A recent poll of mothers of young children conducted by Michigan’s C.S. Mott Children’s Hospital reveals that almost two-thirds of the 475 participating mothers said they feel judged for their child-rearing abilities.
The poll indicates that most of the disapproval mothers sense, comes from within their own families, be it from their spouse, their parents or their parents in-law, all in equal parts, busting the myth that most of the criticism comes from the mother in-law. Despite the proliferation of social media, only seven percent of these mothers felt cyber-judged.
Sarah Clark, from the Child Health Evaluation and Research Center at the University of Michigan, who served as co-director of the poll, and Dr. Barbara Howard, a developmental behavioral pediatrician and assistant professor of pediatrics at Johns Hopkins School of Medicine, shared with the New York Times their insight regarding the poll’s results. Dr. Howard was not surprised by what the survey reveals, as in her ordinary course of work she repeatedly encounters mothers who are subjected to opinions and input about their children’s discipline, diet, and sleep habits.
Judgment on mothers’ parenting skills stems from different interpretations to the child’s behavior, and sometimes distant family members, who do not have the complete picture of the child’s day to day conduct, offer their viewpoint critically. On occasion, this leads mothers to limit the time spent with grandparents living at a distance. Dr. Howard stresses that intentions might be good, and a direct yet inclusive tactic that sets boundaries for criticism but is open and inclusive might be the best approach.
Ms. Clark emphasized that what mothers hear might not be criticism at all, but seems that way subjectively. That is why when mothers expect advice from day care or health care providers, whatever they hear does not seem to them like a critique. However, Dr. Howard believes that doctors might not be advising enough in regards to parenting and discipline issues, leading the poll to show only very low numbers for criticism coming from them.
Criticism has both a positive and a negative impact. Sometimes it leads mothers to go online or to a professional for further information, but 40 percent of the mothers in the survey said it made them feel insecure and even anxious. Dr. Howard believes not enough praise is given to mothers on their parenting, and that should be encouraged.