You Can’t Win–Peer Pressure in Parenting

December 07, 2018

You can’t win. Yep, you read that right. You simply cannot win.

Let me explain:

From the moment I found out I was having a baby, I became the recipient of advice from everyone. By “everyone,” I mean EVERYONE . . . from my parents to my in-laws to the random lady in the checkout line at any and every store. I was totally unprepared and shocked by the amount of people who had advice to offer. With this onslaught of well-meaning advice, one piece of advice in particular stood out to me: “There is so much peer pressure in parenting,” a friend warned. This rather baffled me, so I tucked it into my mental “For Future Pondering” folder. I had NO idea what she meant, or what it even would look like.

As soon as Madilyn was born, it made complete sense. I was baffled to realize that no matter what decision I made for this darling little girl whom I was now a mother to, someone would think that I was wrong! And not only would they think it, they wouldn’t be afraid to tell me! As a chronic people-pleaser, this was very concerning to me. As an equally chronic researcher of nearly every decision I make, it annoyed me that people assumed I was casually making uneducated decisions about the health and well-being of my daughter.

Then I had an epiphany one night during a meal at a conference. While giving Madilyn a bottle, one friend offhandedly remarked, “That’s all you’re feeding her?! No wonder she’s so skinny.”

Within an hour, another friend came by to say hello. Noticing the empty bottle, she asked how much Madilyn was eating. I told her. She gasped and replied, “She’s eating that much?!? That’s why she’s so fat!”

While I did, and still do, consider both of these ladies friends, neither of them were close enough to me to know the reason Madilyn was drinking that amount of formula. They didn’t know if she was just starting to drink that many ounces, or if I’d recently had to lower the amount.

They were just well-meaning friends offering an opinion . . . that inadvertently contributed to my already-looming insecurities as a mom.

And that was when I realized: I simply couldn’t win. No matter what I did, someone would think I was doing it wrong

With that realization, I determined to try to become more confident in myself and less worried about what other people thought of my parenting. God gave this baby to ME. I truly believe when God gives you a baby, the “mama instincts” come with it. I’ve learned to trust in those instincts. After all, nobody knows a child better than its mama.

After I cleared that hurdle, then came the time to begin to discipline. And my oh my, the peer pressure kicked in at full force.

Pressure to discipline.

Pressure not to discipline.

Pressure to let my child act like a raving lunatic in public because “You expect too much from her.”

Pressure to tighten the reins and be stricter than I was comfortable with because “Other people don’t let their kids do that.”

And that, my friends, is what every mom deals with to some degree. The pressure that what she’s doing isn’t right, or isn’t quite good enough. I’ve had no less comments about discipline than I did that one night about the amount of formula. I’ve also found the older kids get, the more decisions you have to make as a parent, thus inviting more criticism from those around you.

One thing I’ve learned is for certain: “Everyone has an opinion on how you should parent and on the decisions you make concerning your children. The public consensus is usually this: Whatever you’re doing, and whatever decision you’re making, you’re wrong.”

Sad as it is, this is the reality for many moms.

To my fellow moms: Unfortunately, the peer pressure isn’t going away. People will always think we’re not doing it quite right. So what can we do about it? We can start by changing ourselves, and the way we think and speak to our mama friends.

 > We can try our best to not be as concerned with others’ opinions on our parenting. (I’m still working on this!)

> We can be more careful with our words to fellow moms.

> We can be slower to pass judgment on a situation we see when all we see is what is happening at that ONE moment in time.

> We can do our best not to give advice unless someone asks us for it. 

> Find friends who are like-minded in the areas of discipline.

> Find friends who are a safe place for you to vent and who will offer nonjudgmental advice when you ask for it.

> And ultimately, we can be that friend to someone.

And remember . . . Mama, if you’re doing your best, you’re doing a great job.