Maybe Your Way Isn't Always the Best Way

By , SparkPeople Blogger
I often joke about the negative things motherhood has brought to my life- lack of sleep, no free time, an acceleration of the aging process, etc.  The truth is, motherhood has brought an innumerable amount of positive things to my life.  In addition to the great things about my kids, becoming a mom has developed a more compassionate and non-judgmental side to my personality that I might not have had otherwise.  Instead of being annoyed or just walking past the mom with the screaming baby in the grocery store, I’m much more likely to ask if there’s anything I can do to help.  When I see someone with a different parenting style than mine, I try hard to understand and be respectful of the fact that we aren’t all the same, instead of automatically assuming what they are doing is wrong. 
I think part of my hesitation to judge others, especially other moms, comes from the fact that my own parenting and lifestyle choices have been judged by family and friends.  And honestly, it doesn’t feel good.  I had a conversation with my mom the other day regarding the recent Time magazine cover, featuring a mother breastfeeding her 3-year-old.  My mom had very strong feelings about it, but my position was more neutral.  A decision like that might not be the best thing for me and my child, but I’m not going to judge someone who chooses something different.  (By the way, the intention of this blog is not to start a debate about the acceptable amount of time to breastfeed.)       
I’ve had others question a variety of decisions I’ve made, from how much weight I gained during my pregnancy to what I feed my kids, to how I discipline them.  The interesting thing is that it’s mostly been moms who do it, less out of concern, but more because I’m doing something different than how they’d recommend.  I would think that every mom has experienced this at one time or another, so moms should be the most sensitive to this kind of criticism.  Yet that doesn’t seem to be the case.  My feeling is that unless a child is in danger (which definitely isn’t the case in my situation), most parents know their kids better than anyone else.  They are trying to do a good job of raising them and making the decisions they think are best.  It’s fine to offer feedback when asked, but be careful about telling someone they aren’t doing something right just because it’s different.
I think this lesson can apply in many aspects of life, not just parenting.  Our society tends to judge anyone who is different for whatever reason:  because of their size, religion, income level, political views -- the list goes on and on.  I know it sounds a little idealistic, but I think it would be nice if we could learn to understand and accept differences instead of always assuming our way is the best way.
What do you think?

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I remember takin it from some knowit all and then walking my one child into a sliding door. I don't remember what they said to me, but I remember letting them get the best of me. When I substitute teach or babysit, I remember patience is why I started helping others. Report
Thank goodness I'm an old grampa now, at a distance from kids and grandkids, so I'm not involved in any kind of interfering with anyone's upbringing. When I see parents and kids out and about, all I do is smile to see families interacting and enjoying each other. Report
I should go back in time and show this to my mom 40 years ago Report
I agree!

Like this one time a man criticized how I parent (b/c I didn't give my daughter "a good whooping" when she pinched me in public) and compared how well his children behave. Of course the person apologized when I explained to him that my daughter is mentally handicapped and can't even talk.

Some people should just learn to shut up. Report
I think you are spot on! Report
I don't get involved as much as you, but I do warn parents of mosquitos when I see a baby outside with all their little chubby body parts exposed. I was watching a news program about a child bitten in Mass who contracted the west nile virus and passed and now I'm prone to warn caretakers about mosquitos the official state bird of Maine. Report
The only time I interfered when I saw a mother switching her little daughter's legs just to keep her in line while she conversed with some other ladies. It made me so sick I spoke up and was jumped on by all the ladies not to interfere. The older daughter gradually got the stick away from her mother and sat next to me on the train and gave me the stick. I broke it up and put it in my backpack. No one noticed. But the older daughter already knew that what the mom was doing was wrong. Report
OMG.... I have a 3 month old son and boy oh boy the "advice" I am receiving is staggering. I truly agree with this article. I had to tell someone a few days ago that unless I have their child please lay off with the condescending remarks. I think others forget that we know our children best and all good parents are doing what they feel is best for their children. Report
Recently, I had a conversation with mother regarding her children (me 38: middle brother 30 and baby brother 26). I told her she should be proud of her kids because none of us been in jail, not on drugs and living God-fearing lives. I may not have like some of decisions that my mother made, but she did the best she could do. Even though my father was there for me and my middle brother, it was my baby brother that did not have a father in his life. Needless to say my mom was still looked at as a single mother. She did her best and I love her for that!!!

When (most) women see a single mother, a lot of judgement and criticism comes into play. Who are we to judge a situation, when we don't know the story. Report
I've always wondered why women attack each other on such a sensitive subject. We already feel like we aren't living up to our mothers, mother-in-laws, doctors' expectations, etc., etc. And then the people who should understand the most what we are going through tend to be our worst critics. Not to get all free-love hippy on y'all, but we are all sisters, and should support each other and our decisions! Report
There is always more than one way. Report
Keeping an open mind leads us to the realization that there is more than one "right" way, that so very little in life can be judged black or white. It's a very liberating approach to life! Report
Amen! Great blog!

When I was raising my kids I listened to helpful advice knowing I didn't know everything but that I would do what I thought was best for me and my kids and who knows what bit of wisdom another can impart but criticism is judgemental and no one knows whats best for another's family. Anyway, there is no right way, we're all individuals.

I agree unless someone is in danger, leave them be. Keep your opinions and criticism to yourself. This goes for all things not just raising kids! Report
You say your kids are doing fine - then you are doing fine. Ignore all the "not so helpful" comments. Report
I think I like your attitude! Great blog... thanks! Report
I think we need to be careful with being traditional or following cultural standards. Sometimes they aren't the best/healthiest, but parents get peer/familial pressure to follow suit. Will your kid grow up to be a good person? maybe, but if you teach them it is ok to drink mtn. dew from a bottle will they keep adult teeth? no. I agree that many times people can be over critical, but I hate to be so sensitive to being politically correct that everyone just sweeps obvious bad behavior under the carpet. Report
I work with almost all women, and nurses.Talk about judgmental. Not everybody of course, but quite a few are very opinionated and won't ever let facts get in the way. What I hear a lot about new ideas: "That's not what I learned in nursing school." Fine, but when did you go to nursing school, ten, twenty, thirty years ago? Things change.

It's interesting - I've been doing some reading for my course work and found that women are usually the keepers of traditions. That can be a very good thing, but it also has its downside as seen when women judge each other harshly for trying different approaches. Personally I'm trying to get over that. I'm opinionated too, but maybe maturity has mellowed me out a bit and I can see that there are more than one road leading to the same goal. Report
I totally agree with you as I raise my three boys and hopefully soon another one. I am totally different than my sister and what my mother did as a mother and parent. I look at my kids and realize that given different situation I may have a different parenting style yet. We are all different but as long as we communicate our concerns to each other we can understand each others position. Report
I raised two children in my own way and they turned out fine. Unlike more traditional styles, I taught them about and exposed them to the world from an early age. They're both fine. So is the eldest who was raised in a far more traditional manner by her adoptive parents.

It wasn't the parenting style or methods or discipline or protection that mattered.

It was love. All three felt completely and unconditionally loved.

*edit to add* The one thing I would say is that our own way IS the best way ... for our situation and our children. It is NOT the best way for anyone else just because it works for us. Report
I raised five children and they have all turned out well. I think there is a lot to be said about traditional methods. I find it sad that so many young women today drink alcohol, smoke, etc. and think nothing of it while being pregnant. I keep telling my children that it isn't about YOU, but the good of the child. I had my first child at 25 which was WAY soon enough. Report
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