Judgments Made Before Motherhood

Welcome to the June 2013 Carnival of Natural Parenting:

Parenting in Theory vs. in Reality

This post was written for inclusion in the monthly Carnival of Natural Parenting hosted by Code Name: Mama and Hobo Mama. This month our participants are sharing how their ideas and methods of parenting have changed.

Before becoming a mama I had a lot of experience with children. I started babysitting the neighborhood wee ones when I was only 11 ½. Throughout high school, I had a full-time summer nanny gig. During my first year of college, I was also a semi-full time nanny. And then I was afforded the opportunity to run the afternoon session at a Waldorf preschool.

Children and their variety of antics were no surprise to me. I was well aware of meltdowns, frustrations, overwhelm, exploration, and general developmental challenges. However, I somehow forgot all of this as I moved away from the world of childcare and into my professional career as a municipal government recruiter.

Somewhere along the way I convinced myself that I wanted a career. Said career involved gobs of travel, so much in fact that it was not fair nor practical to have a child when I would not be home much. And it was during this time that I got awful judgmental about the way people parented. Despite having daily interaction with children of all ages for over a decade, I developed some huge misconceptions about the way children “should” behave. (I kind of want to smack myself now for even thinking any of these things). Obviously, my perceptions were flipped upside down the second I saw that positive sign on the dollar store pregnancy test. I went from a childless 30-something year old who was shocked and appalled at the way children behaved, to a pregnant 30-something year old who was shocked and appalled at the way our culture regards children.

So what were some of my misconceptions? Judgments? Warped views? In the spirit of honesty and admitting my shortcomings, these were some of the thoughts that crept into my head before I became a mama.

Photo Credit: http://www.flickr.com/photos/bewitchinggrace/2365630621/

Photo Credit: http://www.flickr.com/photos/bewitchinggrace/2365630621/

  • Doesn’t that mother have any control over her child? How dare she let him run down the grocery store aisle!
  • I will NEVER allow my child to be disruptive in a restaurant.
  • Don’t those parents ever bathe their kid? Look at that face!
  • My child would NEVER yell inside a store like that.
  • She calls that good parenting? Bribing her kid with a cookie?
  • Why isn’t that mother stepping in and teaching her child to share?
  • Brush your kid’s hair why don’t you?
  • I would NEVER go out of the house looking like that! Just because you are a mom does not mean you need to look like a slob!

Now before you right me off as some huge bitch, please remember that I ADORED children! There were just particular children/parents that I saw in a certain situation and it got my wheels of condemnation turning.

Now here is the funny part…now that I am a mother, ALL over the above situations have occurred, often. Here is how things have changed and why I am probably the one being judged:

  • I have chased after Tiny in public places for the past 2 ½ years. Grocery store aisles included. Half the time I am yelling “Slow down! You’ll trip someone!”
  • I don’t go out to eat often but when we do, Tiny certainly will disrupt one person’s dinner. She is a little kid after all. Sitting still is not within her capabilities yet.
  • Tiny has been that kid with food all over her face and a dirty shirt. So what? That’s called childhood!
  • Tiny yells, inside stores, at me. All. The. Time. She’s 4. Yelling is the new “inside voice” don’t you know!
  • I do not rely on bribery. It has no useful place in a gentle parenting toolbox. However, occasionally I do have to bring out the big guns and that may or may not involve a cookie. Gluten free and homemade of course.
  • It is not my place to force my child to share. She needs guidance on gentle and kind interactions with other children but I will never force her to share HER toys or belongings. If she is playing with something she can play with it until she is done. Unless of course it is not hers. Then I help her understand the importance of respecting the toy owner’s wishes.
  • Tiny hates having her hair washed or brushed. So no – I probably have NOT brushed her hair. Deal with it.
  • Five minutes after I get dressed, Tiny gets me dirty with something or another. I don’t bother with nice clothes. They get ruined. I’m not going to “do” my hair to run to the store. Sue me. Judge me. I’d rather spend my time with Tiny than holed up in the bathroom getting “ready.”

I think it is safe to say that anyone who is a parent has had a change of heart about children along the way. What you swore you would NEVER do is something you find actually works. Toys you worked so hard to keep out of your house have now crept in. Parenting theories that seemed impossible to employ are now second-nature.

I like to think that children create a new version of their parents. We are still the same in terms of our inherent nature but children open our eyes to such a different reality. As well they should.

I giggle at myself from a decade ago. Oh, if I only knew!

What were some of your misconceptions before becoming a parent?


Carnival of Natural Parenting -- Hobo Mama and Code Name: MamaVisit Code Name: Mama and Hobo Mama to find out how you can participate in the next Carnival of Natural Parenting!

