Do you co-sleep? Schedule feedings? Baby wear? Cry it out? The questions start from the beginning. Whatever the age and stage, mothers are often asked to take a philosophical stance on child-rearing and debate issues so seemingly serious they sometimes damage friendships between women. I used to be asked where I stand on these issues, and all I can say is, I don’t subscribe.
Of course, I make choices like anyone else. I just don’t subscribe to a particular parenting philosophy, or if I do, it would be something like: “Trust yourself and do what makes sense for your own family.” I just like to be myself as a mother. I want to respond to my children and all the sticky family situations the best I can and know that is good enough.
I remember when my first child was a newborn and I heard the advice, “sleep when the baby sleeps.” It made me feel like a failure every time. I have dealt with insomnia my entire adult life and no way could I sleep in 30-minute increments on-and-off all day, let alone also squeeze in a shower and a snack. Once I had two, then three children under the age of five, the advice seemed laughable. Why then, I wondered, did people keep repeating that advice to me? It felt like a setup.
One of the best changes I made with my second and third babies was to stop reading pregnancy and parenting books. When I didn’t know what I was “supposed” to do, I had to figure it out. Everyone is different, of course, and some moms really benefit from the advice of parenting experts. I just wish we could all give as much credit to our own internal wisdom.
I am not talking just about motherly instincts, which get overlaid by anxiety and guilt. A new mom doesn’t know how to care for a child when the fear of doing something wrong overwhelms her completely. But I do think that when we get quiet and centered inside, we see that no one else can live our lives for us, so no one can tell us how to handle each parenting challenge. As lonely and confusing as that may be sometimes, it’s also liberating. We can shoot from the hip a little more. It’s not such a bad thing.
The time has come for women to support other women in trusting themselves. We don’t need to cut each other down, compete, or compare. We’re in this together, raising the next generation. If there were one way to do things and one way only, it would be known by now. My guess is, if you read this website and you’re aiming to learn more, you’re probably pretty conscientious. You care, and that’s worth a whole lot. Sometimes, it’s okay to let that be enough.
QUESTION: What choices are you making that others may judge, and can you love and respect yourself despite their opinions? How can you support yourself in a deeper way?
CHALLENGE: The next time you start to criticize someone else’s parenting, stop. Breathe it through. Recognize that you don’t know what’s best for everyone and then appreciate your own choices and values. AND the next time you feel judged or someone gives you unwanted advice, practice letting go. Imagine it all just blowing past you in the wind, or streaming down a river. Send love to your own heart and know you are a human being improvising as you go.
Edited by Kimberly A. Price.
Image from Unsplash via PicMonkey.