Today I have four children ages 4, almost 3 and twins that are 9 months. Just the other day I took them all out alone. This is rare for us as we have intermittent help and I usually wait for those times to go out, but this day I couldn’t wait. The summer heat that had kept us pressed inside the house every afternoon for weeks pushed us to a new indoor location; McDonalds. I mean where else would you go alone with four small children?! I chose a location that I did not think would be as crowded and sure enough, at 11:00am we were the only people in the spacious new kids play area.
We were all enjoying ourselves until I noticed an older woman sitting on the other side of the glass, in the main dining area, watching us intently. As this continued for some time a fear began to creep up inside of me. What does she think of us? Am I watching all four of them closely enough? Is it negligent to allow my 9 month old twins to eat French fries and crawl all over the play area floor? What if she is a CPS worker? (I promise I am not crazy. True story, I had a friend stopped and lectured by a CPS worker for allowing her daughter to crawl on the floor in Target).
In that moment, I had a clear choice: continue parenting the way I was parenting or change what I was doing to appease an imagined expectation from a stranger. Thankfully good sense won out in this particular scenario and we continued to enjoy our time there. A small voice of reason somewhere inside me presented a different picture that helped – maybe she was just lonely and was enjoying watching my children play. I will never know, but thankfully nothing negative happened and she left before we did.
As parents I am sure we have all experienced at least once, but likely many times, someone criticizing our parenting choices either directly, or not so quietly under their breath. While vacationing in Colorado a few weeks ago, we dined on a remote outdoor patio after a long hike. Someone at a table next to us said “some people just shouldn’t be allowed to have children,” [I presume] because we were letting our babies eat some puffs off of the ground. There were no high chairs available and our babies had been strapped into carriers for most of the morning. Some parents choose to clean every surface and avoid all potentially dirty ones, however we choose to prioritize exercise over exposure to germs. It’s a choice and one isn’t better than the other.
In light of these recent experiences, I wanted to throw out a call to confidence for all of us parents out there. You love your child well. You are reading articles to learn more about parenting. You are making choices, most good and inevitably a few bad, but you are choosing because you are actively parenting and caring for these small people. Forge on. Go with your gut and choose what is best for your family. That is one of the most important lessons I am still learning thus far as a mother. I hope today you feel the freedom and confidence to carry on the way you started.