeling acutely the sting of harsh judgment. Being the generous soul that she is, she ended her post with this thought: Isn’t it interesting how the same exact scene caused two opposite and strong reactions? Two strangers both felt the need to address
my friend’s parenting – one with kindness and encouragement, and one with anger and judgment.
Motherhood is hard – that’s no secret. We moms make choices every day that directly impact our children’s lives. We don’t take it lightly, and every mama I know keenly understands the concept of “mom guilt.” When we are approached and encouraged, it can be such a relief! Finally, someone is validating that I am making the right choices for my children! But when the opposite happens, it can be devastating.
My friend’s post was so poignant because she experienced these two opposite reactions back-to-back, and she was able to see in real-time that it truly is just a matter of perspective. The mom space can be so much like this: often what generates praise in one setting will generate criticism in another.
It can be hard not to take a biting remark to heart, but remember, when it comes to your kids, you are the only one who can see the full picture. Strangers may pop in here and there with their parenting tips and advice, but they are not standing at the same viewpoint you are. They don’t know your children, and they don’t know you! You know your little ones like no one else, and you are capable of making the best choices and being the best mama you can be for them. At the end of the day, you are the one tucking those precious little ones into bed, kissing their sweet little noses, and waking up in the morning to do it all over again. There is no substitute for your perspective, mama. You are doing great.