Not all parents are the same. Some are better.

I think by now that you know I think you should homeschool your kids. And I think you should not use curriculum. And I don’t care that I am the stereotype of the recent convert who is an intolerable zealot.

Because you know what? I think it’s okay to judge people. I don’t think everyone can just do what they want and it doesn’t matter. And I don’t think most of us believe this, fundamentally.

I think moms who say “let’s not judge each other” are the moms who are scared of being judged. But if you believe you’re doing a good job parenting, then you don’t need to worry about being judged. Maybe they don’t know what you know about your parenting. But frankly, that’s unlikely. And it’s likely that if most people think you are sub-par then you are sub-par. I learned this from my blog. People criticize me in the comments section, and in general, the majority opinion has value. They don’t know everything about me, that’s true. But no one is unique. We are all pretty average, which is, of course, the definition of average.

It’s better parenting to breastfeed. It’s better parenting to read to your kid each day. It’s better parenting to eat meals as a family. These are not gray areas. If you are not doing this stuff then you decided that you want to do something besides what we know is good parenting.

This is a picture of a day when I stayed in bed for most of the day. I have a rule for myself that I can’t do that anymore. But I did it. Have you ever been sleepy with anxiety? I get that. Too much anxiety turns to depression which turns into sleep.

I woke up around 1pm and the photo above is what the kids looked like. It’s a photo of lousy parenting (and resilient kids).

We all make decisions to be sub-par parents at some points in time. We need to accept criticism for that and move on.

And then, we need to dish it out, as well. Because we are each better parents when there are standards that a community holds its members to.

29 replies
  1. Silvermine
    Silvermine says:

    Oh, you do love black and white don’t you? ;) Science doesn’t work that way. It can use the law of large numbers to say that X% of this seems to do that, but it doesn’t say absolute for anything.

    Family dinners are simply a proxy for spending time with your kids and talking. So maybe you have lunch together. Maybe you homeschool for 2 hours. We don’t always have dinner together, but I’m with my kids, well, almost all the time. Is it all quality time? Nah. But we get plenty of that. Family dinners are a good way to connect. But if you have a family where someone work evenings, it isn’t. If everyone eats something different at different times because that works better for their crazy medically-required diets… I think then violating doctor’s order to follow a parenting magazine would maybe be bad parenting. ;)

    Go with the spirit of the rule. Let yourself take a nap while the kids feed themselves. That’s certainly not going to break them. :P

    • karelys
      karelys says:

      I like this comment because it reminds me that some things are important to some but not others. I am a zealot about eating together (with my husband/friends). But I grew up in a culture and family where food is a big deal! food is a way to communicate love, caring, etc.

      So family dinners, or lunch, are a big deal.

      I can kill myself trying so hard to be perfect when it comes to making healthy and delicious and not to expensive foods and it will be all “meh” to my husband because he grew up in a family where food doesn’t mean the same thing as it does with me.

      But he loves spending time together. So maybe a game of golf or a walk together after the afternoon cools off gives him the closeness that family meals would. He eats a bowl of cereal and calls it good. I NEED (emotionally, mentally, physically) a solid meal over conversation.

      Either way, I think good parenting is spending time together connecting and understanding each other. There’s no proxy for breastfeeding because breastfeeding is a big deal (quality of nutrition) in and of itself. But I do like the idea of being bolder and saying things like “don’t kid yourself! using drugs for birth is not harmless to the baby like many believe! do your research and then make an informed decision.”

      But of course, I don’t want to be “that person” and isolate people. It’s scary because I’ve had people do that to me and it feels awful and I don’t want to talk to them.

      So maybe I can figure out a better way to deliver my opinions/message without making people not want to talk to me :)

      • liz
        liz says:

        Yeah, it’s difficult. We all have disappointments and different circumstances. I do believe, generally, that most people really do try their best.

      • Stephanie
        Stephanie says:

        I do say that we should not judge each other and it is because I don’t want to be judged, but it isn’t because I think I’m not a good mom. My daughter is autistic. I get judged because of this all the time.

        Many people don’t believe autism or ADD and the like are even real. They believe they are just misbehaving kids whose parents don’t know what they are doing.

        I think this same thinking can be translated into any problem. But since people who know nothing about the situation are the ones who are the quickest to pass judgement; it is just better to say we shouldn’t judge each other. It is just adding stress on the parent that they don’t need and probably none of anyone else’s business anyway.

        And if you do get into their business it is only going to cause a fight that isn’t going to change anyone’s mind anyway. I’m not saying that we should publish articles and blogs that say breast-feeding and spending time with your kids is important. But I don’t see the point of walking up to someone with a bottle and telling them they are a bad parent.

