As a baby, my daughter Anna refused to wear her shoes or socks. Not a big deal if we lived on a sunny beach. But we live in Montana—and she was born in late October. So the first line of the mother-daughter battlefield was drawn: I put her shoes and socks on, she worked them off. If she was lucky, she'd push them off when we were in transit and they'd be lost forever. Score: Anna 1, Mom 0.
Then one day, while we were on vacation, a stranger wandered into the crossfire. She was older, better rested, better dressed, and apparently a self-proclaimed authority on baby podiatry. She took one look at Anna in the hotel lobby and screeched, "Ooooh! Look at the tiny little baby with the cold feet!"
"They aren't cold," I said, instantly defensive. "Feel them!" I thrust my daughter's feet, dangling from my chest as she hung in her front carrier, toward the woman's hands. Her parting shot as she cradled Anna's darling little tootsies: "They're like ice!" I turned and left, holding my daughter's (warm, I tell you!) feet and feeling pretty ridiculous.
Almost every mom has a similar story about when someone's criticism made her fume. The trigger can be anything from an idle remark—for instance, your mother-in-law wondering aloud why you have to nurse so often—to comments that seem specifically designed to hurt (the mom who declares within earshot that she'd never let her child have formula, right as you give your baby a bottle). In fact, people don't have to use words at all—a disapproving stare from your sister as you turn on the TV for your toddler can speak volumes.
Of course, in the immortal words of my own mother, what does it matter what other people think? Well, it shouldn't, but too often it does. Here's how to manage meddlers, well-meaning or not: