We, as moms, have this need, this terribly desperate desire for the positive affirmation of our parenting choices.
It’s only natural. We want others to approve of what we are doing with our children. We want validation, support, compliments – anything to help us feel like we’re doing a good job. That feeling comes so rarely, and is so incredibly powerful when felt.
Because, lets face it, being a mom is really hard. It’s really hard to make all sorts of decisions without ever knowing what the final outcomes of your choices will be. It’s incredibly difficult to decide on a path that you would like to take despite all of the opposing arguments you hear around you. You will ALWAYS hear opposing arguments. It doesn’t matter what choice you make.
The thing is, every single choice that you make is the right one. And at the end of the day, the only person you have to prove that to is yourself. If you can look at what you’ve done with your child, how you’ve raised him or her, the choices that you’ve made and the actions that you’ve taken without feeling guilt or remorse, you have done well. It doesn’t matter what your next door neighbor did, or what your mother-in-law thinks you should be doing. It shouldn’t bother you when someone criticizes something you have chosen to do, because they do not have to live with the outcome.
And here’s the real kicker of it all. We ALL want to tell other moms what they should be doing, because if someone does the same things we did, it somehow means – in a round-about way – that it was the RIGHT thing to do. If it works for more than just me, it must be right, right? So sure, I’ll look at what you’re doing wrong and say, “Oh, we did this. You should try it.” Fully expecting it to work for you as well as it worked for us. But your kid isn’t my kid. And your style isn’t my style. And JUST because it worked for us does NOT mean it will work for you. When it doesn’t work for you, you’ll think less of my parenting skills, and be less likely to look to me for advice again. Then, in the future, when someone asks YOU for advice, you’ll tell them what YOU did, fully expecting it to work, and feeling bad when it doesn’t. Here’s a secret I’m going to let you in on: it probably wont work for someone else.
I have been in situations where I’m willing to listen to ANY advice that is given, hoping to finally fall upon the one little piece that works. And when someone asks me for advice, I give it. Every time it doesn’t work, it makes me seriously hesitate to give out any other advice. I hate that feeling, like you’ve let someone down. But I always tell myself that just because it didn’t work for them doesn’t mean it wasn’t the right thing for us to do.
So, here’s a question for you. If you give formula, and your sister gives breastmilk, and your cousin gave whole milk too early, and your neice-in-law never gave cereal, and your mom says she would never have let the baby get that old without putting cereal in her bottle, and your aunt on your dad’s side says that you’re spoiling your child because you hold her while you feed her, and your co-worker only gave a vegan diet… which one is right?
They all are.
YOU are right. And you need to STOP listening to what they’re telling you is wrong, but you also need to STOP looking at other people and thinking their way is inferior to yours. Because it’s not. It’s right up there beside yours on the “it’s right for us” table. Your right to do exactly what you want goes hand in hand being mature enough to let others do what they would.
I am proud to baby-wear, co-sleep, breast feed, glad that I never gave cereal or purees, don’t use strollers, and can’t let my child cry it out. That is what is right for ME. I hate it when someone tells me something I’m doing wrong. But I realize that they just want me to do it their way because that was RIGHT to them. I think the hardest part of being a mom is realizing that your way isn’t the universal way, and that is okay.
Oh, and to all my formula feeding, stroller loving, cereal-in-the-bottle, sleep training mommas – I love you for what you do. Be proud of your choices and decisions. Because.