Parenting is hard. Being a mom or a dad, is hard.
Pulling that battery out of your 8 month old’s mouth? Easy choice.
How to handle epic tantrums? Not so easy.
The thing about parenting is that most decisions we make are fraught with indecision, weighing pros and cons and, ultimately, uncertainty about whether or not we are doing the right thing.
When my daughter cried non-stop, I wasn’t sure if I was making a bad decision opting to co-sleep. When I was concerned that maybe my milk was low in supply or had something in it that was upsetting her, I wrestled with whether or not I should wean. And when I chose to give my daughter formula, I struggled with whether or not I made the right choice.
What I didn’t understand then, is that the choice I end up making, the one I’ve come to terms with, IS the right choice.
It doesn’t need to be the right choice for someone who chooses differently, but that doesn’t make it the wrong choice for me.
I try to be laid back about other people’s choices. I am a very ‘live and let live’ kind of person. If you enjoy sharing your bed with your husband, two young kids, a dog and a cat, more power to you. It’s not wrong if it is okay with you.
All I ask in return is that I’m not made to feel like I’m doing something bad by my children by insisting they sleep in their cribs.
I have yet to meet a parent who makes a choice that I wouldn’t personally make, where they said ‘I don’t’ really care if this seriously screws up my child for life.’
I’m pretty certain that most parents who opt for breast feeding until their children are 2.5 or older, or parents who confidently give a bottle from day one, both love their children equally and are doing what they feel is right and best.
Neither are weird, neither are neglectful and neither should judge the other for their choice.
And yet, as often happens, both moms will get judged, sometimes by each other, and often by onlookers. It happens all too often. I’ve witnessed it many many times. You can’t win. You can’t please everyone.
Co-sleep, you’re indulgent. Insist on the crib from day one, you’re not respecting your child’s need to be close to mommy and daddy. Let your child cry it out, you’re neglectful. Refuse to let your child cry it out, your masochistic. Breastfeed, you’re glued to your baby. Bottle feed, you’re feeding your baby poison (yes, I’ve actually been told this before).
The list, sadly, goes on and on. The number of ways we can ignore or indulge our children’s needs never ends.
So how on earth are we expected to know what the right answer is?
Dr. Spock has it right. He may have written in a very different generation, a very different reality, but his insight is timeless. Because it is true, every parent is different and every child is different, and every circumstance is different.
A mother isn’t better off breast feeding if she resents it.
A parent isn’t better off at home full-time with their child if they don’t enjoy it and prefer being out in the paid work force.
Leaving your child to cry isn’t best if it’s impossible for you to stomach.
No choice is the right choice if it feels wrong. So I chose to make my decisions based on what is right for me.
When I broke out my bottle while my girlfriends broke out their breastfeeding pillows, I stopped feeling guilty and realized we were all feeding our children. And I stopped caring that I was doing it differently.
I’m sure I’ll mess things up along the way. I know I’m not a perfect parent. But I also know that there is no such thing. Every parent makes decisions for themselves and their children that they feel are best for them. We all love our children and want to do what’s right.
My choice might not be yours. And I might even find your choice weird. But as long as you think it’s right, who cares what I think? I might not always be 100% confident in the choices I make, but I am 100% confident that I am making my choices with the best of intentions.
Once I realized there is no such thing as a perfect parent, I released some of the pressure to keep trying to be one.
I don’t have to be perfect.
I just have to be good enough.
Leslie lives in Toronto with her husband, her 2 and a half year old daughter and 6 month old son. She is presently on maternity leave and enjoying the hectic and harried life with two young children.