Casting call: Actors needed to play the role of parent

This post might be controversial. Maybe people will totally judge me over it. But I am over worrying about being judged … and this post explains one of the reasons why.

Picture this:

You’re in the park and your son is playing confidently on the equipment designed for his age group. You’re chilling on a bench nearby – maybe you even check your phone. Another mum turns up and is keeping close to her son as he climbs the stairs, and she always catches him at the bottom of the slide. All the time she is talking to him loudly in a conversational tone, loudly encouraging him to continue being totally awesome at playing in the park.

What do you do?

If the answer is carrying on doing what you’re doing, then well done. You may be immune to the scourge of acting like a parent.

But you know what I’ve been known to do? I start copying the other mum I see at the park. I go and stand near where my son is playing, talking to him and stuff. Because I (almost subconsciously) worry that the other mum will judge me if I don’t.

I react to my instinct that in public I must parent in a way that other people – especially other parents – will approve of.

Do you ever change your natural parenting behaviour when you’re in public? Do you start acting like you think other people want you to? Some examples I see and/or do every day:

  • Correcting my children loudly when they misbehave in public, so that others know that I’m not letting them get away with it. But NEVER shouting.
  • Being excessively involved in my children’s play when I have an audience.
  • Acting more attentive than normal in making sure my child doesn’t fall over or otherwise sustain an injury. Hovering. Otherwise someone might think I am neglectful.
  • NEVER leaving my children alone in the car, not even for a moment while I put my trolley in the trolley park. Even if this means dangerously carrying armfuls of groceries along with a child and any number of other items.
  • Making loud comments about limiting screen time when they play with their tablets in public.
  • Worrying about whether others will approve of what food I feed my children. Making excuses for biscuits.

The parenting performance

I am perfectly happy with my parenting techniques that I use in private. There’s nothing wrong with them. And yet I almost compulsively adjust them in response to what I perceive as other people’s expectations. I’d be surprised to hear that I’m the only one.

Modern-day parenting is full of the expectation of being present and accounted for. “Helicopter parenting” is the fashion. We make sure our children are well-behaved and polite, are fed healthy food, play with educational toys, bathe regularly, brush their teeth, and are never put in harm’s way. Of course we do those things. I can’t speak for others, but I suspect I’m not the only one who’s totally insecure about this. I know I’m doing the right things, but I am so worried that other people think I’m doing it wrong.

And so my public parenting has become a performance. I feel as though every time I go in public, I’m walking onto the parenting stage.

I’m so over it

Is it all in my head? I don’t think so, actually. I’ve been known to judge other parents. I’ve heard other parents judging other parents. I’m almost certain that people sometimes judge me.

It’s human nature to be judgemental. We can’t judge people for being judgers because that just creates a big ugly judge-y snowball.

What we need – what I need – is confidence. Most parents are doing the best they can with the tools they have. We need to believe this about ourselves. Letting go of our parenting insecurities will make us happier – and happy parents raise happy children.

Parenting is hard enough without worrying about what other people think. So the next time you’re at the park – go ahead and hover if it makes you happy. But not because you think that the mum over there checking her phone thinks you should.

A Mum Track Mind
Quite Frankly She Said Sunday Best
My Petit Canard
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24 thoughts on “Casting call: Actors needed to play the role of parent

  1. At 7 months old I think I’m forgiven for being next to Piglet all the time in the park……. because he’s generally just in his pram haha But I want to bring him up to be independent, to be able to play by himself and not need me to be by his side constantly. I need my space too! I try not to care how any one else is parenting but thats sometimes easier said than done #fortheloveofBLOG

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    1. Oh absolutely! I hover over my toddler for good safety reasons sometimes. However I also do it when I know he’s fine but I worry what others think. It is hard not to care what others think. I suppose social consciousness has a useful place in the world too. Thanks for commenting x

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  2. Guilty. You captured these tentative parenting times so beautifully. What does your kid think about this? I certainly do some of the behaviors you write above. Haha. I am also trying though to not let what others may think bother me. It is getting easier to let my older kid play independently on the playground as he is gets older. I am really close by and watching him but unless he asks for my help, I don’t interfere.
    I loved this post.

