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CTFD? Dear Parents: it’s OK to care.

by Meagan Francis on August 12, 2013

CTFD

I like to think of myself as a pretty laid-back parent.

Some of that seems to have come naturally – I’ll never forget the horror on a relative’s face when I dropped my oldest son’s pacifier on the ground, then nonchalantly gave it a quick rinse from my water bottle and popped it back in his mouth – while some of my relaxed stance has come from experience and time.

And I admit that I have found myself doing a little inward eye-roll when a fellow mom is absolutely freaking out about something I don’t rank as very important, like her child’s unwillingness to use the toilet at 18 months, or the fact that an older child sneezed in her baby’s general direction.

We’ve all got those things, though, right? The things we care about that others don’t. The things others care about that we don’t understand. It’s human nature.

The problem is, that not-getting-it can lead to conversations that imply moms are being ungrateful, selfish, paranoid or just plain high-strung if they put a lot of importance into things that others don’t, whether it’s disappointment over a birth plan gone awry or worry about GMO’s. 

When you’re the parent who isn’t much worried about whatever the topic du jour is, it’s only too easy to advocate “Calm The F*ck Down Parenting.”

But what about when you’re the parent who is?

I think we need to realize that the world of raising children goes beyond our own experience of it. That there are bigger concerns than our own particular ones. That just because we don’t have much of an opinion on a certain topic doesn’t make other parents wrong for caring - a lot – about said topic.

We can’t all carry a torch for every issue, no matter how worthy or important. There aren’t enough hours in the day. But just because something doesn’t get me worked up, doesn’t mean that the parent who cares about it is wrong.

Not every parent has the benefit of years of experience to soften her anxieties. And some parents have had experiences I can’t even imagine, don’t want to imagine, that have shaped the landscape of their personal convictions.

But I don’t have to have a certain experience or feel a certain way to understand why others might. It’s empathy, and the lack of it – the inability to put ourselves in another person’s shoes for a moment – is, I believe, what’s behind parent-on-parent judgment to begin with.

Yes, some parents do seem to worry about everything. And yes, I would love to help those parents calm the F down a little. (But in a nice, and not at all hostile way. Promise.)

On the other hand, some parents worry about a few things that are very close to their hearts, for reasons I may never fully understand. It’s simply not my place to tell them to calm down, shut up, or stop worrying.

Thoughtful discussion is wonderful. Casual dismissal of another person’s very real feelings is just plain rude – and it doesn’t change minds, either.

I’ve been guilty of this myself, via off-the-cuff Facebook updates or thoughtless comments. But then I remembered how it felt to be a newer mom and have a more “seasoned” mom blow off my concerns about chemicals or finding the perfect car seat. It didn’t help me relax; it just made me feel foolish and defensive.

Yes, it’s true that many of us have experienced judgment at the hands – or mouths – of other parents who care so deeply about their issue du jour that they lose perspective and compassion. 

And I don’t think that I owe any other parent a detailed defense of why I didn’t buy the highest-rated car seat or use cloth diapers the last three go-rounds.

But if I do choose to wade into a parenting topic I don’t really understand, I think I owe it more than a “CTFD” blow-off. And I have to be careful not to let any defensiveness I might be feeling harden into a mask of superior coolness.

So if you care a lot about special needs, or kids’ athletics, or multicultural parenting, or adoption, or standardized testing, or clean eating, or bicycle helmets, or pesticides in baby shampoo, or (fill in the blank), I can respect that. Even if said topic doesn’t much matter to me, or I haven’t given it a lot of thought.

Even if I just disagree with you.

It doesn’t make me wrong. It doesn’t mean you need to CTFD. It just means that we care about different things. 

And when it comes down to it, isn’t it better to live in a world where people care about things – even if they are different things?

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{ 12 comments… read them below or add one }

Kristin August 12, 2013 at 1:26 pm

Oh my gosh, I love this. I wish it would be as much of a meme as the CTFD.

I too am generally laid back, but there are certain things I care a lot about, and I don’t want to have to apologize for them. I’m happy to have a discussion about them, especially because I’ve usually done the research on a particular topic of interest and am happy to hear if there are alternative options. It hadn’t occurred to me that CTFD was just as judgemental as telling people they ‘should’ be doing something, but I didn’t love that message and really appreciate your perspective. Thanks for the post.

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Hands Free Mama August 12, 2013 at 2:03 pm

Meagan, thank you for this very human and accepting side to parents caring about issues that matter to them. I really like your perspective as a whole that it is not our place to try and dictate what another parent should worry about. My whole perspective changed when I began receiving messages from parents who had suffered great loss. I realized that each one of us has walked a completely different road. We are in different places, with different fears and experiences. This realization helped me see that although someone might seem overly concerned about a parenting issue, it is not my place to judge. Thank you for putting it so eloquently.