        I’ve wanted to homeschool my kids since I was in elementary school. I hated school that much that I promised myself I’d never let my kids go through that. I’ve been laughed at about this since then. No one in my family really believes that I can teach them. Now that my daughter is autistic even people that supported me before are trying to talk me into sending her to school, because they have a better “learning environment” for her. She’d have more support there.

        In my mind her being autistic is even more of a reason to homeschool her.

  2. Sarah
    Sarah says:

    The dinner thing seems silly to me. For people who spend all day together, I don’t see how one meal is going to make or break parenting. I can see this argument more clearly when both parents work and the kids are in school all day. We do eat most meals together, but I don’t think it’s a cornerstone of our parenting.

    I don’t see how sleeping in equals bad parenting either. Kids knowing how to grab some breakfast and find something to do that isn’t burning down the house so mom can rest seems like good parenting to me.

  3. Meghan
    Meghan says:

    My favorite part of the NYT article is the last paragraph…

    ” “The study found that getting parents involved with their children’s learning at home is a more powerful driver of achievement than parents attending P.T.A. and school board meetings, volunteering in classrooms, participating in fund-raising, and showing up at back-to-school nights.” ”

    . . . which basically advocates home schooling over activism to improve your kids’ school when they are in it. The bottom line: you have to do stuff WITH your kids, not grown-up stuff AROUND your kids.

    I love this post. I’ve been fed up lately with people getting mad that they are judged, but judge others. Because I do that. I am often someone who says “let’s not judge” because I’m afraid of being judged, but my life is so much easier when I internally allow people to think whatever they want and focus instead on doing my own thing.

  4. Bec Oakley
    Bec Oakley says:

    I don’t think people who say let’s not judge each other do so because they’re scared of being judged. Quite the opposite – the ones who do the judging are the ones who are insecure about their own parenting. If you’re confident with the choices you make you don’t feel the need to compare them with anyone else’s choices.

    And parenting is simply that, a series of choices. School or homeschool? Sleep in or get up? Fishsticks or steak? Choices based on a set of conditions that are unique for every family.

    So to me, the parents who say let’s not judge are the ones who’ve realised that there is simply no point or basis for comparing these choices. There’s no level playing field here. So why waste the energy?

    • liz
      liz says:

      I really agree with this comment. Now that I have convinced my husband to homeschool, I am not a zealot, I am just really happy and not worried about what others are doing, because I am confident that what we are doing is right for our family. I don’t need to judge or to worry about being judged. It’s a great feeling.

  5. Rachel D.
    Rachel D. says:

    This isn’t bad parenting. It’s obvious you nurture your childrens’ gifts. Having a bad day is not bad parenting.

    If you’re a parent, just assume you’re being judged and accept it. This comes with the responsibility you’ve chosen. We’re all looking at you and your kids. It’s a fact. It’s human nature.

    I have a cousin, perfect example, his parents degraded him and spent all of their time pointing out everything they felt was wrong with him for his entire childhood. They put more effort into crushing his self-esteem than loving him…so the result…an adult who can’t cope and function in society. He had a nervous breakdown and is living in a group home.

    Guess who everyone blames? Not him. They blame his parents because everyone saw their horrible behavior. Somehow, his parents felt justified simply because he was different.

    Love is acceptance. Good parenting is acknowledging your own weaknesses, accepting it, and then accepting your children and their weaknesses in the same exact way. Nurturing their gifts when you’re having good days will cultivate them into thriving adults.

  6. Sara
    Sara says:

    “Be kind, for everyone you meet is fighting a hard battle.” – Plato.

    And … are they drinking wine in that picture? ;)

  7. Kristin
    Kristin says:

    It is difficult to know however, when the criticism is valid. I just had a baby 5 weeks ago and have since then been learning how to simply live a daily life with my new baby plus 5-year-old and 9-year-old. I decided to homeschool this year and first on my agenda is learning how to just “be” with my kids all day long. Today I chose to play Life with my 5-year-old, and attempted to play Magic with my 9-year-old. I also picked up my mother from the airport, and made a call to the benefits line plus took care of my new baby, plus a few other things. However I was criticized by my husband for having a dirty kitchen when he got home. He thought my kids should learn that good parenting means making them clean up the house. Perhaps he is right — I don’t know. I don’t think it is so cut-and-dry to know what good parenting is. I thought I was a good parent today, but he apparently didn’t.

    • Rachel D.
      Rachel D. says:

      Good parenting is setting an example. If you can’t afford household help, then tell your husband he needs to pick up a sponge.

      Husbands need to see where they can be helpful and useful. That’s a good example for your kids to see simply as human beings.

    • Penelope Trunk
      Penelope Trunk says:

      Oh, I love your comment, Kristin. I think I love it because I am learning to “just be” with my kids, also. No one told me this would be hard. But it is so hard, and I like hearing what it looks like when other people are learning it.

      And it is so true that doing this invariably entails a messy kitchen.


