The New Judgement Zone: Parents in the Public Eye

free range kid

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Parenting is becoming — or has become — a sort of turf war. The “mommy wars” of course are not new.  Nursing moms, formula moms, working moms, stay-at-home moms, homeschooling moms, public school, private school…. the debates go back as far as women have worked (and working class women have always worked).  Over the last few months we’ve seen several families brushing with the law about their parenting decisions.  We’ve seen uproars over representations of interracial and same-sex families on mainstream tv (remember the great Cheerios outrage?). We’ve seen lines drawn and sides taken.

I have written before about a study that I think is related to this increase in public judgement — the one proving increasing diversity in what constitutes a family, and the consequent lack of one particular family shape as the “typical American family.”  No family shape constitutes a third or more of US families.  I claim that the recent increased battles over kids playing or walking alone, free range kids, junk food as child abuse, and criminalizing parenting decisions, are various reactions to the quick and drastic changes we have seen in what families look like. As though we might think that if we can’t recognize what a family is, we can at least recognize what a family should do.

working mom

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We’ve also seen some interventions in this recent swell of side-taking.  This short video is great until you realize that it’s a commercial (I’m not for or against your decision about formula; I’m wary of business interests).  But it’s funny and has a nice happy ending and I’m a sucker for that.  🙂 Jen Hicks over at Real Life Parenting wrote a very funny letter to a Mom on the I-phone that got a huge response.  Over on The Mid, Megan Larkin tells free rangers that recreating 1985 isn’t doing anyone any favors.   I tossed my hat in the ring with a very personal admission about my own helicoptering style — though I’m trying to jump out of that helicopter.

World's Okayest Mom

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I want to suggest that the real change in family structures, and the inevitable cultural representations of these diverse families, has set off a new cultural anxiety about families.  What is a family, what does it do, and how do we make sense of it?  Has there been a time that “we all” felt such freedom to judge another family’s actions? Is the rage to judge driven by technologies of voice and opinion?  By fear of the innumerable shapes and sizes of families? Do you feel unsure or downright worried about your family or parenting decisions?

I propose that we band together, no matter where you are politically.  The no-judgement zone is so important to my Funnermother projects.  I’d love to hear your thoughts in the comments below, or on Funnermother on Facebook — come on over and chime in.


8 thoughts on “The New Judgement Zone: Parents in the Public Eye

  1. I have always said that all extremes are wrong… most of these issues started with the prevention of physical child abuse, when the concept of physical abuse got completely confused with proper discipline. This is a great article, and I really enjoyed it, and it is great to connect with you!


    • Thanks, Jacky! I feel strongly that moms have to band together, which means letting go of control of other moms, to start. Thanks for reading, looking forward to traveling this road together!


  2. It’s such an interesting thing to sit back and observe how so many families do their thing now. I learn some new things, feel good about some of the things I’m already doing, and every once in a while I even change how I’m parenting based on what I see. There’s so much to learn in life, and in parenting.

    And thanks so much for the shout!! XOXO


    • Thanks so much, Jen. I just love that Iphone piece, I have read it 100 times and still laugh. I hope we can all get the Judgy McJudgersons to just calm the F down. Love you, as you know. xx a


  3. You know… Deb and I wrote a four book series about a group of people… Shapeshifters, who were each lonely in their own way, didn’t fit in to the norm, and struggled to find their place in the world. They all (spoiler alert) find their way to each other and form a “Pack” or family of their own. Lions, wolves, tigers… doesn’t matter.

    It shouldn’t matter in real life either. A family is that group of people (or person) that a person bonds with, feels supported by, is able to freely express and receive love, and give loyalty to.

    With that definition, we could all just get over this bizarre concept of normal, which doesn’t exist, and move past judgement and comparing and straight into love and support of our communities.


    • I’m with you Wendi! We are all finding each other and banding together, and hopefully one day our pack will just include everyone. Idealism, yes, but I’m still pushing for it. 🙂 Thanks for reading and commenting, xx a


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