I was stunned, and have since been extremely disturbed. I have gone to my church and several friends seeking feedback. I never want to harm my daughter, but I also don't feel I was inappropriate with her that day. She cried every night for two weeks after that, thinking someone would "take her away from me" and "give her to another mom." I've tried to move on and not let this incident destroy all my self-confidence, but it has really hurt and I'm having a hard time feeling secure about how I handle my daughter.
I will be joining a mom's support group as one way of educating and supporting myself, but also need to know if I should seek professional guidance. I am a stay-home mom for now, and am committed to giving her the best possible home life I can. My husband does back me up 100 percent in my efforts to "self-improve," and we both realize that as parents, we are never perfect. However, the one and only thing I do perfectly in this life is love my girl with all my heart and soul.
I did not respond to this woman's criticism of me in any way -- I just looked at her as she spoke. My husband says I should have told her to "butt out," but I knew that would only make things worse. Where do I go from here? How can I get my confidence back, and find good, trustworthy feedback on my parenting style/skills?
Think about why her comments have had such a devastating effect on your self-worth. Her criticism could not have affected you this much unless you have some underlying doubts about your abilities to parent your daughter. If you felt secure in your parenting role, you would be able to dismiss this woman's words as an inappropriate, hurtful tirade.
Joining a mom's support group is a good idea. Taking parenting classes, perhaps with your husband, is another way to improve your parenting abilities. These efforts demonstrate that you and your husband are parents who want to become better, more knowledgeable parents. Because of your dramatic, disturbed response to this incident, I would recommend that you consider talking to a counselor. It would help you to receive some professional, objective, supportive observations and insight as to why your confidence as a mother has been so damaged by this woman's angry criticism, especially since you maintain that your "scolding" was appropriate.
I am sure that no one will question your love of your daughter. You clearly want to give her the best parenting possible and are devoted to her. Given that you have described your daughter as a "very strong-willed, sometimes blatantly defiant four year-old," you can only benefit from seeking guidance and counsel on how to best parent your first child.