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"Am I a Good Enough Mom?"


WebMD Commentary from "Redbook" Magazine

By Ylonda Gault Caviness
Redbook Magazine Logo
You bet you are. And don't let anyone tell you different. Here's how to deflect anyone who tries to steal your mommy mojo.

When we first caught each other's gaze, the older woman gave me a tender, knowing smile. I guess I was awash in that bleary-eyed, new-mother glow. Or maybe it was my unhurried, aimless push of the stroller that signaled I was new at this mom thing. How kind of her to offer a reassuring gesture, I thought. The gentle lady came closer, peeking into the carriage. Suddenly, all sweetness faded. She glared at me and scolded: "No hat? That baby is going to catch her death of cold!"

I was mortified. In my heart, I know I shouldn't have let it bother me. But in my head, dueling emotional responses ranged from defiance — Who does that crotchety bat think she is? — to defeat — Maybe I'm not old enough, wise enough, or good enough to mother my child the right way.

By now, with three kids in tow, I've weathered just about every meddlesome opinion, disapproving eye, and outright countermand you can imagine from what I call the Parenting Peanut Gallery: the folks in your life who sit on the sidelines and heckle you with child-rearing judgments — or, even worse, flout your mom rules and policies behind your back — with no regard for your feelings or authority.

While these digs don't leave visible scarring, they can undercut your natural mothering instincts and leave you plain old fighting mad. "There is no shortage of people ready to pick apart your parenting skills," says Michele Borba, author of 12 Simple Secrets Real Moms Know. "It can be hurtful, but when you let them shake your confidence in who you are as a mom, that's when the real damage is done."

The secret to being a great mother is believing in yourself. And one of the best ways to do that is to silence that Parenting Peanut Gallery, once and for all. Here's how:

Stand up for yourself.

Address criticism as soon as it happens, so you don't hold in your anger and let it fester. "We women spend a lot of time questioning whether something should or shouldn't make us angry instead of confronting our true feelings," says Borba. "Don't be rude, but let a criticizer know they've crossed a line."

It took many hits for me to finally figure out that in order to feel confident about my parenting, I had to put busybodies in their place. With my firstborn, I often let an off-the-cuff remark from an uppity mom on the playground go seemingly unnoticed, so as not to make a scene. But afterward, I'd be burning up inside. Nowadays, I don't let people get away with offering up annoying advice, and I've managed to come up with some pretty witty retorts. Recently, a nanny at the playground said to me rather haughtily, "Hot sauce will get your son to stop sucking his fingers." I forced a smile and answered: "Thanks. He's not yet 2, but if he's still sucking them at 22, I'll take you up on that."

Not so quick with a comeback? Bria Simpson, author of The Balanced Mom: Raising Your Kids Without Losing Yourself, suggests using this easy script: "I know you have different ideas about parenting. I respect yours and I need you to respect mine."

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