You would have thought that after 7 years of parenting, nearly two years of pregnancy and constantly having children hanging off me, wiping their noses on my various coats, I would be used to a certain amount of other people’s opinions. Old ladies in supermarkets telling me the baby needs feeding, strange men on buses commenting on my daughters chocolate Freddo Frog: ‘Is she gonna give me some of that?’ (how we all laughed), nosey neighbours shouting, ‘your son has LITERALLY nearly killed me on his balance bike, should he be going SO fast?’, I’ve heard it all.
I remember the first time it happened when I was pregnant and a random woman poked me in the stomach in the library and asked me ‘how long did it take to get pregnant?’ I wondered if I’d accidentally stepped into some sort of parallel world where people walk around topless and tell complete strangers about their sex lives. It took a few more prods and strange comments to realise that now I was in the baby-making industry, I had become OTHER PEOPLE’S BUSINESS.
Whether it is to tell you you’re doing a great job, like the woman who gave me a thumbs up for shouting at the children in the swimming pool lobby, or to tell you you’re getting it all wrong, people will force their unwanted opinions on you. Every time one of my children has a major public strop (about three times a day) someone pops up saying, ‘Ooh, you think it’s bad now, wait till they’re teenagers!’ or ‘Oh dear, your child appears to be malfunctioning! But don’t worry love, it does get easier’. What to believe?
Surprisingly enough I have found by far the the worst opinionators (I think I’ve made that up but say it to rhyme with Terminator) are other parents. Parenting is a minefield of decision making right from the offset. From breastfeeding versus bottle feeding, cloth nappies versus disposable, co-sleeping versus separate sleeping, everyone will make different choices, but what they share is the fear that they’re not doing it right.
When people are insecure about something they can either be terribly honest and hysterically cry, ‘I have absolutely no idea what I’m doing!!!’. Or they can do the complete opposite and try to counter this uncertainty by rather forcefully telling others’ how it should be done. As an ‘I have no idea what I’m doing!!!’ sort of parent it always surprises me when another parent challenges me on some throw away comment that I’ve made, or has a firmly held belief about something that needn’t warrant such strong opinions.
Obviously the best thing to do in this situation is just to laugh it off, but maybe there’s something in this opinionator thing, perhaps in giving their views a person can feel superior, self satisfied and A BETTER PARENT.
However, it’s important to remember that if you never felt compelled to tell a teenager off for swearing in the street before you had kids, then it’s not okay to tut at someone for feeding their child chocolate biscuits to keep them quiet on a train. Especially if that someone bears a striking resemblance to me.