An Open Letter to Mum Shamers and Judgers from this Mum Who’s Had Enough!

Dear Woman at the Shops Who Judges Me Way Too Quickly…

Okay, so we’re all a bit judgy at times. But, when you, who have no children, shake your head at my parenting I just don’t get it.

Likewise, mum who opts to do things different than I do, make different decisions or parent in your own style – I also don’t understand how you can sit back, watch me and judge.

My son has always been, um let’s just say spirited. He’s a confident kid to the max, knows what he wants and has never been one of those ‘only speaks when spoken to’ children. And, he didn’t always listen to me. When he was three he wanted a cookie at the shopping mall (who wouldn’t, those things are massive and filled with chocolatey goodness?). Yet, dinner was only an hour away. So, the answer was no.

His response? To throw his toy car at me, splitting my lip open. As I picked my son up, my dripping blood, and carried him out of the food court you judged me. You sat with your frozen yoghurt, casually texting your other childless friends and glared with that, “How could she forcibly pick that adorable little boy up and carry him away? Is a cookie really THAT bad?” Or, maybe you rolled your eyes and thought, “What an idiot! She doesn’t know how to parent. That kid is so out of control.” In either case, you judged me, my child and my parenting skills. Without any context, knowledge or empathy.

An Open Letter to Mum Shamers and JudgersI’m not alone. We’re all being judged. It seems like every day there’s a new mum getting virtually bullied into oblivion. The moment the media catches wind of a child-related story that involves mum (keep in mind, I’m saying mum and not parents), everything is automatically her fault. No conversation, no explanation, just her fault. Case in point, the recent shooting of Harambe, the silverback gorilla whose enclosure a 3-year-old boy fell into at the Cincinnati Zoo in the U.S. Well before anyone actually investigated what happened, the Internet was on fire with comments. Facebook comments ranged from, “Mother should have been watching child. She should get fined for child endangerment” to “The mother needs to be charged with killing an endangered animal” and, “That stupid mother should be jailed!”

As mums, we all know that a 3-year-old can slip away from you in the blink of an eye. At age three my son sat next to me playing with his trains. I was within inches of him. We were sitting on chairs that I had specifically picked out for their rounded edges. One moment he was happily pushing Thomas along the track and the next he was on the floor bleeding. Before I could grab him, he had fallen off the chair and managed to hit his head against the leg. A few stitches later he was okay, but I was still shaken.

I don’t know what happened that day at the Cincinnati Zoo. I wasn’t there. I do know there are more than a few people popping up on the news and online saying they were there and giving their opinions on the ‘bad mummy’. Odd how so many people overheard the child saying he wanted to go into the enclosure, saw the mum look away, saw the child walk towards the enclosure – and not one of them stopped him. Everyone seemed to notice the mum supposedly ‘neglecting’ her child, but no one noticed the child hopping through a fence and into an animal’s enclosure?

It’s all about judge first and ask questions later. I’m not saying that I’ve never judged another parent. Before becoming a mum I worked with young children. I constantly questioned the parents (silently – this was during the pre-Facebook days) and if what they were doing was right. When a 4-year-old hauled off and smacked his mum, I thought, “How can she let him do that? She must kind of suck at this parenting thing.” After becoming a mum (and having my own child hit me or more than once occasion), I understand.

I’m not saying that there aren’t neglectful or abusive parents. There are. But, where do we draw the line between opinion and fact? So, dear childless casual observer, think before you judge. Don’t assume that you know me, know my child or know what I should do in any given situation. And please, don’t ‘imagine’ what you’d do as a parent, tell me that I’m doing it wrong because you read one child development book or feel that you could do a better job.

Remember, someday you may have a child, and someday someone else will judge you.

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Erica Loop is a mum, parenting writer and educator with an MS in child development. Along with writing for websites such as PBS Parents, care.com, Scary Mommy, mom.me, Modern Mom, education.com and others, she also is the creator of a kids' activities and art blog.

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