When Their Perception Doesn't Resemble My Actual Parenting
They say that everyone has an opinion.
Also, everyone either has a mother or has been around mothers.
The sum total of that equation is that just about everyone has an opinion about motherhood and mothers. When it comes to the word and the image of “Mom,” we all have prerequisite experience, preconceived notions, schema, and sometimes trauma and scars.
Being a mom is like producing a movie where everyone shows up already familiar with the story and has STRONG opinions about how they think it should play out onscreen. Everyone is watching the show that is our parenting through their own lens of previous experience and as such, their perceptions sometimes end up having more to do with them than they do with us.
For example: One time I was talking to a friend of mine without kids about some of the activities and sports my 4-year-old son was trying out. “Huh,” she replied, shaking her head disapprovingly, “I guess I didn’t realize you had to start grooming them that young.”
I’m sorry, what? Who said anything about grooming? We’re just trying to offer opportunities to our kid who is curious and excited to try out the stuff that the big kids do. Like, we’re not even forward-thinking enough to be grooming our kids, we’re too busy trying to figure out how to get them to eat the occasional vegetable and to go bed at night without throwing an ever-loving fit. If our kids require grooming for anything, they’re totally screwed because that’s not even on our radar over here. (And yes, every time I said, “grooming” In that paragraph I was cocking my head to the side and making quotes with my hands like I’m Doctor Evil)
Somehow, the idea that parents are grooming (there it is again) their kids for stuff had crept into my friend’s mind and she turned that lens on me. Maybe she felt she was groomed for things as a child, maybe she felt she wasn’t and she should have been, maybe she just watched a documentary on Netflix about competitive parents getting their preschoolers ready for Ivy League admissions. So while grooming (See there, I let it go that time. I’m over it now) my kids had never even crossed my mind, it had crossed hers and THAT filter changed how she perceived my parenting.
To put it another way: OTHER PEOPLE’S PERCEPTIONS OF OUR PARENTING MAY OR MAY NOT BEAR ANY RESEMBLANCE TO OUR ACTUAL PARENTING.
This is why we as parents have to guard carefully the headspace we give to others’ perceptions of our parenting. I am going to stop short of telling you that I think we should just ignore the opinions of others because I don’t think that’s healthy either. None of us can or should parent in a vacuum, we NEED the support, perspective, and feedback of others- even when it’s hard to hear.
But we also need to constantly remind ourselves that not everyone is in a position to really SEE us and our families. The woman at the store who rolls her eyes at my kids is getting only a snapshot of my life with them. Her perception does not resemble my actual parenting. The man at church who thinks parents these days are too permissive with their kids and then happens to witness my son in a moment of acting out- his perception does not resemble my actual parenting. Sometimes I even think family members I’m close to and whose opinions I value are so busy loving my kids so much and worrying about them that their perceptions may not resemble our actual situation.
People will say what they need to say, and that’s on them and not on us. Often it’s because of THEIR issues, negative experiences, worries and fears. Inappropriate comments, advice that misses the mark, unsolicited analysis- it often has more to do with them than it does with us. They are laboring under the burdens of their own issues, we can take it with a grain of salt, give them grace, and move on. It’s hard when people view us negatively or incorrectly- but that’s on them and not on us and we CANNOT carry that burden on ourselves and let it darken our day. We have enough on our plates as it is.
You are a great mom, my sister. Those who see your actual parenting will always have that lens of grace and appreciation as they watch you doing these hard things. Find those people in your life who REALLY see you and your family, who don’t let their own baggage color their lens, and who give you feedback that actually makes you a better mom. Cling to those people and drown the rest out. Give the resta smile and a sympathetic nod and send them on their way. Their perception doesn’t not resemble your actual parenting: Your actual parenting is beautiful.
***If you need more people in your life who really see your parenting and can support you in being the best mom you can be, hop on over to our Mother Manifesto Facebook group and join the party https://www.facebook.com/groups/1027643440635609/edit/ ***