How Much Do You Care What Other Parents Think?

A year and a half.

Culturally, as children of The Eighties, we’ve been taught we’re not supposed to care what other people think about us. But really, is that even possible? Especially as parents, shouldn’t we care… at least a little?

In my office I work with a guy who, at least once a week, declares, “I could care less what people think about me!” The funny thing is, he has said it enough times that I no longer believe him.

I’m convinced that he wants people to think he doesn’t care; therefore, he cares what people think of him.

When it comes to being a parent, I suppose it can be easy to put yourself in a position to be judged and analyzed by other parents.

“Why did you decide to circumcise your son?”

“Oh, you don’t let him drink fruit juice?”

“You did the ‘cry it out’ method with him? Don’t you know that traumatizes a kid?”

So much polarization in parenting.

Here’s the thing about me. I do care about what people think about me… to an extent. And I think it’s important that I do.

It matters that I’m not a racist, a bigot, a gossip, a chauvinist, or a self-centered jerk. There are all kinds of things I don’t what to be perceived as. Like a bad father.

What would make me a bad parent? Not caring. Choosing not to be involved in my son’s life.

But when it comes to being perceived as wrong about all those numerous controversial parenting issues… well, that’s cool with me.

Because the thing is, when it comes to every and any issue in life in general, there’s a pretty good chance I’m wrong at least half the time. Especially in being a dad.

And being “wrong” in the eyes of the slight majority doesn’t mean I’m not a good father. Whether or not I’m being “normal enough” is irrelevant to me.

Accordingly, I just don’t have time to worry about other parents.

For example, I am absolutely against medicating my child for ADHD at any point. But how do I feel about parents who do?

Don’t care. Not my kid.

So what do I care about? I care that I have my own convictions on how I will raise my son and that I stick to them. If I have questions, I will seek the advice of people I respect. Not worry myself about it.

I want to say today that ultimately, I honestly don’t care what other parents think about me as a parent.

While I’m at it, I would love to also proclaim that I don’t judge other parents when I disagree with their parenting style, as I deal with the plank in my own eye as opposed to the perceived speck of dust in the eyes of other parents.

But like the coworker who I mentioned earlier, do I really feel this way or do I just want you to think I do?

That is the question.

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  1. by Heidi

    On May 22, 2012 at 4:43 pm

    Everyone cares what others think of them to some extent, we are social creatures and we need to rely on the goodwill of our society to some extent; no one wants angry villagers with torches and pitchforks knocking at the front door.
    As a teenager I cared very much what others thought of me, which isn’t to say I conformed, I wanted to be seen as different, superior even. I wore nice preppy clothes even though all the other kids in my school were really into grunge. I read the newspaper (remember those?) and pointedly CARED about the world at large while disdaining the silly concerns of high school “children.” In short, I was pretty darn annoying.
    Now, I care considerably less about what people think of me, yeah, I’m the fat mom wearing jeans and a stained tee-shirt at the park, so what? I’m not as up-to-date on world issues, but I do care much more about the people in my own community and I am kinder and less harsh in my estimations of others. Is it still a bit of a persona I wear? Yes, I guess so, but it is hard to really, really “just be yourself;” everyone who is sincerely trying just to be themselves still cannot help but wonder what other people think of that “self” that they are projecting.
    And when it comes to parenting, no matter how many times I say that the choices I make as a parent do not imply that I condemn the different choices that other parents make, of course I think that my way is the right way! I sometimes wish I could give other parents advice and that they would really listen to me and do as I say and even be grateful to have me as their parenting guru (c’mon, how awesome would that be!). But in reality, most parents are going to do what they do regardless of whatever wise (in my opinion) advice I may have to offer. Even when it comes to “expert” advice, I think that parents gravitate towards the expert that they already pretty much agree with, whether that is Spock or Sears or Ferber. So I keep my mouth shut…and try not to silently judge the other parents too loudly…

  2. by Joe

    On May 22, 2012 at 8:40 pm

    I donno, man.

    I think you feel judged when we’re not judging you for what you did when you didn’t know better. People like me, as much as I might be a pain in your butt, are challenging you to really think about why you do things a certain way, whether you’re really fully informed about the decisions you make, and how you’d change your opinions if you knew things to be differently. It’s not judgment, and it’s not me ignoring the plank in my eye to call you out on your splinter. It’s people who’ve done their homework who are really passionate about things that the general population hasn’t done their research on. We’re challenging you to say why you believe what you believe, and whether, given more information, you’ll reexamine your viewpoints and adjust them accordingly for the future.

    That being said, some of us are not so good at doing so in delicate ways. Some of us can be downright harsh. That shouldn’t discount what we say, though. We’re passionate for a reason. For example, there’s a lot you don’t know about why I’m so vehemently opposed to circumcision. I’d be happy to tell you more, but I feel as though you’ve constructed a wall…the evidence of which is right here in this post.

    And Nick…I’d *never* suggest that you’re a bad parent, regardless of how much I agree with some of your parenting styles/decisions. I started following you because I was SO HAPPY to find a dad that publicized the love he has for his family. It shines through in every post. Keep it up, but don’t be too quick to have a knee-jerk reaction against people who challenge your beliefs. ;-) We’re on your side. It’s just steel sharpening steel, especially for us dads.

  3. by Nick Shell

    On May 22, 2012 at 9:19 pm

    Thanks Joe!