Please take time to read the submissions by the other carnival participants (posts will be live and updated no later than afternoon on June 11):

  • My little gastronomes — “I’ll never cook a separate meal for my children,” Maud at Awfully Chipper vowed before she had children; but things didn’t turn out quite as she’d imagined.
  • Know Better, Do Better. Except When I Don’t. — Jennifer from True Confessions of a Real Mommy was able to settle in her parenting choices before her children arrived, but that doesn’t mean she always lives up to them.
  • Judgments Made Before Motherhood — Jennifer at Hybrid Rasta Mama looks back on her views of parents she came in contact with before she became a mother and how much her worldview of parenting has changed!
  • A Bend in The Road — Lyndsay at ourfeministplayschool writes about how her visions of homeschooling her son during the elementary school years have changed drastically in the last year – because HE wants to go to school.
  • I Wish Children Came with Instruction Manuals — While Dionna at Code Name: Mama loves reading about parenting, she’s not found any one book that counts as an instruction manual. Every child is different, every family is different, every dynamic is different. No single parenting method or style is the be-all end-all. Still, wouldn’t it be nice if parenting were like troubleshooting?
  • The Mistakes I’ve Made — Kate at Here Now Brown Cow laments the choices she made with her first child and explains how ditching her preconceived ideas on parenting is helping her to grow a happy family.
  • I Only Expected to Love… — Kellie at Our Mindful Life went into parenting expecting to not have all the answers. It turns out, she was right!
  • They See Me Wearin’, They Hatin’ — Erin Yuki at And Now, for Something Completely Different contemplates putting her babywearing aspirations into practice, and discussed how she deals with “babywearing haters.”
  • Parenting Human BeingsErika Gebhardt lists her parenting “mistakes,” and the one concept that has revolutionized her parenting.
  • Doing it right: what I knew before I had kids… — Lucy at Dreaming Aloud, guest posting at Natural Parents Network realises that the number one game in town, when it comes to parenting, is judgement about doing it right. But “doing it right” looks different to everybody.
  • A synopsis of our reality as first time parents — Amanda at My Life in a Nut Shell summarizes the struggles she went through to get pregnant, and how her daughter’s high needs paved the way for her and her husband to become natural parents.
  • Theory to Reality? — Jorje compares her original pre-kid ideas (some from her own childhood) to her personal parenting realities on MommaJorje.com.
  • The Princess Paradigm — Laura at Pug in the Kitchen had planned to raise her daughter in a sparkly, princess-free home, but in turn has found herself embracing the glitz.
  • Healthy Eating With Kids: Ideal vs. Real — Christy at Eco Journey In The Burbs had definite ideas about what healthy eating was going to look like in her family before she had kids. Little did she realize that her kids would have something to say about it.
  • How to deal with unwanted parenting advice — Tat at Mum in Search thought that dealing with unwanted parenting advice would be a breeze. It turned out to be one of her biggest challenges as a new mum.
  • How I trained my 43 month old in 89 days! — Becky at Old New Legacy used to mock sticker charts, until they became her best friend in the process of potty training.
  • My Double Life: Scheduling with Twins — Mercedes at Project Procrastinot was banging her head against the wall trying to keep up with the plan she made during pregnancy, until she let her babies lead the way.
  • Parenting in the land of compromise — As a holistic health geek trying to take care of her health issues naturally, Jessica at Crunchy-Chewy Mama regrets that her needs sometimes get in the way of her children’s needs.
  • Practice Makes Good, Not Perfect — Rachael at The Variegated Life comes to see that through practice, she just might already be the parent she wants to be.
  • 3 Dangerous Myths about Parenting and Partnering: How to Free Yourself and Your Family — Sheila Pai at A Living Family shares in theory (blog) and reality (video) how she frees herself from 3 Dangerous Myths about Parenting and Partnering that can damage the connection, peace and love she seeks to nurture in her relationships with family and others.
  • 5 Things I Thought MY Children Would Never Do — Luschka at Diary of a First Child largely laughs at herself and her previous misconceptions about things her children would or wouldn’t do, or be allowed to do.
  • Policing politeness — Lauren at Hobo Mama rethinks a conviction she had about modeling vs. teaching her children about courtesy.
  • The Before and The After: Learning about Parenting — Amy at Me, Mothering, and Making it All Work reminisces about the perspective she held as a young adult working with children (and parents) . . . before she became a mother.
  • Parenting Beliefs: Becoming the Parent You Want to Be — Mandy at Living Peacefully with Children discusses how we can make a mindful decision to become the parent we want to be. Decisions we make affect who we will become.
  • The Great Breastfeeding Debacle — In Lisa at The Squishable Baby’s mind, breastfeeding would be easy.
  • What my daughter taught me about being a parentMrs Green asks, “Is it ever ok to lock your child in their bedroom?”
  • Sensory Box Fail! — Megan at The Boho Mama discovers that thoughtful sensory activities can sometimes lead to pasta in your bra and beans up your nose.
  • Montessori and My Children – Theory vs. Reality — Deb Chitwood at Living Montessori Now shares her experiences with Montessori parenting and describes the results she sees in her now-adult children.
  • I Like The Mother I Am Now More Than The Mother I Intended To Be — Darcel at The Mahogany Way thought she would just give her kids the look and they would immediately fall in line.
  • How I Ended Up Like My Tiger Mom With Peaceful Parenting — Theek at The Laotian Commotion somehow ended up like her Tiger Mom, even though she purposely tried for the complete opposite as a peaceful parent.


