Don’t Judge a Parent by its Cover

Don’t you just love it when a complete stranger makes a rash judgement about your parenting? Many moons ago now, when All Things Spliced was a mere baby itself, I wrote about how strangers are surprisingly understanding when you are in a less than ideal situation with your newborn. As a naïve new mummy, I proudly wrote how Baby Lighty had cried because Mr Lighty and I hadn’t managed to get his reflux milk ready in time due our inept parenting state, and how tolerant fellow café-goers were as we sat with our screaming newborn. Not so, it seems, when you’ve got a toddler. It seems that when you’ve got a toddler, people feel themselves justified to judge a parent by its cover.

You see, last week, we went to the zoo. A perfectly innocent family day out, you might think, but of course, when there’s a toddler involved, there’s always going to be something. Or in this case, there’s always going to be someone sat to one side deciding to judge, it seems. The zoo is about a 50 minute drive away, and as we discovered on a recent trip to our local outlet centre, Baby Lighty suffers from car sickness. This trip was no exception, and so, our first priority on arrival was to get him changed out of his wet and dirty clothes. This necessitated running with him across the car park, carrying the change bag, a change of clothes, a plastic bag for the dirty clothes, and, of course, Baby Lighty. In our haste to do this, and whilst trying to carry everything else, Mr Lighty and I forgot to pick up his coat. You know, the coat that children aren’t supposed to wear in their car seat, and had he been wearing it as we got him out of the car, someone else would have likely commented on that instead.

Don't Judge a Parent by its Cover

At the zoo.

Anyway, after a hasty change of clothes in the car park loos, we ran back to the car with him to retrieve his coat. As we did this, a lady felt the need to comment to the child that she was with, but clearly loudly enough with the intention of Mr Lighty and I hearing, “well, that’s very silly, that little boy doesn’t even have his coat on!”. Yes it was a cold day, and yes, it would’ve been better to have carried his coat with us when we went to get him changed, but every parent is allowed to make mistakes. We are only human after all, and we were literally running the two minute distance with him in our arms when this lady decided to judge.

And even though I’m sure the comment in the carpark had likely made me super sensitive, when Baby Lighty decided to articulate through screaming the fact that he wanted to choose his own slice of pizza as we sat down for lunch, I was sure that several pairs of eyes of fellow patrons were upon us. (Also, don’t judge Mrs Lighty for the pizza!)

Don't judge a parent by its cover!

Sharing a pizza with Mummy! (#BadParent!)

I guess, as toddlers get older, people no longer see the new parents that feel like they don’t know what they’re doing. They simply see parents, and ones that should, by now, have a grip on things. They also see toddlers, that should, in their eyes, know better. Even though parenting changes constantly. Even if the reality of the world to a toddler is still a big scary place for them to navigate through.

When a toddler throws themselves on the floor screaming in a supermarket, and a parent kneels down to comfort them rather than ball them out, how does society often react? A dirty glance at the mother that can’t control their child. A huff and a puff at the toddler who can’t behave themselves. But the reality? Well it might be a mother that has done anything to get out of the house that morning, because she was so lonely inside it. Shouting in that situation will likely just make her feel worse. Similarly, the child might have additional needs. The mother might not want to make more of a scene, or she might simply parent in a gentler way than strict punishment. She might try to navigate the child through this scary world, where he is overtired and testing boundaries, rather than punish him for typical toddler behaviour.

And thinking about it, even when Baby Lighty was tiny, there were still times when people felt that they could judge my parenting by its cover. Times like the time when an older woman at a cafe commented that my child should be wearing a bib. Why she was so worried about protecting his clothes, or my clothes, I do not know. I told her that Baby Lighty was on reflux milk which is intended to stay down, hence the lack of bib. Not only did she go on to question my own sanity of burping a child sans muslin, but she went on to tell me that I should have tried giving him a soy based formula if I wasn’t willing to breastfeed. Alternatively, there were times like the time when I was reduced to tears because someone told me that I was the cause of Baby Lighty’s reflux, because I had refused to breastfeed.

Don't judge a parent by it's cover.

Mr Lighty feeding a bib-less Baby Lighty (shock horror!).

Neither woman stopped to ask me about my breastfeeding journey. Neither knew that I’d fed him for a month myself before having to guiltily admit defeat, not only because it was making me so depressed that I didn’t want to pick my baby son up, but also because Baby Lighty wasn’t gaining any weight and there were fears that he was dehydrating. Both women decided to judge first.

