Once, a woman grabbed my baby's sweatshirt, yanked the hood over his head and hissed:
"Put a hat on the baby for goodness sake, it's freezing!"

Another time, two women told me harshly: "You might want to watch your son" after they saved him from "breaking his neck" when he tripped down a slide.

And recently, a woman told me I should put underwear on my 4-year-old daughter because "you never know who's about".

All women and, I assume also mothers, were judging me based on the split second they saw of me and my parenting.


What is it with people when it comes to children? Why does the ability of a mother so easily come into question by strangers who know nothing about her, her children, or the situation she is in?

Do these people walk into fast food outlets and see overweight people and give them advice on what they "should" be eating? Do they stop smokers in the street and tell them not to smoke? I doubt it.

So why do they feel comfortable confronting a mother?

Here are three situations where complete strangers intervened with my parenting.

1. A baby will freeze without a hat

It was a sunny spring afternoon in Tauranga. My son was wearing a onesie and thick hoodie as well as sitting on my warm lap. He was also quite a solid 6-month-old, not a frail old lady like my aggressor who, as I mentioned earlier, yanked his hood over his head and hissed at me to put a hat on him.

2. Sliding to "certain death"

It was a slide my son had been on dozens of times. I am okay with him falling from it. It's not that high. Yes, he could break his neck. He could also break his neck jumping off the couch. Call the police! I let him do that too.

I didn't tell the women who scolded me for not keeping a closer eye on him: "You can't always catch your kids when they fall."

I know this because my daughter - who fell from a much bigger slide at the same park two years ago - was, surprise, surprise where I was channelling my attention when my little suicide slider shot to certain death. I know - and we let her go on the slide again - it's practically abuse.


Of course, I was grateful and thanked them for catching him. But I didn't offer them any advice about letting their children find their own boundaries.

What are you going to do if you have another kid, Helicopter Mum? Keep them inside in the same room as you all day? You can't actually watch both of them, all day, all the time.

So, I parent differently to you, that doesn't mean one of us is wrong.

3. Nude swimming

I had been trying to get my daughter clothed for 15 quite stressful minutes after an unexpected swim in a kids' play fountain. She had been wearing underpants but took them off as she dried out because they were cold.

Let them enjoy their freedom. Photo / Getty Images
Let them enjoy their freedom. Photo / Getty Images

I was battling with dressing her between chasing her younger brother, who was running towards the sea and climbing up the outside of a slide.

And while the woman who warned me "you never know who's about" wasn't wrong, is it really my problem if someone sinister is nearby?

I'm not going to stop my preschool-aged children from enjoying spontaneous swims in the short years of freedom they have before they feel ashamed to be nude because someone with bad intentions may be lurking in the distance.

These risks are for myself and my husband to worry about, not you. So, if you can't keep your mouth shut, why not offer assistance instead of judgment?