Dear Stranger: Stop Telling Me How to Raise My Kid!
What is it about having a baby
that makes perfect strangers feel entitled to ask personal questions and offer unsolicited parenting advice
Once, my husband was in line at the post office with our 5-month old baby sleeping in a sling. A woman behind him smiled, said hello, then asked, "Boy or a girl?" Bob replied, "Boy. Five months old." The woman then leaned in and asked, "Is he breastfeeding
"Not right now!" he told her.
The woman, oblivious to his sarcasm and annoyance then went on to tell him the benefits of breast milk over formula
A similar thing happened to me at a picnic. I was offering my son a bottle
and a woman walked by with a couple little kids, maybe 5 and 7-years old. She paused, and I smiled, expecting the usual, "Oooh, what a cute baby!" remark. But what she said was, "What's in that bottle?!"
Had I been quicker on my feet, I might have calmly said, "Sweetened condensed milk mixed with formula with a small shot of whiskey. Why?" But being a new mom and afraid of doing something wrong, I stuttered, "It's breast milk. I pump. I don't think him drinking from a bottle is bad. Do you?" I was scared, ever fearful of being branded a bad mom.
It's no wonder. People are always watching how we parent and always commenting on it. "Do you think your baby is warm enough?" "It's too sunny out. You shouldn't have the baby out in this." "Have you started him on solids
yet?" "You're starting him on solids too soon."
I'm an educated adult. I have a job and manage to keep a roof over my head. I was fully capable of getting pregnant and carrying a baby to term and giving birth. He's growing and thriving just fine. Is it really anyone's business how I parent? I've heard the expression: "It takes a village to raise a child." But if everyone wants to have a hand in my parenting my kid, they better start chipping in to buy clothes and pay for the pediatrician!
I wouldn't dream of telling other people how to parent! Can you imagine passing a family having lunch and saying, "You're feeding them French fries and hamburgers?! Don't you know there's a childhood obesity
epidemic going on?"
We all want the world's children to grow up in a healthy environment. But where do we draw the line? How much is it my own business how I raise my child? Is it ever OK to just say, "Butt out!"?