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  1. Lauren @ Hobo Mama says

    Yes, yes, yes!!! Yelling is the new “inside voice” — oh, my gosh, I am cracking the heck up here. I remember, for one thing, being appalled by noisy children when I was child-free. Now guess what I have two of!

  2. says

    I can’t imagine my 24 year old self parenting with all the silly thoughts I had about parenting. We have to give our kids permission to be kids no matter what our hangups are! I feel slightly sorry for kids who I see being yelled at by parents when they are just trying to be kiddos!! Pinning and sharing on my FB page.

  3. says

    Children creating a new version of their parents is such a lovely way to put it. We’ve changed the ways we think of children because they have touched our hearts!
    Very funny misconceptions! Chasing through the supermarket… that’s me!

  4. Dionna @ Code Name: Mama says

    Well here’s my confession – I sometimes STILL think judgmental things about parents. But those thoughts are usually followed by me remembering that we ALL have bad days, that it’s not my job to criticize others, that supporting other parents is infinitely better than criticizing. And then I breathe and try to offer an encouraging smile instead of a raised eyebrow :)

  5. Holly says

    Ha! I had the same notions before having my daughter and now I’m “that” mom. She runs down the aisles in the grocery store laughing like crazy as I try to remind her to WALK! She absolutely hates (screaming fits) having her hair washed or brushed, so yeah, it’s not. Just deal. She’s otherwise healthy and happy and I guess that’s all I should worry about. She can mess with her hair when she’s a teenager. 😉

  6. Darcel {The Mahogany Way} says

    Yelling is the new inside voice….lol, it sure is. I wonder if I always talked that loud all the time as a child. I do bribe my kids from time to time. I love that I can be out and smile at another parent having a hard time with their kid, or say something like “yours too?” just to let them know they aren’t alone and it’s ok if your kid is acting like a kid.

  7. says

    This is such an awesomely real post. I totally had heaps of judgment before I had a kid and still some left before I had two! I am gleefully lightening my burden these days. No room for that baggage when I’m holding on to the family I have. Remembering the things I thought before kids drives me to connect compassionately with any parent I meet, whatever I see them doing. It does sting when I fear the judgment of others, but I find myself letting go there as well….
    Thanks for the post.

  8. says

    I full on bribe my kids on the occasion. I am outright with it: “Look, I know you don’t like this. I need to get through this. So I am offering a bribe: something you want to get what I want.” I think it is only fair to them when you are asking something of them that they have no motivation for but has to be done. I still raise an eyebrow at some long term bribes, but you do what you do.

  9. says

    I always side-eyed the parents in the grocery store with the floppy-fish children in the candy aisle. I also side-eyed the parents when I was teaching and always had all these assumptions about their home life vs their tyrants of a school child in my class. Well…….. I’m the mom with the kid screaming in Safeway because I won’t buy him the four-dollar balloon and the kid who can’t sit still at library story time.

    Karma’s a bitch. 😉

  10. says

    I have to agree with Dionna that sometimes I still judge; but it’s usually when someone has a screaming under-two in Target at naptime. And the reason I know it’s naptime is because that’s the only way I would ever get to be in Target alone, noticing other people’s children. (Having left mine at home with their father, of course.)

  11. christy says

    Oh yes, definitely had those pre-child pronouncements! No child of mine is going to be rude. No child of mine is going to eat junk food. No child of mine is going to watch tv. Kids are noisy because their parents don’t have expectations and rules. When kids are noisy in a restaurant the parents should leave. Oh my, I’m rolling on the floor laughing right now. Amazing the journey we begin when we have children.

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