I just had to write this post and although I didn’t know what I was going to write before I started, I knew I had to write something. Most parents by now will have heard of the term ‘Perfect Parent Brigade’. If you haven’t then basically it is a term given (usually over social media) to parents who believe they know better and who tell other parents, basically, how to be a parent. Almost all parents will have been on the receiving end of comments from a member of the ‘perfect parent brigade’ and especially if you became a mum/dad after all the Facebook parenting groups and pages began. Our grandparents/parents were quite lucky that they missed out on social media when they were a new parent because although yes it does have its good points it can usually do more damage than good.
As a fairly new mum (to a 2 year old) I know first hand just how horrible it can get and just how much it can affect your life. Us women especially find it very difficult to ignore comments that we shouldn’t rise to. It can be so tempting to just say something back and comment and stick up for yourself, your parenting and your child. It can be so extremely tempting to share your opinion and your experience also. I believe this to be because us parents are always seeking some sort of approval sub consciously. When you become a parent, you have never done it before, you can’t prepare yourself enough and you do what you believe to be your best and therefore you want to feel that what you are doing is right, is normal and is OK. We are constantly doubting ourselves, over analysing what we do, punishing ourselves for snapping and losing our cool (even though we are only human and it happens to everyone).
We know we shouldn’t comment on an opposing opinion on controlled crying but have this niggling feeling to comment. Even if you don’t comment, just reading it can stress you out, it can play on your mind for ages after and make you feel angry. Why do we feel like that? How can one comment that wasn’t even aimed at you personally make you so wound up? It’s because as a parent we take everything personally. Because being a parent is emotionally and mentally hard. Being called a bad parent is probably the worst thing that could ever be said to a mum or dad. No other insult could come close to it. We naturally feel the need to defend ourselves and it brings out that protective instinct like a mother bear protecting her cub.
So why do so many parents feel the need to join the ‘perfect parent brigade’? The simple answer to this, is just that there are lot of nasty people out there, but I have another theory. A lot of people when they become a parent feel pretty overwhelmed, they don’t always feel like they know what they are doing or that they are always in complete control. So when they feel they have advice or that they can ‘educate’ another parent they feel they have some kind of control over what they are doing. At some point in most parent’s lives we have all joined the PPB, I know I have on occasion but I didn’t realise I was doing it at the time. It could be a new parent friend saying how their baby is sleeping in their bed and you comment about how much better it is for them to be in their own bed because of this reason and that. Sometimes we even mistake it for giving useful advice and yet even though if someone said that same thing to us it would be annoying, we don’t even realise it is at the time.
The worst is the comments on Facebook groups. The nastiness on those posts is enough to completely shatter a new mum in to a million pieces. I know very well just how much this can affect you mentally. I had one mum constantly putting me down and having digs from the moment I had my little boy and it made me completely miserable. I remember how it ruined a lot of my time as a brand new parent and it knocked my confidence completely. I barely left the house, barely spoke to anyone. I spent every second with my baby, at home on my own and it took me a very long time to break that cycle. The only reason I mention this is because I know this is happening to so many new parents out there right now. Especially mum’s because of how emotionally exhausted we are after having a baby, how self conscious we are due to our new post baby body and all our hormones are going crazy. I want any mum out there who is feeling this way, has experienced the PPB or who is regularly biting her tongue from comments made, to know that you have to stay strong. You aren’t the only one affected by it and it isn’t silly to be upset because of a comment some stranger has made on Facebook. Lots of people will tell you to ignore the comments and to stop paying attention, but it’s not in our nature to ignore them. We naturally want to fight our corner and stand up for ourselves and our children. We aren’t silly for letting the comments affect us and wind us up. But all I can say is try and not let it ruin your time with your little one. Don’t allow it to fill your head with doubt and stop you from being the kind of parent you want to be.
The next time a new parent is talking about their baby being in bed with them evey night (just an exmple) and you are thinking ‘why God why?’ be someone from the FPB (friendly Parent Brigade) and say, I bet you have great cuddles. Make that parent feel normal, feel like they are ok. You don’t even have to agree with what they are saying or doing, just comment on what you can, like how it’s great that the baby is sleeping so well in bed with them. You might have just made that parent’s day by making them feel accepted, not judged. If a parent believes that controlled crying is the technique they want to use with their child don’t send them a link to a study online about why they shouldn’t do it. There are studies for and against every technique out there. Don’t assume that when they say they do controlled crying that means they abandon their child until they shut up. Maybe they stand outside the door for 2 mins and if the baby doesn’t start to settle they go in and pick them up and try it again at a later date. Maybe it works perfectly for them and their child. There will still be people reading this thinking, yes but if you read this study and that study there is proof that blah blah blah. Just stop! EVERY child is an individual. Just as some adults respond better to tough love and some need a soft approach you can’t tarnish every child with the same brush. Studies might be for the majority but they do not allow for everyone and even then there are so many problems with the studies that essentially render them unreliable. One minute there is a study that proves dummies can be dangerous for a sleeping baby and the next it proves that they are actually great at helping prevent cot death. Both studies at one point or another ‘proved’ both and therefore you can’t lump every parent and child in with the people who were in a recent study.
A lot of the people who end up joining the perfect parent brigade aren’t bad people or meaning to be nasty. They don’t even realise that they are in the ‘brigade’ a lot of the time but this is something as parents we need to start recognising. Start thinking about whether your advice is actually advice or telling someone how to parent their own child. Is this advice about to make a new parent feel absolutely horrendous? Everytime you feel that need to tell another parent some ‘home truths’ and the do’s and don’ts just stop and think before you speak. Do you personally know their child? Is their child in real danger? Is the child actually being neglected by a parent? If the answer is ‘no’ to these questions then keep your opinion to yourself. Do you really want to be part of the PPB? Is it really worth being one of THOSE parents just because you felt you knew better? As I say I am not going to pretend I am perfect, I have done it before and only when remembering just how awful I felt about it, just how much it shattered me in to a million pieces and just how bullied I felt by other mums (grown women!) did it make me think twice about what I would say from now on.
Please note that I mention co-sleeping and controlled crying as examples in this post as I know they are two pretty popular debatable subjects between parents. I am not saying either is wrong whatsoever, they are just perfect examples of topics that the PPB love to comment on.
Have you ever experienced the wrath of the PPB? Have you ever joined the ‘brigade’ (I think most of us have at one point even if it was unintentional)? Let us know below your experience and lets see just how much it is affecting new parents today!