Parenting children can be full of pitfalls. This is one pitfall I’m learning to avoid.
Parenting kids is stressful.
Whether you have one child or an even ten, being responsible for another human being’s entire well-being is kind of a big deal. For every question your child asks you, there are a dozen more that you ask yourself, making endless decisions and constantly choosing one way of doing things instead of another.
When your child is a baby, it’s decisions about feeding, sleeping, and whether or not it’s worth it to shell out the money on 900 thread count organic sheets and teethers made from rare Tibetan trees guaranteed to not only soothe gums but also give your baby a monk-like calm.
Just as soon as your child is napping a little better and questions about breast or formula feeding are moot, you now have to decide if you’re going to potty train in one day, or just let bare bottoms rule for a while, throwing caution and diapers to the wind. Or maybe if you’re really not feeling it, you’ll simply put off the hassle until your child decides for you. There’s also the matter of making sure you’re raising kids who will eat sushi by the time they are five because you’ve made them such adventurous eaters. Oh and will you be enrolling them for pre-pre-kindergarten or will you decide that free play and everyday learning is best?
And don’t get me started on all the decisions you need to make about schooling, screen time, discipline, or if you’ll be depriving your children by avoiding magical trips to Disney World.
The point is, all these decisions can become overwhelming. In any given situation, “Am I doing the right thing??” is our constant refrain.
I have been wondering this a lot recently. My baby is almost three months, and I am trying to help him learn to sleep more consistently. What I’m doing is not relevant in this post. What is important is that it is hard enough taking care of a baby on very little sleep without the added anxiety of worrying about the “right thing”.
We long for confirmation that what we are doing is going to end well. And if we are honest, we want to think that our decisions will be universally acknowledged as the Best Way of Doing Things.
Can I let you in on a secret, though? The “right thing” does not actually exist.
There is not one way. There is no method of parenting that fits everyone. The handbook of guaranteed success has not been written.
But if you are doing what you think is best and acting with your child’s best interests in mind, THAT IS THE RIGHT THING.
If you wear your baby all day and co-sleep all night with the conviction that that is what your baby needs… Go for it.
If you sleep train because you think it will help your baby get the sleep he needs… Yes.
If you feed your kids convenience foods because it’s all you can manage for a season… No guilt.
If you choose to stay home and do school around the table… Perfect.
If you send your kids to school with a lunch and a smile to learn from teachers who love your kids almost as much as you do… That’s great.
Sleep and food and education and habits do matter. We should take these things seriously. We can all agree that our kids need to sleep. That healthy bodies need nourishing foods. That how and what our children are taught will shape them for life. I am not advocating a loosey-goosey parenting free-for-all that refuses to learn from others or that throws off all conventional wisdom.
But I am saying we should give ourselves grace to figure out what best serves our families needs without buckling under the weight of crippling self-doubt.
Friends, we all need to let go of the pressure to be perfect. No one is looking over our shoulders to make sure we pass the test. Rather than fearing what others will think, or putting all our hope in our choices, we need to remember that in the end we are not called to be mothers who always do the Right Thing.
We are called to be mothers who love God, love their children, and trust that both our good decisions and our inevitable mistakes will show our kids that they are loved and that we did our best.