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Dealing with Criticism

by Becky Jackson

I realized one day recently that my biggest obstacle in doing my best as a mother is how I handle the criticism that inherently comes along with alternative parenting in our culture. I have been laughed at for homeschooling and for deciding to be an at-home mother in the first place. I have been drilled, scolded, and ridiculed for co-sleeping, planning to homebirth, and for CONTINUING to stay home with school-age children. The blunt criticism, raised eyebrows, and dropped lower jaws can feel like sticks and stones, but the condescending remarks seem to flow endlessly…

“When you get really poor, you’ll go to work.”—a teacher

“Homebirth? You’re the wrong species for that.”—a doctor

“Homeschool? Sounds like you just don’t want to let go.”—a friend

Sometimes I buckle under the scrutiny. It brings me down into a fog of depression and self-doubt. It is a heavy burden to feel so unaccepted and disapproved of by so many. The weight of it manifests itself in hindering my energy and enthusiasm for the lifestyle I have been so determined to create.

I have a tendency to dwell on the comment of a stranger or barely acquaintance for days. It hurts to be misunderstood, and I sometimes have trouble letting the remark roll off without penetrating my confidence.

However, recognizing and labeling these feeling for what they are really helps me to keep things in perspective. Just as reading to my children and washing dishes are part of my daily job description, so is staying positive and confident. When I focus on the perspectives of my husband and children rather than others, I am more productive in my mothering and homemaking duties. When I concentrate on what’s most important within my own family, I’m more patient and upbeat, my house is cleaner, and I do a better job of nurturing and teaching my children. When I am not paralyzed by feelings of ostracization or inferiority, I can better embrace and enjoy the work at hand.

I hope other moms like me will join me in my renewed commitment to respond to criticism by:

1. Staying connected with supportive moms who share similar goals and beliefs.
2. Refusing to be affected by careless comments for more than a few minutes.
3. Limiting time with known critics of my lifestyle and staying out of debates.
4. Staying confident that I’m making the right choices for my family.
5. Enjoying this special time in my life as a mother.

After all, most people are not making informed judgements with their questions and comments, but are probably being exposed to an entirely new concept in parenting that they’ve never encountered before. Before becoming a mother myself, I remember asking why in the world one of my cousins would quit her job to stay home with her baby. I guess the lesson is that the same person who’s drilling you now may be walking in your footsteps a few years down the road. Perhaps by exchanging ideas and choices in an open and positive light, we are helping to make a wider range of information and choices available and paving the road for future parents.

This article was first published on Suite101.com and is reprinted with permission from the author.
Copyright 2002 by Becky Jackson


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