We sometimes feel targeted by other people’s judgment or criticism of our parenting attitudes, life choices or children’s behaviours.
“When my first son was born, I had a friend who would give me lots of advice about how to raise my son. That put a lot of pressure on me,” says Geneviève, the mother of 9-year-old Jacob, 4-year-old Elliot and 2-year old Raphaël. “I was afraid she’d think I was a bad mother if I wasn’t able to do everything like her.”
Karina, for her part, works long hours. Her partner, whose job is a little less demanding, takes incredibly good care of their 5-year-old daughter. “People say things to me like: ‘What will you do when your daughter has homework?’ or ‘What do you mean you never have supper with your daughter?’ My male colleagues never get those kinds of comments!”
We sometimes feel targeted by other people’s judgment or criticism of our parenting attitudes, life choices or children’s behaviours. Geneviève Henry finds it hard to avoid it completely. “The way you react as a parent can’t always make everyone happy. Faced with the same situations, some people may do the same thing you did, others, the complete opposite.”
It’s better to stay true to your values and what you believe is best for your child, without letting yourself be influenced by what you think others think.
If you’re constantly afraid of being judged, it’ll be harder for you to feel comfortable in your role as a parent and to make the best decisions for your family. Geneviève understood this with the birth of her second son. “I finally found confidence in myself and made my own decision about the type of mother I wanted to be. As long as my children are loved, safe, have the proper guidance and everything they need, everything is fine!”
Some strategies to stop being afraid of what others will think:
- Reframe what you’re thinking. Sometimes, people really are judging us, but at other times, it’s the product of our imaginations. Why not get into the habit of asking yourself if your thoughts are based on evidence? Did that person actually make a comment? If the answer is no, ask yourself the following questions: “When other people see my son throwing a tantrum, are they really thinking badly about me? And if so, is it really that big of a deal?”
- Remember that you know your child best. You are in the best position to make any decisions regarding your child. It’s obviously a good idea to be well informed and to seek advice on how to take care of him and guide him properly, but in the end, the decisions are yours to make.
- See criticism as an opportunity to learn. It’s easier if you don’t take all criticism as a personal attack, suggests psychologist Nicolas Chevrier. “Sometimes criticism can really help us improve. If you remain open to it, you may be able to benefit from the experiences of others.”
- Stay away from people who are hypercritical. If someone judges your parenting skills without adding anything constructive, the wisest choice may be to keep your distance. Same thing with social media. In some discussion forums, parents are quick to judge. Why continue to seek them out?
Do fathers find it easier to be happy than mothers? According to a study led by the University of British Columbia and two American universities published in 2012, the answer is “yes.” Fathers are also said to be happier than men who don’t have children.
But this finding is not unanimous. “I see just as many men in my practice as women who put pressure on themselves or who are anxious about their parenting skills,” says psychologist Nicolas Chevrier. He believes it has more to do with personality than gender.
Among women, however, researchers have noted that having children or not makes no difference. This may be because mothers take on more responsibilities and duties than fathers. The debate continues.
The important thing is to set realistic expectations about your role as a parent.