Rated PJ (for Parental Judgement)

August 14, 2015

Raincover on a Bugaboo Bee

What do David Beckham and I have in common?

Well, clearly not the international football career, huge personal wealth or that being married to a pop star thing. But we’ve both been on the receiving end of some pretty public parental judgement this week. DB was, of course, criticised on the front pages when four-year-old Harper Beckham was spotted out with a dummy.

And me? Florence and I were on the bus, looking forward to the lunch with a friend we were on our way to, when… “That baby should be wearing socks!” I heard someone say. We were the only mum and baby on the bus, so by default it was my sockless baby they were talking about. But I thought I must have misheard. Then the bus stopped and the lady who’d said it got off, and as she passed us she said  “That baby should have socks…AND a blanket!” It was as sudden and unexpected as a jellyfish sting.

As a parent you get used to unsolicited parenting advice, but this kind of public parental judgement and shaming is something else. It doesn’t happen often, luckily enough – although I still hold a grudge against the mum who commented on me giving the toddler a biscuit, shock horror – but I think it’s happened to most people I know at least once.

The sock comment wasn’t a helpful suggestion about my baby’s temperature (despite the torrential weather it was muggy and warm, and she had several layers on). It wasn’t a smiling question about her sockless state (she hates wearing them and they’re off in a second, so I’ve stopped bothering when it’s too warm for tights). She didn’t know my baby wasn’t burning up, or that I’d ran out of the house and was beating myself up about forgetting footwear. As David Beckham said, “Why do people feel they have the right to criticize a parent about their own children without having any facts ?” 

A a second-time mum it didn’t bother me and I’m too tired to care anyway. But first time? In my fragile and emotional new mum state I’d have rushed to buy socks in a haze of tears, then spent the whole day completely paranoid that everyone was judging me. In short, it would have stung.

I think everyone judges other people to a certain extent. And as a parent you make decisions on the way you want to bring up your child which means there are ways and means you don’t want to bring them up, which you’ll also have thoughts and opinions on. But actually saying something negative about it – to someone’s face, or by leaving a comment on a blog, Instagram photo or making it a front page story of a national newspaper in a bid to make sales – is another matter entirely. It’s pointless and unessesarily and what will it ever achieve? Apart from making the parent feel awful and the commenter feel…what exactly?

So stop with the public parent shaming, please. A good rule would be to think before you speak (especially if you’re on a bus, getting round on public transport is hard enough). And put a sock in it. As my mum and most mums would say, if you can’t say anything nice – or kind, or helpful – say nothing at all.

We had a lovely lunch with my friend, and Florence continued her – sockless- pursuit to explore the world by attempting to climb up everything around her.

Has this kind of public parental judgement happened to you? How did you deal with it?

P.S. post-pregnancy rage, and milestones from the first six months.

22 Comments

  • Adele @ Circus Queen

    August 14, 2015 at 5:45 pm

    Ugh – annoyed on your (and Beckham’s) behalf. I’ve had people telling me my daughter needed a woolly hat when we were in the supermarket…in TRINIDAD!! Some people have too much talk and too little sense.

  • Lottie :: Oyster & Pearl

    August 14, 2015 at 8:52 pm

    It’s happened so many times! Usually dummy/buggy related. SO annoying x

    1. gillian

      August 16, 2015 at 10:46 pm

      Really annoying xx

  • Sarah Rooftops

    August 14, 2015 at 9:27 pm

    Ugh, so annoying! The only thing we’ve had so far is random old ladies telling us that the baby “can’t breathe” when she’s in her carrier. She’s survived this long…

    1. gillian

      August 16, 2015 at 10:46 pm

      Do they think you won’t be able to tell if your baby wasn’t able to breathe? How frustrating…x

  • Esther

    August 14, 2015 at 10:29 pm

    My beloved first born refused to wear socks, shoes, gloves/mittens or a hat during the depths of winter. Daily I had to decide if I preferred the judgement of letting him forgo these “necessities” or being judged for clearly not being able to control/comfort my child who screamed, cried, sobbed and wailed hysterically as he saw being forced to wear these item as complete torture and an affront to his basic human rights!!

    1. gillian

      August 16, 2015 at 10:47 pm

      I think people who question these things really haven’t tried getting a child to do any of these things when they don’t want to. And why should we force them? My oldest wouldn’t wear her winter coat either for months (we had to strategically get her to wear layers instead) x

  • Jodie

    August 14, 2015 at 11:48 pm

    This makes me so angry. I used to do the same… Cry and try to correct it feeling guilty all day long. But now I actually do bite back. I ask them why. They think their comments will be a quick smirk remark but if you try to start s friendly conversation they are put back a bit. i don’t remember the lSt time P3 wore socks.

