Parenting is hard and I don't need judgmental parents making it worse.
When I became a mother, I had no idea what I was doing. Sure, I'd babysat before, but never for an infant.
When my husband and I took this tiny nugget of squishy baby home from the hospital, we put my son Ari in the crib and looked at him. My first thought was "What the f*ck do we do now?"
Since I had zero baby experience, there was a vast learning curve for me. I was like, "Holy sh*t, this human cries a lot." It was a rude awakening. Being a mom is hard. But the one thing that no one tells you: It's hard from the moment your baby comes out of your body.
(That's not even taking into account adoptive parents. That's a whole other kind of hard; hard but rewarding. But I digress.)
Back to the issue at hand: being a parent is hard. It's the most wonderful thing I've ever done in my life, but it's damn hard. It's a 24-hour a day job with a demanding boss. (Well, multiple supervisors, actually, since I have two children.)
And other parents can be shockingly judgmental. It was hard for me to believe at first how incredibly judgmental parents are of one another, but trust me, this sh*t is real.
For example, I let my children play with plastic toys. My kids have a toy kitchen made entirely of plastic. I'm aware that plastic is bad for the environment and probably for everyone. But, you know what? They love that damn kitchen.
I once had a parent come over to my house and say, "I don't let my kids play with plastic toys," while looking directly at this awesome kitchen, I kid you not. What I wanted to do was turn to this person and say, "Are you f*cking serious?" But instead, I just smiled and nodded. Judgment central, I tell you — and that's a minor example.
But oh my goodness, the judgment starts right from the get-go. I remember one time I was nursing my two-month-old baby at a restaurant while savoring a cup of coffee and this grandmother (who was with her little 5-year-old grandson) said to me, "Brown beverages will hurt the baby."
And once again, I had to take a deep breath, smile and nod, and ignore this sweet old, nosy woman.
My choice to breastfeed my son exclusively for a year was fraught with judgment from other "well-meaning" parents. They would say: "I couldn't do that. I went right to formula. Formula's not evil, you know? You don't need to breastfeed."
To which I wanted to reply, "Am I feeding you? Because if I'm not feeding you, it's none of your business."
Some of these people think they're giving valuable well-meaning advice. But you know what? It's not advice if you're judging another person. Now you're just being condescending and acting as if your way is the best way.
There's a difference between advice and unsolicited advice. Take a step back and evaluate whether the mom in question is asking for your guidance. Perhaps she just wants a shoulder to cry on and not to be told how to feed her baby or get her child to sleep.
There's nothing wrong with giving real advice. Sure, share what worked for you. I love hearing success stories from other parents because, like I said, I have a very limited idea of how to do this whole parenthood thing. I'm learning as I go, as we all are.
But please don't force your way onto me. Just because it worked for you doesn't make it parenting gospel. Parenting is stressful enough as it is. So do us all a favor and can the judgment. We're all in this together, y'all, so let's act like it!
This article was originally published at The Huffington Post. Reprinted with permission from the author.