Similarly, at the zoo, the comment about the coat did not have the understanding behind it that five minutes previously, Baby Lighty had been covered in sick. Yes we should have taken his coat with us when we changed him, but in our haste to get our boy out of the wet clothes he was wearing, that thought got waylaid.

And I guess that’s kind of my point. We don’t always know what other people are going through; we don’t always know the backstory. We don’t always know when children have additional needs, or even when a child or a parent is simply having an off day. We don’t always know when we’ve acted out of good intentions but maybe have forgotten about something else in our haste.

And I know that we’re all guilty of judging a parent, a child, a book, anyone, by their cover. It’s human nature to a certain extent, and I know I’ve done it when I probably shouldn’t have. But I’ve decided to try my best to worry about myself and my child, and let others be. If I can’t read a little deeper into the situation, then I don’t have the knowledge to judge.

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Proud to be linking up with:

Rhyming with Wine
Pink Pear Bear

29 thoughts on “Don’t Judge a Parent by its Cover”

  1. How very dare she? I admire your restraint lovely as I’d have had to chase after her to say very loudly that it isn’t very silly at all, and in fact it makes perfect sense NOT to put a coat onto a child that has been sick on himself, and that’s what silly is making judgemental comments when clearly one does not have the faintest idea what’s going on. I love this – in fact I think it’s my fave post of yours yet. Oh and pizza is just a warm cheese and tomato sandwich really so winning in my opinion! 😉 xxx

    1. Oh wow, your favourite post of mine yet?! That’s some compliment! Thank you Dawn! Well I did explain that he had been sick and then she just gave me a look like he shouldn’t be at the zoo in the first place, if that was the case!! We’ll just hibernate indoors for the rest of our lives until Baby Lighty outgrows his travel sickness then, shall we?! Thanks so much for stopping by! xxx

  2. Well said.
    I often make a point of telling a parent they are doing a great job if their child is in the middle of a meltdown.
    Parenting seems to be the one area where people think its perfectly okay to stick their nose in.

    1. Thank you. I do similar in that I often say things to other parents like “oh I’m glad it’s not just me!” or “I’ve got one that does that!”. Funnily enough, as we had Baby Lighty stood in the boot of the car putting his coat on, a mother next to me was putting her little girl in the buggy. She saw Baby Lighty’s hat, and pointed it out, and the mother said “Oh yes that little boy’s got a hat, but Mummy’s forgotten yours!” so I made a point of saying to her, “Oh I’m glad it’s not just me that does things like that!” to make her feel better. We need to build each other up, not knock them down. Thanks so much for stopping by! #DreamTeam

  3. Wow…. That is crazy. I love this quote.
    “We don’t always know what other people are going through; we don’t always know the backstory. We don’t always know when children have additional needs, or even when a child or a parent is simply having an off day.”
    So true.

  4. Little in the world can make you feel as bad as a demeaning look when your child is having a tantrum or sometimes just being a little loud. I always try and give a reassuring smile or something if I see it happening to another parent (but then I worry it’ll be taken a patronising) but it feels like the world is huge and I am small when I’m in that situation. My boy is 2.5 but looks about 4 so we’re always getting looks like he should know better. I usually stoop to getting haughty and making sarky comments back. Not my finest moments I’ll admit.

    1. Haha! I did reply back, I must admit, just to say that he’d been sick and therefore we had to change him before anything else. But yes, I’m the same as you, I always try to give a reassuring smile or comment to a parent in a similar situation to me if I can help it! Thanks so much for stopping by 🙂 #CoolMumClub

  5. There will always be these people that just stick their noses in things that have nothing to do with them. I’ve had LO throw tantrums on buses and also felt those eyes on me. It’s not a nice feeling and really they should be more considerate towards parents with toddlers. It’s bloody hard – they don’t call it terrible twos and three-nagers for no reason! lol 🙂 #coolmumclub xxx

    1. Oh on the bus is so hard! I’ve had that too! And yes you’re right, why else did these stages get these names?!! Thanks so much for stopping by! #coolmumclub

  6. People’s comments really got to me when Amelia was born, and as she grew. These days, I couldn’t care less! A bus driver told me that Amelia shouldn’t sit in a certain seat the other day because he was going to be braking a lot and it would be dangerous (she always sits in this seat if it’s available!) and I politely replied “Thank you for your concern, I’ll bear that in mind. I think she will be fine though, so she’ll stay there”. Man I felt smug! x #coolmumclub