    1. gillian

      August 16, 2015 at 10:36 pm

      Thanks, fellow sockless mum 🙂 I think people actually don’t expect you to talk back will they? The sock woman said it just as she was getting off the bus so I couldn’t reply, gah x

  • polly

    August 15, 2015 at 10:45 am

    ugh some people just like to stick their noses in!!

    1. gillian

      August 16, 2015 at 10:35 pm

      SO annoying x

  • melissa

    August 15, 2015 at 10:45 pm

    Me and 11 month were out for lunch with some friends. She was merrily chatting and shouting away but not crying. It was a busy restaurant with lots other kids and babies. The woman in the next booth came over and commented ‘she is being very loud’ and informed me she had two children. Like it was some great feat to keep 10 and 12 year olds voices down. It made me so angry and it felt more hurtful coming from another mother who must of had one of those days. It’s sad some people don’t have the good grace to keep their noses out of other people’s business. (Sorry for the rant, might still be a little mad!)

    1. gillian

      August 16, 2015 at 10:35 pm

      Rant away! (I’m still ranting about the lady who commented on the biscuit). I hate that whole ‘seen and not heard’ attitude about children, it’s so Victorian, isn’t it? Children are loud, get over it. How can people like that lady have no empathy when that must have been them until recently? x

  • Kathryn (@KatGotTheCream)

    August 16, 2015 at 11:42 am

    Put a sock in it – Really wish you’d said that to her! Why do people – complete strangers – feel they have the right to say anything critical?

    P.S. God bless David Bekham! xx

    1. gillian

      August 16, 2015 at 10:32 pm

      Isn’t he amazing? I loved his reply!

  • Cathy

    August 16, 2015 at 8:38 pm

    I’ve never managed to keep socks or hats on either of my children and they are now 2 and 3.

    I was once asked by a harassed looking new father if I could please stop my children from crying so loudly in a public car park as he had a sleeping baby in his car.

    I did feel sorry for him but I had to regretfully inform him that unfortunately children don’t come with a ‘volume’ button. Or an ‘off’ switch.

    1. gillian

      August 16, 2015 at 10:32 pm

      Hat refusers over here too. I don’t know if it’s actually worse when it comes from other parents? Sounds like he was in for a surprise when the sleeping baby found their voice a few months later…

  • Two teeth and a turtle; texts from this week | A Baby on Board

    August 16, 2015 at 9:12 pm

    […] the baby wasn’t wearing socks or a blanket. What’s wrong with people? (full story about public parent shaming […]

  • Ky

    August 16, 2015 at 9:47 pm

    I have a 1 year old who refuses to wear socks or hats. The amount of comments I get saying she should have socks on is ridiculous. I can put them on her but they won’t last 2 minutes so I’ve given up trying now.

    1. gillian

      August 16, 2015 at 10:27 pm

      Why do people feel the need to tell you? I’ll never get it. E wouldn’t wear her winter coat until around Christmas, with hindsight I’m pretty surprised I didn’t get any comments on that x

  • Katrina

    August 18, 2015 at 11:10 am

    Ha, i can SO relate to this. 1) Mr B likes to akin himself with DB. Although he too does not share that kind of personal wealth you speak of (& I’m certainly no VB. Though, i do admire her). More to the point 2) I am CONSTANTLY met with ‘Oh, you dress you boy in girls clothes. HE SHOULD WEAR ‘BOYS CLOTHES’ (WTF are ‘boys & girls clothes anyways, & why are some folk so bothered by gender specific? It’s a massive pet hate of mine) or 3) HE’s a boy, why don’t you cut his hair? URGH. I either play it totes cool, or purposely wind people up with my response, it just depends on how naughty I’m feeling.
    OH & the best/ worst part of this…..the person who is most opinionated & rude, is our GP!! Every time i see her with Bear, she’ll tell me he should be dressed more like a ‘boy’.

    I kinda went a little ranty there, didn’t I? Is ranty even a word? Great post as always Mrs. C! x

  • Bryony

    August 19, 2015 at 9:49 pm

    Such a brilliant post Gillian! I wish we were all born with that ‘second time mum barrier’, if that woman had said what she did to you to a first time mum I’m sure it would of been a different story. I have no idea why anyone thinks it’s okay to dish out unneeded advice xxx

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