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RookieMom Heather August 12, 2013 at 3:05 pm

I love this. And I (shyly admit) that I love CTFD, not for others, but for myself. There’s so very much that I still CARE WAY TOO MUCH ABOUT… mostly related to childish behavior or noise within my own house. I know I need to chill. And I work on it every day. If you told me to CTFD about my obsession with chilling out, I might feel defensive and embarrassed. What a cycle!

Also, I care a LOT about bike helmets. I never will understand why some people just carry them on their handlebars. What is that?

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Sarah Powers August 14, 2013 at 7:05 pm

Heather, I just had to jump in and say I read your RM post about toddler discipline and when you talked about CTFD with this perspective (directed at yourself) I totally had a lightbulb moment. I need to tell myself to CTFD several times a day, too, and so I can see it now in this light! I’m glad you came here to comment, because having just read Meagan’s post and then yours, I loved the two perspectives side by side. :) -Sarah (I’m Meagan’s editor here, btw :) Hi!)

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Tragic Sandwich August 12, 2013 at 3:54 pm

I agree! I try to ascribe to What Works For You Parenting. One might also call this YMMV Parenting.

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Jen August 12, 2013 at 4:04 pm

Well said. My kiddo has an allergy to antibiotics. I’m sure some moms roll their eyes when I seem “overly” concerned about exposure to strep, pneumonia, etc. (and the handwashing I require), but it’s simply a bigger deal for us; we can’t “just get a round of antibiotics” to cure an ailment. This same kiddo wears protective headgear when he plays soccer. His teammates know he had a concussion four years ago, but some uninformed parents may have rolled their eyes at my “paranoia.” It’s not paranoia. It’s being educated about head injuries and protecting my child’s brain which needs to work well for the rest of his life.

These situations have taught me the age-old concept that we just don’t know what is behind others’ choices and behaviors. I’m sure I’d engage in more eye-rolling if I hadn’t had these experiences. And yes – this concept goes for all people and all of life. “Different” does not equal “bad” or “less than,” and it’s important to give people the benefit of the doubt.

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Amanda August 12, 2013 at 10:24 pm

Words of wisdom!

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Asha Dornfest August 13, 2013 at 1:32 pm

As usual, you express BEAUTIFULLY what I have been feeling about this whole thing. I know the original CTFD post was meant to be tongue-in-cheek, but the point you make here is absolutely golden.

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Beth August 13, 2013 at 1:42 pm

I think the point was CTFD and stop comparing yourself to other parents. Do what you feel is best and don’t worry about what other people think. That it’s okay if other parents have different priorities than you do and care about things you do. CTFD and do it your way.

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val August 13, 2013 at 2:03 pm

Meagan, another excellent blog post! And this topic is near and dear to me for several reasons. As you know, I am *not* a laid back parent. As you explained so well, I have a different frame of reference and different issues than alot of other parents I know. I have been the recipient of negative judgement for “overthinking”. As my girls are older, I can look back and realize I was too paranoid about some things. But other things, I will never regret doing or not doing!!!

What I like about this post, more than anything, is the reminder that moms *need* to be supporting each other. You have made this a long-standing theme in your blog and I believe the import of women and mothers uniting, as opposed to in-fighting cannot be overstated. Yes, it’s *extremely* difficult not to feel judgement about other moms’ choices in regard to things we feel strongly about. And I have felt it as much as anyone. But feelings are normal – it’s how we react. When another mom *asks* for my opinion, I will give it. But I don’t expect others to make the choices I do or even to understand, if they don’t know me well.

The real learning, imo, comes as our children become adults and make their own choices. Even if we put all our energy and love into parenting our children, even if we did “overthink”, we sometimes see our adult children making choices contrary to everything we modeled and can make no sense of it. In any case of parenting, RESULTS AREN’T GUARANTEED! Put the judgement aside and accept others for who they are.

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Tut August 14, 2013 at 12:44 am

Is there a tipping point, past which it is okay to speak up? (Example: parents paranoid about vaccines and autism not having their children vaccinated, which puts others’ at risk)

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Michelle August 15, 2013 at 12:01 am

I agree with your post, about the importance of compassion. I also think the CTFD idea has validity. It is not healthy to project our fears on our children, it is important to know that things are not going to be perfect, and we cannot control everything and will most likely drive ourselves crazy in our attempts. My kids are my world an I hate for them to get hurt, feel distressed, have difficulty in school, but this is life and gives them opportunities to learn and grow. I just wanted to give my overall opinion. Thanks I think your post is very positive and heartfelt.

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