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…Then I Guess I’m a Bad Parent

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Maybe it’s because I had fussy babies, and anything that worked was worth doing.

Or maybe I’m missing the gene that is supposed to make me care about what other people think, but when it comes to what other people, parents or non, think about the way I parent my children? Frankly, I don’t give a damn.

It appears that, according to some of the gems I’ve heard and studies I’ve read, I’m doing it all wrong. Heck, a friend of mine just reported to me that her in laws think, and verbalized, that she should stop at the one kid she has. Really? Who asked you?

I am currently in the process of trying to make my 15 month old love television. I’m trying everything. Different shows, different channels, a cute comfy chair. I want him to sit still for more than 3 minutes and not NEED me.

Some would call that poor parenting. I call it a need for sanity.

Apparently my friends who chose baby-led weaning were risking their kids dying from choking by giving them a hunk of broccoli to chew on. Whereas I was clearly going to destroy my child’s love of food and texture by giving purees.

I’ve complained about these issues in previous blogs. Everyone does things differently and everything is open to judgment.

But apparently it’s more than just the day-to-day choices we make.

Apparently we are also supposed to take our children’s milestones personally too.

If my child is verbal early, it must be because I’m reading the dictionary to him and breaking out flash cards. And if he’s slow picking up words, I must be neglecting him somehow.

If my child crawled and walked early then I must have been really devoted to tummy time. If she was late, I must not have tried to challenge her physically.

It’s like some people have no concept of individuality. The fact that there is a spectrum of ‘normal’ seems to be totally irrelevant.

And when our child falls on the far end of normal, we take it personally.

How can’t we?

The books say they’re late. Judgmental friends and family express concern that they’re late. We are the ones in their lives, responsible for their growth and development, so clearly it’s our fault.

The only reason I didn’t care that my daughter had maybe 3 words at 18 months when she ‘should’ have had 10, is because I knew she was too busy doing other things. She didn’t need to ask for her cup. She was fully capable of getting it herself.

I realize that being slow verbally can be indicative of other issues. But it could also just be indicative of a kid who is slow to talk. Now, at three and a half years old, I can’t shut her up.

But I remember being asked how much I was engaging her verbally. I was speaking to her, asking which shirt to buy or which cracker she preferred, from the time she was a newborn.

People looked at me like I was crazy but I needed someone to talk to, and apparently it was supposed to help her develop language. It did not. I didn’t know what more I could do. So I tried not to sweat it.

My son walked quite a bit later than my daughter did. I kept joking with friends that it was because we went for epically long walks every day and I didn’t give him the chance to really practice. I joked about it, but deep down I wondered if it was true, if I was somehow keeping him from developing the skill because of my own need to be out of the house.

One day he got up and walked across the room like he had been walking for months, and I realized it wasn’t me. He just wasn’t ready yet. Go figure. He was waiting until he was ready. It had nothing to do with me.

From what other people have shared with me, the judgments they’ve heard and felt profoundly, I can’t imagine what people must think of my parenting.

My daughter didn’t really have sentences until she was 2 and a half and I didn’t really sweat it.

My son showed no indications whatsoever of walking at 13 months when he had been cruising from the time he was 7 months, and I didn’t care.

I am desperately trying to get him to watch t.v. I want to go to work and not be home full time. I weaned breast feeding at 4 months because I didn’t enjoy it.

My daughter eats breakfast in front of the television every day. On extra lazy days, she eats dinner there too. I would forward face my children in the car if it meant they’d stop screaming. I love my kids with all my heart but I would gladly take a week vacation with my husband if someone was willing to watch my kids, and I wouldn’t feel guilty about it.

I LIKE doing things for myself, without my children. I like remembering, as Sean’s blog post last week said, that I am a person, an entity, separate from my children.

These are all things friends of mine, as well as myself, have been told are judgment-worthy. Some, to the extent that they clearly don’t love their children or aren’t parenting them well.

It’s all too easy for me to say ‘don’t feel judged.’ When you hear it enough, that your child is slow to speak because you’re doing something wrong, or wanting a night off during the week to see friends means you’re not a good mother, eventually you believe it.

So, for all of the dissenting voices everyone gets in their lives, even though I’m no doctor, someone has to tell you you’re not doing it wrong.

So I’ll be that person. I’ll tell you as long as you love your children and feed them and care for them and nurture them, then you’re doing a good job as a parent.

