Let’s Be Honest: All Parents Judge Each Other

We talk about being judgment-free when it comes to others, but the truth of the matter is, we judge each other all the time. And that includes judging parenting styles.

It pains me every time I read another article about how we need to stop judging other parents. Try to be more understanding? Sure. Try to be kind and supportive? Of course. But stop judging? Does this sound realistic to anyone?

I make judgments all day, every day:

I make snap judgments. That Honda is veering into my lane; holy shit!

I make informed judgments. The dude driving the Honda is on his phone; what a dick.

I make meaningless judgments based on observation. Based on its crunchiness, I’m going to guess this carpet hasn’t been vacuumed in about a week.

I make serious judgments based solely on instinct. That person gives me the creeps, and I don’t want them around my kids.

I make good judgments. I need to take a break before I lose it.

I make bad judgments. It’s cool; leggings are basically pants.

I make judgments about kids. Oh, hell no. That little brat did not just tell my kid she wasn’t allowed on the slide.

And, yes, I make judgments about other parents. Are you seeing your kid acting like the slide Gestapo right now?

I get it, I do. We shouldn’t form opinions of someone’s parenting skills based solely on what we see. We don’t know the full story. Parents are only human. We all have shitty days and wonder if our children will end up in therapy because of them.

You know what else parents have in common? We judge other parents. Most of us keep it to ourselves, but we’re all guilty of it.

I’m here to argue that judging isn’t necessarily the worst thing. Consider the following:

We learn through observation. We learn so much about parenting from other parents. I didn’t know what the hell Attachment Parenting was until after I met parents who practiced it. (To be honest, I’m still not sure I understand it. But I’m pretty sure it’s done out of laziness, which is something I both respect and admire.)

We compare notes about other parenting styles. We look to other families as benchmarks for how well we’re doing or what we could be doing better. I, for one, will wonder how you taught your two-year-old to speak four languages when I can’t even get mine to stop screaming “I farted!” in public. Comparison might be the thief of joy, but it’s the only reason most of us go to story time.

Not everyone deserves the benefit of the doubt. Enough of the “It’s not better or worse, just different” bullshit. We’ve all witnessed good parenting and not good parenting. The sad truth is that some adults abuse children and some children are in unsafe situations. There are instances where intuition trumps context, full stop.

Everyone has an opinion. Parents have strong opinions on things like breastfeeding, vaccinations, discipline techniques, sleep training, circumcision, birth choices — the list goes on and on. Of course we make judgments when parents make other choices. It’s only natural to wonder why people choose to do things differently than we do. It’s OK to disagree about our opinions, as long as we do it respectfully.

It’s the people who claim they’re not judging you that you should look out for, because those people are liars.

It makes us feel better to know others are struggling too. I’m not talking about Shadenfreude (when one derives happiness from the misfortune of others). The truth is that it’s great to see other parents fail sometimes because it reminds us that the perfect parent does not exist.

Yeah, when your kid is screaming in the middle of the aisle, I’m probably thinking, Oh, shit, that sucks, I’ve been there. And with a screaming baby to boot or I hope she had the sense to go to the wine aisle first. Never Oh wow, she’s a terrible mother. And if someone does think that, who cares?

We will make judgments about others, and others will continue to make judgments about us. But as long as we all agree not to be assholes about it, it’ll be OK. That means keeping our judgments to ourselves, trying to mind our own damn business for the most part, and being honest about the fact that it happens.