Parenting is hard. And it seems to just keep getting harder as the kids get older. The longer I have been a parent, the more information there is out there thrown at me. The decisions keep getting harder, and the opinions keep getting stronger. Sometimes I start to feel really overwhelmed. It doesn't help that most stuff you read today is written by parents who sit in the extreme camps.
But what if we're somewhere in between? Hmmm, ok well, we are very health conscious and try to eat nutritious food, but sometimes my kids do get an occasional hot dog or cookie. I am definitely all for breastfeeding, but then I also decided to vaccinate my children, so that makes me ok in some eyes but not ok in others. I cloth diaper now but didn't in the past, and we are making a definite effort to be environmentally conscious but not everything we buy is always all natural or organic. I do let my children watch tv, but I also make sure they are outside and active for most of the day. I'm confused. Where do we stand?
At times like this when I feel overwhelmed I try to take a deep breath and remember that with parenting comes so many choices, and there is always evidence supporting each one, whether it is scientific based or anecdotal. So whichever choice we make is the right choice in some way. Also, no two sets of parents will make exactly the same choices, and there is even difference of opinion within families. What we choose to do for our family is what is right for us. It may not be for someone else, but that is none of their business anyway.
I remember when F was tiny, he was hardly sleeping and I was so tired and depressed. Everyone who saw me just knew by looking at me that I was really struggling, and I was usually holding back the tears whenever someone asked how he was sleeping at that point. One day the receptionist at our chiropractor (who loved to ask every time we were there how he was sleeping) brought up the topic once again, this time to another mom with a baby just a few months older than F. The nosy receptionist says to me "K (the other mom) co-sleeps and her baby sleeps all night long", and then they both just stood there looking at me as if to say "if you were co-sleeping too your baby would sleep". I tried co-sleeping with T and quickly realized that it was not for us. Not for us. Fantastic that it worked for others of course, but not something that we felt worked for our family.
So I have to wonder, if not all parenting choices work for every family, why do other people care what we do? Does it affect them in some way? I have my opinions too, but I really don't care about the choices other people make and whether or not they are the right ones. The only right choice is the one that is right for me and my family.
Of course we all like to meet like-minded parents. It is important that our friends share some of our values, otherwise it might not be a very compatible friendship. But as I am now starting to make many different mom friends, I can see the different ways that we do some things. And that is ok. I'd like to think though that despite some differences we have, we would still respect each other and maintain a friendship.
I can't help but feel all defensive when people plaster their parenting opinions everywhere, pointing fingers and saying that if we do not do things the same way, then we must somehow be harming our children. I stumbled across a blog one day where the mother openly admitted she would approach other moms at the playground to tell them what they are doing wrong with their children. Really lady, does that make you a better mother and your children better kids than others? I don't think so. It only makes you feel better about yourself, but why you need to prove that to yourself I have no idea.
It seems like the people who voice their opinion the loudest are looking for validation, that they believe legions of other parents are going to jump up and down in agreement. But I think if you are confident in your own parenting choices and ability you wouldn't need to voice it so loudly.
Reading a lot of this kind of stuff helps me do a lot of soul searching, about the kind of parent I want to be. It also helps me build confidence in my own capabilities because I start to realize that I don't need others' opinions to help me make my decisions, that I am perfectly capable of making them on my own. Opinions are just that - opinions. They are not facts or set it stone. So I am working hard on not letting them make me doubt myself.
When does it get easier and less overwhelming making choices for our children? Well I suspect at least not until they are 18 and can start making them for themselves. And do I think our choices are always right? Absolutely. They are always right for us, I can't vouch for other parents and their families.
I just wanted a place to get my thoughts out, hopefully I haven't sounded to opinionated.