It seems like at least once a year a blog article on why parents shouldn't judge each other goes viral. Sleep-deprived parents hastily post it up on their Facebook pages in the few seconds of free time between brokering peace in a divisive sibling toy argument and debating whether it is worth combing the discarded orange seeds from their kids' dinner out of their own hair or whether it is better to just tell everyone it is a new, all natural, leave-in conditioner.
And every now and then, a parent who posted one of those Kumbaya-don't-judge articles will then go on to share blog posts by people boasting about not making Pinterest-inspired, elaborately crafted Bento Box bear-shaped sandwiches with honey sticks like their friends do, while other parents share blog posts about proudly natural, granola families who shun conventional produce and screen time. This would be absolutely fine and dandy if the writers of these articles weren't bitterly putting down the people who parent differently from them.
Yes, the Internet makes it easy for people to revert to their pubescent ways. (Hey, you, the thirty-something woman posting all the selfies to Facebook, I get it. Camera phones weren't around when we were in high school. So you go, girl. Just get it out of your system before you hit 40). And it is so easy to talk smack about someone when they can't see you. But when did parenting become the new high school?
Not since the late nineties have I felt this unsure of myself. Am I doing the wrong thing? Am I making other people feel bad because of what I choose to do? Why are my friends who don't have kids yet making fun of my parenting style behind my back? Why are my friends who do have kids making fun of my parenting style? Am I getting a zit?
And in full disclosure, I, too, have wondered about what other parents are doing with their kids. How can they feed their kids that? Doesn't she know about the toxins in that product she's smearing all over her kid?
It is at times like these that I have to catch myself and remember to reserve my parental judgment for decisions that relate to raising my children, not for assigning worth to other parents.
Every parent is struggling, be it the stay-at-home-dad who stresses himself out to plan a DIY Sweet-6 birthday party for his son, or the working mom who can barely find time to buy some prepackaged food for dinner since she only sees her kids for one hour after work before it is their bedtime. Everyone is struggling and every parent I know unquestionably loves their kids and would do anything within their means for them.
So why does what anyone else chooses to do with his or her kids, as long as no one is getting hurt, anyone else's business? Just because someone chooses to parent one way does not necessarily mean they think the other way is terrible. So why do we get offended if someone else enjoys Pinterest? What difference does it make to us if someone only feeds their kids organic, homemade food or goes out to a restaurant every now and then, or if somebody has a zero screen-time policy or lets their child watch a little television, or if one uses cloth diapers or plastic or practices Elimination Communication? Why are we so insecure again?
We have to stop searching for validation in a blog post. For every blog post I can find telling me I am incredible for raising my kids the way I do, someone can find another talking about how amazing my polar opposite is.
It took me almost all of high school to realize what anyone else said about me didn't matter and to be proud of myself and my accomplishments. I don't want to take years to learn that lesson again, and I certainly don't want my actions to inadvertently teach my children to think they're better than someone else or doubt their self-worth.
So here it is in a nutshell: You're not a better parent than me and I'm not better than you. We all need to remind ourselves of this daily so we can try to keep this petty nonsense out of the next generation. Tape it to your toilet. Write it on your mirror in lipstick if you need to. Hell, get it tattooed on your hand, (although I guarantee another parent will judge you for that). But let's actually remember it, not just post it to Facebook to see how many likes it can get.
Kumbaya. Now excuse me as I go feed my kid some more oranges. These gooey seeds are doing wonders for my split ends.
Author of The Booger Fairy, Nishi Goes to India, and several Indian language books for kids, Supriya works as a screenwriter for the Indian production house, Vinod Chopra Films, and blogs about green living and green parenting at www.wadingthroughsoup.blogspot.com