Judgement and bullying doesn't just happen to children
Being a parent comes hand-in-hand with being or feeling judged, these days, particularly with the prominence of social media. It’s much more common than you think it is, with 6 in 10 mothers in a recent report declaring they have been criticised for their parenting skills. But shaming a parent doesn’t seem to be limited to their ability to be a parent, with targets also including decisions made regarding lifestyle, work life and social life.
Shaming, judgement and criticism are just some of the ways adults bully other adults. Instead of using physical aggression or name-calling, like we often see in cases of child bullying, parent bullying can include alienation from other parents, rude behaviour, dirty looks, spreading rumours, and gossip.
Parents can face bullying quite substantially across their entire journey through parenthood and, sadly, it can come from strangers, other parents, work colleagues, friends, and even family members.
Becoming a parent can already be an incredibly lonely and isolating experience, and full of self-doubt; especially for mothers. Parents will instinctively try to reach out and connect with others, both offline and online, for normalisation, confidence and socialisation, which is why it can be quite overwhelming and stressful when they end up facing copious amounts of judgement from other people, including other parents.
Often bullying stems from a decision we’ve made that doesn’t align with someone else’s values and beliefs. For a parent, this can be anything from breast versus bottle, co-sleeping, baby-led weaning, using the ‘cry-it-out’ method, returning to work early versus being a stay-at-home parent… there are so many critics! As a result, this can put a parent off connecting with other parents altogether, especially when they are probably already their own worst critic; constantly judging and second-guessing their choices as a parent.
Fortunately, there are ways to escape the judgement and bullying that comes with parenthood, outside of approaches that involve avoidance or confrontation.
Most people have probably heard the term ‘mindfulness’ floating around for a while now, but possibly never fully understood what it involves.
Mindfulness is deliberately being present in the moment, with openness rather than criticism.
The non-judgemental component of mindfulness practice promotes self-acceptance, as well as the acceptance of others. Rather than simply avoiding people and situations that provoke bullying behaviours, we can find it easier to see another person’s point of view and develop empathy and compassion towards that person in the process.
Over time, with ongoing cultivation of mindfulness practice, we are able to see past the judgement from others and accept that this is sometimes part of being a parent in today’s society. We start to see the bigger picture more clearly; that is, people are out there making choices based on their own knowledge, instincts, experiences and values… and other parents, in particular, are making every decision out of pure love for their children.
Mindfulness can be practiced in many ways and doesn’t take much time; most of us are probably already doing it, to some extent. Some mindful activities may feel more natural than others, and some may take a little more time to get used to. With practice, becoming mindful of ourselves and our surroundings will come with less effort.
Check out our ‘Mindfulness Matters‘ article for some effortless examples of mindful moments to try.
Keep Creating New Connections
The greatest influence on a parent’s ability to create new relationships is to overcome the fear of being judged as a parent, especially if they have already endured bullying. Being a parent is a tough gig, but it’s vital to remember that there is a great deal that actually unites us in this journey through parenthood.
Take a look at some of the most popular mum-related videos and blog posts online. The vast majority of these highlight parenting ‘fails’ or imperfections. Parents love seeing or reading about other parents failing or struggling; not because they enjoy gloating about not failing, but because it reminds them that other parents struggle as much as they do – going through the same fears, worries, and joys.
We may all differ in some way; make different decisions, have different interests, have different daily routines, have different priorities… but reaching out to make new parent friends shouldn’t feel as scary as it does, despite the prevalence of bullying. It’s all about finding what connects you to someone else.
There are an endless number of ways that people, in general, meet new friends. Here are 7 key ways to find new, worthwhile friends as a parent:
- 1. Make a new connection with another parent at work by asking about their kids, sharing a story about your kids, or simply talking about the trials and tribulations of parenting
- 2. If your kids are young, join a parents group or baby class and chat about age-related challenges, then arrange to meet up again for a coffee date
- 3. Smile at every parent you meet; it may be the only smile they get all day and could lead to a conversation
- 4. Visit a local park or play centre and start a conversation with a parent there on their own about your children, then arrange for future playdates at the same location
- 5. If your children are older, strike up a conversation with a parent on their own also attending an extra-curricular or sporting event, then swap phone numbers or connect on Facebook
- 6. Sign up for the free Mush app (a bit like Tinder for mothers), or similar apps, create your profile and scroll through other profiles to connect with like-minded, local mothers in your area
- 7. Find a reason to leave the house and talk to people that you may have something in common with; a new class that interests you, or join a group of like-minded people
The key is for parents to get out there and start talking to people without the intention to make new friends, but to simply connect. Friendships will grow with those we feel most comfortable with – the right people (i.e. ones that won’t be looking to bully us in any way) form a continuous connection over time.
If you need any help with overcoming the effects of parental bullying in your workplace, or would like to know more about our parent support programs, then please give us a call today on 0402 294 953. We’d love the opportunity to help!