When a new mom friend told Andrea P. that she was “really disappointed” in her choice of stroller and that her non-regimented potty-training method would never work, the Seattle mother of two knew it was time to distance herself. “She had an opinion on everything I did, and everything was wrong—from when my kids napped to the fact that they got baths every night,” says Andrea. “Why did she care when I cleaned my children?!”
This woman may seem deserving of her own SNL skit—“The Sanctimommy”—but these my-way-or-the-highway parenting put-downs are hardly unique. They happen every day at playgrounds and playdates all over the country—and they're causing real damage. In a recent Parenting survey on the subject, 97 percent of the respondents admitted to being critical of others themselves. But it doesn't take a poll to prove that passions run high these days. On the Internet especially, everyone is an expert and anonymity breeds ruthlessness. As a mom blogger, I'm subject to all sorts of parenting judgment. I was once told I should have my children taken away because my 2-year-old sang a song made up entirely of the word s#@t. Just try Googling a really controversial parenting decision. When parenting.com recently covered the American Academy of Pediatrics's new policy on infant circumcision, one pro-foreskinner remarked: “I think it is child abuse and molestation of a sexual organ. It's disgusting and anyone who does it should be charged with assault.” Tell us how you really feel! Can you imagine saying that to someone's face?
Where you have your baby; whether you breastfeed, co-sleep, sleep-train, vaccinate, stay at home, go back to work; the food you serve; the TV they watch; the schools they attend—everything is fair game for scrutiny and everyone has an opinion. “Talking about parenting has become like talking about politics or religion or money—you just don't do it,” says Denise Schipani, South Huntington, NY, author of Mean Moms Rule. Schipani stopped opening up about her preferences for schedules and discipline because “I was met with too many gaping mouths and eye rolls at the bus stop, it just wasn't worth it,” she says.