There’s no shortage of parenting advice out there these days. I’m an education junkie (not to mention a recovering perfectionist), so as a new mom I figured I could find everything I needed to know somewhere out there. I went out of my way to search for other people’s research, advice, and opinions about parenting. I inhaled as much as I could from people who “knew better” than me. I asked questions. I took notes. I downloaded and devoured book after book after book….
Like a good student, I applied just about everything I learned in one form or another (even against my better judgment at times). I thought if only I could figure out the “secret” to parenting, all of my struggles and doubts would vanish and I would KNOW what to do. If one solution didn’t work the way I expected or hoped, I just moved on to the next option out there.
After several months of bopping around from one guide to the next without “figuring it all out,” I had a few realizations about parenting that finally allowed me to see clearly.
If you’re struggling to find solid ground as a parent, I hope this offers you some comfort as well.
1. YOU are the expert on your child.
My guess is that you aren’t short on parenting advice from others. But please remind yourself (often!) that all of your friends and loved ones who offer you advice about parenting base it on their experiences with their kid. That’s the extent of their expertise as parents. And the “experts” who do all that research may have helpful tips, but not everything is going to apply to you. I used to devour those parenting books hoping they’ll solve every problem I had. I thought all of my issues as a mom (hello, sleep deprivation!) would be solved if I could just find the perfect guru. It never happened.
Because here’s the truth:
NONE of these people live with your child. Understanding your child is a long-term process that only happens by putting in engaged time with them. Your daily experiences and observations are going to provide the answers you need way before some book or outsider’s opinion can. The bottom line is that NO one knows your kid inside and out the way you do.
In addition, anyone who offers you parenting advice also has a very different mix of values, experiences, needs, and desires than you do. Their advice will always be given through the lens of their worldview. Keep that in mind, and take everything you hear with a grain of salt. Take in new theories and approaches and experiment with what works for your family, sure. But don’t hesitate to dump that advice overboard (quickly!) if it isn’t serving you. If something isn’t working for you, you aren’t “doing it wrong.” That particular method just doesn’t apply to your child, and that’s okay.
2. Your instincts will tell you what you need to know.
I’m often surprised at how many parents forget that they were born with a handy little tool called “intuition.” It’s the most underrated ability we have as parents. We are literally hardwired to know just what to do with our offspring to keep them safe and alive.
But we doubt ourselves because we’re bombarded with so much advice these days (on Facebook, in books, from our friends and family… you can’t throw a stone in any direction without hearing exactly what you “should” be doing as a parent). On top of that, most of the advice you find completely contradicts the rest (don’t even get me started on vaccines and breastfeeding).
I think we have so much information available at our fingertips now that we forget sometimes how much we already know. It’s okay to trust your instincts… in fact, it’s the preferred method. So close that Google page (I see you!) and ask yourself “what is the right thing to do here?” I have a feeling you’ll find much more clarity that way than reading “just one more” article. If you can quiet those outside voices enough, you’ll be able to tap into the most powerful resource you’ll ever have as a parent: your instincts.
3. Judgmental people should be ignored.
When I scoured the internet at 3:00 a.m. trying to find solutions to my most pressing parenting questions, I inevitably came across endless streams of mommy forums. I was shocked at a lot of the exchanges I encountered. So many of these “fellow moms” were nasty and judgmental, and it didn’t take long for me to ban those message boards from my research queue. Parenting is hard enough without having to deal with so much negativity.
One of the main reasons why I started this resource for working parents is because I believe we need to begin supporting each others’ parenting journeys. We could learn a lot from each other and offer a wonderful support system if we could just set aside our judgment about the choices other parents make. Parenting is a deeply personal and unique experience, and trying to impose our values on each other is ridiculous. It’s a waste of time at best, but it can also be extremely damaging.
I want to encourage you to just LET GO of what other people say about your parenting choices. At the end of the day, no one is keeping score anyway. They drop a judgment bomb on you, and then they move on with their lives and you’re left to feel crappy about your decisions.
Unless someone is being empathetic and supportive and taking the time to truly understand your unique situation and offer a relevant and useful perspective, who cares what they think? (Ain’t nobody got time for that!) If your kid sleeps in your bed until they’re 5 years old (and you’re okay with it), who cares? If you want to homeschool your kid, why not? If other parents think you should be pushing the organic veggies and you’re fine with mac and cheese, that’s their problem.
One of my favorite phrases is “what other people think of me is none of my business.” Whenever I find myself concerned with what others’ may think about the kind of parent I am, I remind myself that their opinion really isn’t any of my business.
What IS important is that I’m doing the best I can with the resources I have available in each moment. As long as I am acting in integrity, asking questions when I need to, and making choices that are in my family’s and my best interest, I think I’m on the right track.
At the end of the day, that’s really all we can do as parents, right?
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