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    1. Thank you! I hope I made it clear that I don’t mean to judge people for worrying what others think! I think it’s the normal thing and a natural social instinct, but I also think it’s important to be mindful of it and maybe to push back against expectations sometimes. I appreciate having you as such a regular reader and commenter.

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  3. I love this, it’s so true! I’m constantly telling my kids to quiet and settle down, especially in the grocery store. It’s probably confusing to them, to see us acting differently in public. I hope I don’t inhibit them, though, because sometimes it’s ok to be a bit raucous!

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  4. Oh I love this post!! You’ve totally cracked it!! Parenting is tough enough without feeling obliged to put on a show for the rest of mankind, and yet we do!! #fortheloveofBLOG

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  5. I try to act as I normally would in public, but I think we are always worried someone will judge us. My daughter (who’s 11) is wearing a support boot at the moment as she has fractured her ankle (at school), but when we are out you can see people looking and you know they are thinking I have been neglectful or something.
    #fortheloveofBLOG

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    1. It’s terrible to be made to feel as if your daughter’s fractured ankle is your fault! I know I’ve felt absolutely drowned with guilt when my toddler has fallen and gotten a bruise. You feel as though you are responsible for saving them from these things, but you can’t save them from every ouchy! I hope she heals up well. Thanks for commenting.

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  6. Love this! It’s soooooo true & ive began to believe I’m a bit too passive / blase because I don’t feel as hovery or alert as many others seem.. & I worry I’m too laid back / not on it enough and definitely ‘perform’ for others so they don’t catch on & judge me for being neglectful. I was v anxious as a new mum & on some level decided I can’t live life on tender hooks, therefore to relax, encourage independence & trust myself that I’m switched on enough to ensure my sons safety& independence is good for him. He is also excellent at communicating when he wants or needs things which helps me let go. To some others I feel I’m too laid back..i think some of it is in my head, but not all.. As you say people are judgemental but what we do with those judgements is the key thing.. Ie catch ourselves & remind ourselves that everyone has the right to parent in the way that’s right for them & to accept diffrrences in approach & show each other solidarity & support – because parenting is hard enough! Such an excellent post, captured perfectly. Thank you for raising it😄

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    1. Thanks for sharing your own experience with this. It’s difficult to talk about how much we doubt ourselves sometimes! But you are spot on that it’s about what we do with the judgements and we should support each other. Thanks for commenting!

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  7. hmm interesting – i think im definitely guilty of this sometimes, although not all of the time. I’ve spent enough time actually playing with my kids in playgrounds to just sit and look at my phone now if they’ll let me get away with it! the playground is for them , not me. #fortheloveofblog

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  8. What a great post! I will never act like a different mum in public. If my kids are missbehaving, they will get a row outdoors publicly just like they do indoors. #MarvMondays

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  9. I think that I would be the patent like you sitting on the side lines watching my daughter play whilst I checked my phone. There is nothing wrong with that. We all parent differently and we should all respect that, whatever we do it providing we give our children the love and support that they need that’s what matters. Don’t feel guilty, the other Mum was too busy playing with her son to judge. Thanks for linking up at #fortheloveofBLOG. Claire x

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  10. Such an interesting post – in a good way! Youve raised a question and conversation that I’ve never had with other parents before. My parenting style is a bit of a combination of helicopter parenting and sitting on the sidelines. Generally helicopter parenting when my daughter is doing something new for the first time or not feeling very confident, and sitting on the sidelines when I know shes fine and is happy to get on with things independently. I dont really feel like I need to change that when I am around other parents, although I can see why someone might want to or how easy it might be to feel like you should. There is definitely a temptation to do as others do sometimes! Great post, thanks for sharing it on #MarvMondays. Emily

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