When we have children, all at once it feels like the entire world is watching, waiting for you to make a single mistake. Every sideways glance feels like judgement, every comment is an criticism, and the tug of war between well meaning advice and your own instincts exhausts you. There are watchers and nosy neighbours at every turn.
Watchers and the Nosy Neighbours
As parents, we assume too much and take everything to heart – it just can’t be helped. As time has gone on I’ve learned there are two types of people out there – those who care and those who judge. On the surface they can feel like the same people, but their motivations set them apart.
Everyone fears the Nosy Neighbours
They’re the one calling the police because we let our kids walk to the park alone. They’re the ones gossiping to their friends about how we had the toddler outside just below freezing without a hat. The horror.
They definitely are judging you. Back in my day, they say, as if their day was so much better. Or maybe they’re your age and don’t have kids, those people always know everything. Maybe they have a young baby and think they know everything about every age. Maybe even, if you’re extremely unlucky, sanctimommy lives next door.
How to spot the Nosy Neighbours:
- They talk about other people’s business that they saw way too much
- They offer criticism but no help
- When they see a child unsupervised or in need of help, they call the authorities or threaten to
- They make snap judgments in a second
- They insist their unhelpful advice is the only way
Judging now and then doesn’t make you a Nosy Neighbour and I think anyone reading this will probably understand the type I’m referring to here. Sometimes we call them “well meaning” strangers. They really do think what they’re doing is for the best, but they’re definitely not helpful in the parenting world. These people are best to avoid. If you’re worried about them judging you, you’re probably right.
So what is Watcher, exactly?
These are the people who you aren’t sure about whether or not they’re judging. The ones who seem to stare a little bit too long, the ones who drive by really slow when your kids are outside and you’re watching from the window. These people are your friends and they used to make up the majority of small communities. Watchers watch out for kids, for parents, and for their community.
Yesterday my just turned 3 year old was outside in the front. The Nosy Neighbour would see this as unsupervised because you couldn’t see me. The Watcher would see that she was fully bundled in snow gear, not escaped. They would see she never went anywhere near the road. If the watched for long enough they would have seen me open the door to her before she even knocked, proof I was watching from our extremely windowed house. If the Watcher was really concerned, they would have knocked on my door to make sure.
How to spot the Watchers:
- Pays attention to your child when it seems like they could be unsupervised or in danger
- Jumps in to help when needed but tries not to overstep
- Understands where you’re coming from and doesn’t make harsh judgements
- Often makes friendly comments (you may take these wrong)
- Looks to you for approval before approaching your child
- Usually is a fellow parent or caregiver
Watchers are the people who point to your child when you lose them in a crowd. They’re the ones who hand you your baby’s sock that fell off. They open the door for the stroller. They catch your shopping cart rolling away. You nearly gave them a heart attack that one time you were putting one twin in the car and left the other one in the adjacent cart return so the cart wouldn’t roll away and they thought your 6 month old was all alone. OK that one was personal.
When it comes to what people are thinking, it’s fair to assume most people are like you. Think about what kinds of things go through your mind when you see someone, especially with kids. Are you judging? If you want to break the cycle of judgement change your thinking. Stop assuming. Stop gossiping. Look out for a community. Ask yourself: