As a parent it sometimes seems that you cannot turn a page or click the keyboard without noticing some new article, book or claim by someone, informing us on the best way to raise our offspring. Best for who? That is what I am often left wondering… As a society we are inundated with more penned information on parenting than any generation before us; opinions and recommendations abound. Are we better parents than our forebearers? Armed with all this knowledge and awareness, one would assume that we are sailing through parenthood, over smooth, emerald waters with the wind in our backs, basking in the sun and salty air. In reality we are in very choppy waters, constantly verifying our nautical charts.
The truth is, we all seek to use this knowledge to the best of our ability (for the most part) and as mothers we endeavor to tailor everything to fit our unique families and lifestyles. Which is what we really should be doing, taking into account our different needs, means and situations. But we are also opinionated and judgmental. We mothers are known for using any one of the numerous studies on child development as ammunition in the “mommy wars”. Join a playgroup or take your little ones to the playground where you get to spend some quality time with your peers and you will know what I am talking about. Stiff lines are drawn in the sand on all the the issues of parenting starting from pregnancy and birth, through feeding, diapering, educating, disciplining , sleeping – and the list goes on. It is “us” and “them” and even within the “us” and “them” teams there are more lines drawn and more division. The sand is crisscrossed like apple pie, just not as sweet.
So how do we bridge the chasms and blur the lines? We stand to gain so much more from camaraderie. As mothers we are all in this together. We can be respectful while still having differing opinions. We can stop judging each other and cultivate kindness. Maybe the new mother, sitting opposite you, bottle feeding her baby, had her heart set on nursing her newborn and for reasons beyond her control was unable to. Does that make her any less of a mother than you? Smile at her anyway, it might be just what she needs . As mothers we all need support and validation in our craft. We need to stop using what we perceive as more or less parenting in others as our yardstick for good parenting.
Sometimes less is more. Sometimes more is what is needed and sometimes more can also look like less! Some of our kids need to be held more or comforted more. Some of our kids need more space and some need their mommy to be close to them always. Some of us thrive wearing our babies and having constant contact with them, some of us need more time alone. While I am one of those moms who has worn her babies and practiced attachment parenting even before it had a name, does it mean I did more as a mother or less? To me it means I listened to my gut instincts (we all have those by the way) and followed my natural intuition into mommyhood. Yes, I was one of those mothers who cloth diapered her bambinos and I embraced the whole “butt sweater” culture with a passion, going gaga over yarn, the colors, the texture, even the smell. I did spend hours knitting cute little wool soakers and chatting with fellow knitters, exchanging patterns and tidbits of exclusive information on where to buy yarn, which diapers are the newest and cutest and which hold up best at night . But I digress (I did say I love yarn!) That was my personal choice for my family and something I enjoyed while also believing it being best for my babies. Anyone of you could think I had lost my mind (we can always discuss that another time) or maybe some of you might think it commendable. Either way, you need to do what works for you and your family and it might be something totally different.
At the end of the day, when the lights go down and we have a moment of quiet reflection, we often doubt whether we are doing enough for each child (even more so with a child with special needs, but that is for my next post). Sometimes we do make mistakes, take chances and get messy (Channeling Ms. Frizzle here!) but hopefully we learn and grow and our kids are often more resilient than we give them credit for. So we don’t need to be judged by others whether we are doing enough or too much, we are our own experts and we have to live with ourselves and our kids too.