I became a parent in 2012. It was the scariest but also most amazing moment of my life.
But it’s also gotten…well, complicated.
It’s just not easy to be a parent nowadays. We have to figure out what rules, guidelines, and boundaries work for our family. There seems to be this invisible standard that we must reach — an invisible line of tape that we must run through at the end of every day, a long list of boxes to check to make sure that we’ve achieved “good parent” status.
Where does this come from? Well, it is mostly in our minds (and Pinterest) I believe. But there’s also the people who love to interject their sometimes solicited and sometimes unsolicited opinions and advice.There is the pressure from the media. (Please don’t follow yoga instructors on Instagram whilest post partum with a c-section)
There are people who just have a million questions for you, which of course totally make you second guess if you are “doing it right.” What is “right” anyways?
“You are using cloth diapers only, right?” No, not yet, she was born way to early and I can’t get the crap to fit. (Someone should have warned me about OSFM!)
“You know, making your own baby food is much better for the baby than any of that chemical containing, store bought crap in a jar.” True, but currently while on maternity leave I work 12 hours a day. Writing. And that takes up a lot of my time.
“Oh, I’m so glad to hear that you plan to EBF.” (Exclusively breastfeed — see, I’m starting to get the lingo down!) Me too. I have a baby glued to my boob in a wrap in the dead of winter trying to reach my laptop keys
“You should only let your child have X amount of screen time. You do know that, right?” Yes, are you volunteering to watch my 3 year old while I try and breastfeed or bath?
“Oh, you are only going to take that much time off for maternity leave?” Yes, 8 weeks is enough for me. Thanks.
“You really should put her in a creche. This study has shown it to be better for your baby to be around other kids in a daycare setting.” Why the hell would I do that?! My mother in law (AWESOME lady that she is) will be looking after Zoe.
Vaccinations. Enough said.
Honestly, I could go on forever.
So this is my truth that I’ve come to: We don’t always get it right, but it’s our experience to live and learn, and then adapt, making any changes we as parents feel are necessary. Being a parent is hard. And sometimes it is super hard.
Just when you think you know your kids and what makes them tick, they grow and their interests change. Suddenly, what they liked last week they dislike this week.
So we try our best. We get knocked down (sometimes it feels like more often than others) but we pull ourselves back up, asking, “What can I learn from this situation? How can our family function at the highest level possible?” We cut out the negative chatter in our own minds as well as those who love to “suggestively parent.”
We take up a confidence within ourselves as parents, knowing that whatever decisions we make, we make with our family and children’s best interest at heart. We take experiences that we have personally learned from in our childhood and adjust our parenting to make our children’s more enjoyable and healthier than ours was. This is the goal of every good parent, right?
Too often, we seek outside validation of our personal growth and lean on others’ opinions of us to nurture our self-esteem. They are many naysayers out there, and unfortunately, some of them may be your best friends or even blood-related family. In this journey, the one thing we have learned absolutely is that none of that matters. I believe that there is only one opinion that truly matters anyway, and not one human being can give that.
At the end of every day, we have to face ourselves in the mirror knowing that we have tried our best — for that day, because it’s always one day at a time. If our answer is no, that’s okay too because if we are lucky enough, we will have another “today” when we wake up in the morning. Remember that every parent has bad days, and it most definitely does not mean that you are a bad parent.
So be easy on yourself. Smile at the miracle that your body is creating or has created. Rub that ginormous miracle of a belly that is causing you to lose sleep and pee every 13 minutes as well as losing any sense of balance. Listen to your body, and especially to that little voice deep inside. I promise there are no guidebooks that will lead you into this journey of parenting feeling fully equipped, but if you listen to that voice you will always be led in the right direction for you.
This morning I woke up with this quote in my head (I’ll get to it in just a minute). I think I read it on Pinterest sometime in the past couple of years while typing in “how to be a good parent.” This journey of self-discovery, especially in the past 22 months, has taught me to never do that again, but I did come across something pretty awesome.
This journey is yours. It is about putting on the earmuffs to block out anything that does not serve you (sometimes including your own thoughts). It’s about being guided by that internal voice that will always tell you which direction to turn if you are still and listen.
About 200,000 years of modern human evolution has been preparing you just for this moment. You are well-equipped to do this, taking whatever advice rings true to your soul and disregarding the rest.
“The days are long, but the years are short.” So enjoy it and stop stressing about how you will reach that invisible ceiling of “perfect parent” status — starting now.