    • Diane Dawson
      Diane Dawson says:

      oh my word. a 5 week old baby? It’s a miracle you even brushed your hair. Or did you? A clean kitchen is only for the year after having a baby. Hope he’s more appreciative tomorrow.

  8. Zsa Zsa
    Zsa Zsa says:

    Sounds like having a needed lie down was being resourceful. I am learning when to stop and check in with myself and take care of me amongst the parenting and home schooling. I would like to think that I am modeling self care and self awareness. It doesn’t always work in time and that is when I am a snappy or cranky mama. So to stop and take care of my needs before it becomes overwhelming is a positive in my eyes.

  9. toastedtofu
    toastedtofu says:

    There is this libertarian sentiment that some feminists have that ties in, I’m sure, with the fact that they are afraid to be judged. They conflate common sense rules with the patriarchal history of controlling women (especially around pregnancy and childrearing) and have decided that it is un-feminist to have any rules AT ALL for women, *especially* around pregnancy and child rearing.

    Those feminists, who are generally privileged, will often use an argument about poor, undereducated women to defend their stance.

    The thing is, having a population of women not be ABLE to do the right thing does not change the fact there is a right way and a wrong way to do some things.

    I think you, Penelope, said at one point that if a new mother is working at McDonald’s she has bigger problems than not having the facility to pump breastmilk.

    I think it is funny that some women think that having strangers give them advice while pregnant, or offer advice on childrearing, is their unique burden, like every child in history hasn’t, in some way, been raised by committee.

    I can appreciate that it is not nice, or helpful, to have strangers give you dirty looks or tisk you when your child is having a meltdown in public, but that is just regular rudeness, not patriarchy.

    I think, if it helps, that you didn’t make a bad choice by sleeping in, you were just reacting to your environment. Choices are things like, I’m going to breastfeed, I’m going to put my kids in music classes, I’m going to try to cook every meal. Reactions are things like sleeping in late, screaming at your kids because you are stressed or tired…basically anything that happens with instinct rather than reason.

    It’s like deciding to go on a diet but then nervously snacking on m&m’s.

    Things like cognitive behavioral therapy help with acknowledging and re-wiring your instincts, but that sill doesn’t make them choices in the truest sense of the word.

  10. Catherine Taylor
    Catherine Taylor says:

    My daughter eats cupcakes for breakfast, plays games on the computer – most of the day, takes violin every Monday, eats dinner watching spongebob, doesn’t follow a curriculum, and we all laugh at the end of the day… Judge away ~ my day is priceless!

  11. Zellie
    Zellie says:

    I love that they’re having a good time and not fighting.

    “Day after day” life impacts more than occasional occurrences. All parents have times when they are not “better.” We hope or strive to have less of those and more of better.

    Some don’t criticize because it is an intrusion. You may like criticism, but it does no good to tell you it is better for the kids’ long-term well-being to have a parent available and about when you already know this and you are in survival mode to cope.

    I like Plato’s quote above: “Be kind, for everyone you meet is fighting a hard battle.”

  12. Jennifer
    Jennifer says:

    Being unavailable sometimes: you are teaching them independence. When I was wiped out with the flu in 2011, my kdis loved taking care of me and each other. They worked together better; they talked out disputes rather than bickering.

    I wonder if some of their fights are more about getting my attention than about really fighting. When it was IMPOSSIBLE for me to respond, they were a team.

    As for “good parenting” — jeez, I wish for someone to condone my every move because I question most of them.

    I work (some) but feel I should either work less (to be more at home) OR to work more (to please the people who want my talents and will pay me).

    I am too disciplined with them. I’m not disciplined enough.

    They should play more. They should work more.

    I wish for my husband’s brain and the ability to think about one thing at a time (or the ability to tune out) rather than having these “tabs” open in my consciousness all day, every day.

    The worst critic in my life is me.

  13. karelys
    karelys says:

    Laying in bed til late doesn’t seem so bad to me. I think “it teaches kids that parents aren’t superhuman. It’s good that they see that mom/dad feels bad or have bad days too.”

    But I think good or bad parenting depends on the whole picture on every situation.

  14. David
    David says:

    I don’t have time to give a f*ck if anyone is judging me or how I parent. However, I do deal with my spouse, and unfortunately we share different philosophies on parenting, go figure. Anyway, I’m my own worst critic. And I constantly parent in fear that my kids will end up dumb as stumps because I unschool. Guess we’ll find out some day…

  15. Alli
    Alli says:

    As if my family needs anymore pressure on us. We are already going against the grain homeschooling, why would I want other people judging me, telling me I’m not doing a good a job as they are? There is enough pressure as it is… The most important thing I’ve learned since starting homeschooling is that everyone is different, there’s no right or wrong way to do it. Obviously neglect and abuse is wrong but whether you have dinner together, let your kids play video games all day, etc is your choice because you know your family better than anyone. I really don’t want to encourage others to judge me because I put enough pressure on myself as it is! What we should encourage is support of others and acceptance of a different way of doing things.