Your colicky newborn is NOT screaming because you’re not hugging them enough.

Your fussy baby is not difficult because you’re holding them too much, or not enough.

Your 1 year old who only says momma and dada isn’t slow to speak because you’re not engaging them enough.

Your 14 month old who isn’t walking yet isn’t okay with crawling because you’re not working hard enough to get him to walk.

The people who suggest differently have no clue what they’re talking about and no right to tell you you’re doing it wrong.

One of my friends said something that really resonated with me and I think it should be the mantra of every parent who doubts themselves and wonders if they’re good parents.

“Bad parents don’t ask themselves if they’re doing it wrong. Bad parents don’t care.”


Leslie lives in Toronto with her husband, her 3 year old daughter and 1 year old son. She is presently on maternity leave and enjoying the hectic and harried life with two young children.

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Category: General Parenting

Comments (15)

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  1. julia says:

    Well said! Thank you! Its not about the latest theories and studies . its your instincts and raising your child, getting through each day! Parents worry too much and not every can be planned and perfect.

  2. Jean says:

    “Bad parents don’t ask themselves if they’re doing it wrong. Bad parents don’t care.”

    I love this.

  3. Joy says:

    Thanks! I needed that. Really. Thank you so much!

  4. Bethany says:

    Awesome quote! Isn’t it interesting how people have been raising kids successfully for centuries upon centuries and now there are dozens of books trying to tell us HOW to do it? Suddenly all of the RIGHT answers to raising kids are here. I like some parenting books. There are ideas in them that I hadn’t thought to try before. Every child is different though. Not one tactic will work for every child, every time. Even between my 4 kids I use different approaches. I finally realized, after my 4th was born, that I didn’t have to do everything exactly as other mothers did. I knew it to a degree before…..but what a relief it was to know I can take care of them in my own way and I don’t have to explain it to anyone.

  5. Lindsay says:

    THANK YOU!!!!!!

  6. Melissa says:

    It’s been such a tough week with my high needs, super-sensitive toddler and 6 week old. Thank you for this, I needed it.

    • Holly says:

      I’m glad you found this helpful, Melissa. I can’t imagine having a high needs toddler and a newborn…at least my HN baby was my second! Hang in there…I promise things will get easier!!!

  7. melissa says:

    Well written and a nice reminder. One thing I am constantly telling people that my child will learn “x” eventually. After all, nobody ever asked me how old I was when I could first roll over or when I took my first step. I don’t recall those questions being on any college applications or in any job interviews either. Kids will figure it out when they figure it out. Very few people never learn to walk or talk.

    • Holly says:

      Melissa, you are SO right! I think we stress out too much over meeting these milestones…I mean, if your kid is years behind, it’s time to see a dr. If not, taking it in stride is probably your best bet :)

  8. Aisha says:

    I really needed to read this today! I have been feeling like an epic failure because I have one speech delayed child and one high needs child. Pocoyo is their favorite TV show and it weren’t for that, I would never have a chance to clean or even think clearly! Thank you so much for this post!

  9. Maureen says:

    I always feel if they are fed, clean and alive I’ve done a good job

  10. Carlene says:

    Thank you soo much for the post. I have a 3.5 year busy boy, and a high needs 8.5month old. He is soo busy, and soo much work. I have learned to not compare the two boys, and each are their separate person, with amazing traits and qualities. I remind myself everyday of this, and also that when the times are tough, things do get better, but also to enjoy these times when they are small. Time goes so fast! Love the quote! And it’s time to stop judging moms!

  11. Chrissy Pannell says:

    This totally made me cry! I really needed to read something like this. I had a total break down the other day that I was the worst mom in the world because I am a SAHM and I dont like it, and my daughter screams all the time and doesnt sleep and someday I dont like her even though I love her. Thank you for writing this, I will be saving it for sure

  12. Chrissy says:

    Thank you so much for writing this! I will be saving it for sure and really needed to hear it! I am a SAHM, most people envy me but I hate it. I would love to work just to get a few hours of peace from my daughter who went from colic to teething and now who knows what but she is fussy all day and doesnt sleep worth beans. Some days I dont like her even though I love her, and I just want a break. Every one takes to parenthood differently, if we all got this kind of support instead of the judgment it would sure make a hell of a difference! Thank you again!

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