    1. Haha! Wow you were super cool!! I need to remember to keep my cool in future! Thanks so much for stopping by! #coolmumclub

  7. Good grief, how incredibly rude of that woman! And she’s teaching her kid to be just as judgemental. That, to me, is something to judge her on! Honestly, people just love to snipe when they have no clue what they’re talking about. Like she’s never forgotten a coat or something similar! I’m sorry you’ve had to deal with such rude people, it always amazes me that people have to put up with unsolicited comments like this xx #coolmumclub

    1. Ah thanks for your concern but I was ok. Obviously it must’ve played on my mind enough to have written this post, ha!! But other than that I was ok. And yes that’s so true about teaching the child!! I’d not thought of that! Thanks so much for stopping by 🙂 #CoolMumClub

  8. What a nob. I would just love someone to make a comment like that to me…they’d be picking on the wrong Mum ha ha!
    A superb post that reminds me not to take things as they appear, because I’m no angel when it comes to making assumptions on strangers – lets face it we have probably all done it at some point.
    Thanks for sharing with #coolmumclub lovely, and again I LOVE THAT PHOTO!

    1. Ah yes I totally agree, I’ve done it too! But I guess that at least experiences like this mean that we can learn from them and try to do better. Ah thank you re: the photo, I love it too! Thanks so much for hosting #CoolMumClub as always! xxx

  9. People like that really do make my blood boil, well done on being so restrained! We are all doing the best we can, if we all supported each other more instead of trying to tear each other down the world would be a much better place x

    1. Definitely! I try to make a point of saying to other mums “oh I’m glad it’s not just my one that does that” when I see a little one having a tantrum etc, as I don’t want them to feel alone. Why alienate someone who is going through something as difficult as you are?! Thanks so much for stopping by! #BigPinkLink

  10. I hate when people do this! My little girl refuses to keep a hat on and the amount of times I hear people making comments about how freezing it is and that she hasn’t got a hat on!! If they looked at the pram they would see it was there, because she has taken it off and thrown it on her cozy toes for the 500th time that morning!! I was also om the bus the other week when my little boy had a melt down as he was scared for his swimming lesson it was our stop and he started to sob telling me he wanted to go home, a older lady said “I know what he needs!” If my son wasn’t with me I would have given her a something she NEEDED!!


    1. Oh tantrums on the bus are so tough! I’ve had those before! One time I was on the bus and checking my phone to see where I was meeting my friend for a picnic. An older gentleman commented when Baby Lighty was crying “don’t worry, your mum will give you some attention soon”. I made the point of saying that I was checking where I was meeting my friend for lunch and that he was crying because he was hungry!! Thanks so much for stopping by! #PostsfromtheHeart

  11. I tend to be incredibly immature at times like this and resort to sticking my tongue out! 😀 So what if he didn’t have a coat! My son often point blank refuses to put one on because he’s so hot from running around. Ignore ignore ignore! Thanks for being an important part of the #bigpinklink

    1. Haha, a certain other blogger that we both know and love also said this!! Yes it’s true, I sometimes think we bundle our little ones up when they’re probably boiling from all of the rampaging they’re doing. Aww thank you for your kind words, I love #BigPinkLink!

    1. Yes that’s definitely my attitude towards it too to be honest. Still shocks me that people can be so openly judgemental without knowing the whole picture, but still. Thanks so much for hosting #Postfromtheheart 🙂

  12. Dear GOD no offence but this is why I’m glad I don’t live in the UK anymore. It’s just become such a huffy tut tutting rules for this rules for that let me judge everyone police state! I don’t have much respect for the way the Maltese raise their kids to be honest as there is NO discipline or awareness of manners behind how they ‘parent’ but people really do leave others alone re their kids here. I’m SO sorry you’ve had sooooo many comments directed at you; I was just dumbstruck reading this. Poor girl.

    1. Ah it was ok in the end. Stressful at the time but ok in the end!! Thanks so much for your concern though and for stopping by! #CandidCuddles

  13. Dear GOD no offence but this is why I’m glad I don’t live in the UK anymore. It’s just become such a huffy tut tutting rules for this rules for that let me judge everyone police state! I don’t have much respect for the way the Maltese raise their kids to be honest as there is NO discipline or awareness of manners behind how they ‘parent’ but people really do leave others alone re their kids here. I’m SO sorry you’ve had sooooo many comments directed at you; I was just dumbstruck reading this. Poor girl.

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