Parenting today is no joke.
From the time our kids are conceived, we are barraged with a slew of conflicting opinions, beliefs and supposed facts about all the ways we should (or shouldn’t) be parenting our children.
Apparently, you are a hippie freak—putting your child’s life at risk—if you have a home birth. But you’re a self-indulgent narcissist—exposing your child to unnecessary drugs—if you have an epidural or a cesarean.
Breast is best, so you should feel horrible about yourself if you formula feed. Oh, except that you’re lewd for popping out your boob in public, so could you please just put a bottle in that child’s mouth and try to keep him quiet?
If you don’t stay home with your children, you’re a bad person for outsourcing their nurturing. But if you don’t put them in school, then you’re condemning them to be weird and unsocialized.
How can we keep up?
From day one, all we hear are schizophrenic messages about the “right” way it should all be going down. Type something in Google search, and the internet is ready and waiting to confirm your worst nightmares and layer the guilt on even thicker with shiny scientific studies to back it up.
It’s because of this that we live in a state of fear.
Fearful we’re feeding our kids the wrong foods. Fearful they’re not getting the best education. Fearful that screen time is rotting their brains. Fearful that whatever decisions we’re making are somehow wrong.
And as if our own self-doubt wasn’t enough, there are hoards of people lurking around the corner ready to confirm that we are as unfit as we feel.
There was the woman at the grocery store, who tartly offered her two cents about how to soothe my newborn’s crying. Or the random man at the restaurant, who railed my husband for drinking a beer in front our daughter. (Seriously dude?)
The worst has to be the other moms who gives that head-cocked, big-eyed expression while saying, “Oh! We don’t do that in our house.” (Insert judgy tone.)
Come on people, we are all doing the best that we can.
You—stressed parent—are doing a great job no matter what, and this is why:
1. No one knows your child better than you.
If 10,000 hours supposedly makes you a master in your field, then consider yourself the genius of geniuses when it comes to your kid. Pregnancy alone accounts for 6,000 hours of time spent nurturing, pondering and generally obsessing about your child—so by the time your baby hits six months old, you’ve already logged well over 10,000 hours specializing in the art and science known as your kid.
And regardless of some theory about what it takes to be an expert (because who needs another theory), and regardless of whether your child came from your own body or not, the sheer fact that you are rearing, feeding and constantly thinking about them makes you a super-ninja of parenting your little person.
No one else has soothed them when they’re hysterical at three in the morning. No one else knows exactly what color their poop is. (You know you do!) No one else can distinguish between their getting-sick cough and their gagging-on-a-puff cough. No one else knows exactly which stuffed animal heals boo-boos and which one is best for road trips.
You are the perfect parent for your child. You are the expert. Trust yourself.
2. Our kids are going to survive.
I grew up on formula as a baby, McDonald’s as a kid and Hamburger Helper as a teen. My mom was kid-rich (there were four of us) and cash-poor, and she did the best she could to feed us well and make sure we had what we needed.
And guess what? I survived. I would even say I thrived.
It’s all relative. We could all probably be eating one more veggie or watching a little less TV or moving our bodies a little bit more. At some point, we have to surrender to the process of life, and trust that it’s all going to work out just fine—that the mess is the masterpiece.
The power of love is a whole lot stronger than we give it credit for, and the things we work ourselves into a frenzy about in this country are just illusions. If a tiny shoot of a plant can split a sidewalk and grow healthy and strong, so can our kids. They just need love and room to surprise us.
They are going to be okay—and so are you.
3. We’re all supposed to be doing it differently.
Just look around in nature, and you’ll see that life is about a celebration of nuance and variety. Flowers in springtime bloom in every shape and color. Snowflakes in the winter fall in intricate patterns with no one like the other. We aren’t supposed to be the same.
Your family’s traditions and ways are perfect. And so are mine. We each see the world through completely different lenses, so it makes sense that our parenting would follow suit. How about honoring and celebrating those differences?
We are afraid of what is different, because we fear it makes us wrong. What if there is no right or wrong—only right for you and your child or wrong for you and your child?
Our uniqueness is what makes this world a living, breathing work of art. Let’s sink in and just allow the paint to splatter on the canvas as it may. It’s a beautiful life, and children love getting messy.
Author: Kayla Floyd
Editor: Yoli Ramazzina
Photo: Unsplash/Luis Dávila