  16. Andi-Roo (@theworld4realz)
    Andi-Roo (@theworld4realz) says:

    My sister’s baby was born 6 weeks early, & mommy’s milk did not come in for another month or so. Meanwhile, she & baby were both being treated for various medical issues, during which time baby was (unbeknownst to mommy) being fed another recent mommy’s breast milk via bottle. By the time mommy was able to get up & around, baby was stuck on bottle, which burned fewer calories & thus was actually safer in helping baby gain the weight needed before she could actually leave the hospital. And you want to tell me my sister was a crappy mom for not nursing? Fuck you.

  17. kristen
    kristen says:

    I completely agree. We all judge and some people do a better job at parenting than others. I tend to give the lower socioeconomic group a break but for my peers…I judge. If you are middle class+ and educated you can read the research that you pointed out and I would also add the divorce research as it pertains to children. If you choose to be self indulgent rather than do what you are supposed to be doing with your kids than I can judge because I live in the society that will be compromised by your inadequate parenting. Speaking of which, our health care costs are skyrocketing and a good chunk of that is due to poor diet…which is often given to children due to laziness on the part of their parents.

    The first thing I thought when I saw this picture, “She does not feed her children well. She has to have read the research about food and cognitive ability, especially when the child is on the spectrum, yet she chooses not to follow the science.” Cornflakes and pretzels result in a blood sugar bomb and have no place just hanging out in the home, ready for children to consume when mom isn’t fixing food. I don’t judge your kitchen cleanliness or your sleep day but I’m still judging. So be it, but I think you could do better.

  18. Sandy N
    Sandy N says:

    I want to share a conversation which occurred on Facebook regarding your article. I wanted to share this, because I think it is a great example of how hypocritical people can be!

    The World 4 Realz posted to her wall: “@penelopetrunk says ur not a good mom & she’s better than you if ur a non-#Breastfeeding mom. I say she’s a judgmental bitch. You decide.”

    To the best of my knowledge, I have never visited your blog before… but I figured the object of such a harsh comment warranted a look. After reading your post I replied on this person’s page as follows:

    “wow, not only is that an amazingly rude statement, it’s pretty hypocritical too.

    As for the article, I read it. The woman is actually rather self deprecating, which is quite the opposite of being holier-than-thou (actually, calling someone a “judgmental bitch” is definitely MUCH farther up the holier-than-thou scale)

    So here’s something some people fail to understand. There are two main forms of “judgment” we all deal with with some regularity. One is fact, fact based, or reasonable provable as fact. The second is an opinion.

    The first kind of “judgment” is figuring out what is best, what is less good, what is bad, etc, based on provable circumstances. This is the kind of judgment we MUST have, and MUST teach our children, because it is kin to common sense and it is what the majority of our decisions should be based on. The author of the article stated “It’s better parenting to breastfeed. It’s better parenting to read to your kid each day. It’s better parenting to eat meals as a family” These, are mixed statements at worst considering that the benefit of the examples she listed are provable statements. One can provide solid evidence that these things are in fact better for the majority of, if not all of, children. And such evidence is readily available. Now, the “it’s better parenting part” walks the line. Although there is empirical evidence to prove breastfeeding, reading to children, and eating meals as a family are in fact superior to their alternatives, is it in fact “better parenting” to provide these empirically proven benefits to your children? Although this does side somewhat on the side of opinion, I think it is difficult to deny that a parent should always strive to the best of his or her ability to provide the best for their children. Since there is a cultural, and inter-cultural consensus, and certainly plenty of impartial evidence to support such a claim, I think we may be erring more on the side of “fact.” So, based on an impartial, logical assessment, those particular comments are either fact, or opinion-fact hybrids.

    “judgmental bitch” on the other hand, is NOT an empirical statement, is entirely opinion driven, and is therefore a (2nd type) judgmental statement. The very type of “judgmental” you accused the other person of. And doing what you are accusing someone else of, especial DURING, is clearly hypocritical. Sometimes statements are best addressed to a mirror. ”

    I can, and do, tolerate a LOT of things… hypocrisy is NOT one of them.

    And to Andi-Roo (@theworld4realz) where exactly did you see anything about moms with medical conditions not being able to nurse being crappy moms? I re-read the article looking for some comment that said that, and came up empty. So you are reading something into someone post that doesn’t appear to be there at all, then cussing at them for it? Don’t forget, one shows their character by how they choose to respond to other people in life…

  19. Sandy N
    Sandy N says:

    ok, just realized The World 4 Realz and Andi-Roo (@theworld4realz) are the same person. Whew, that makes me feel a LOT better. I was wondering how so many rude people could be coming out of the woodwork for such a little article, and now I know.

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