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A couple of nights ago, I was laying in bed with my daughter Lily watching Charlottes Web as she fell asleep. We were cuddled up under my fluffy down comforter, Lily was holding on tight to her bunny stuffed animal and calm as can be, her squishy little body tucked under my arm. At that moment, I felt such an overwhelming sense of joy and utter contentment.
It was one of those moments where my love for my child was so strong and I thought to myself, “This is what pure happiness feels like.”
This lasted for less than 5 minutes. Soon enough, some other thoughts started creeping into my head.
“Maybe I shouldn’t let her watch TV to fall asleep.”
“I bet this is doing some kind of damage.”
“Aren’t there scientific studies somewhere proving this will make my child dumb?”
“Other mothers would sooooo judge me for this.”
“I should start being more strict concerning our bedtime rituals.”
My perfectly harmless, blissful, happy moment was ruined by the hypothetical thoughts and opinions of others. The need to live up to some flawless picture of the “Perfect Mother” hung like a shadow over my ability to live in that beautiful moment.
Instead of soaking up every second of that irreplaceable time with my daughter, I was judging myself. Instead of trying to remember this fleeting period of her life where she still wants to be this close to me, I was beating myself up and getting lost in my thoughts. For no reason!
It really affected me. It got me thinking about why I felt that way and I decided to write this post.
Being a parent is hard. Really hard. Like one of the hardest things, you will ever do in your life. And I say that now having been a mother for only a year! (I am sure that as time goes on those thoughts will truly be solidified, especially in the teenage years.) Not only do you need to make sure your child is healthy, fed, bathed, etc, but you are also constantly worried that something you do or don’t do is going to damage them in some way.
Parents are bombarded with doctors’ recommendations, scientific studies, articles, and advice on how to raise their children. All these different things make it appear that there is only one right way to raise a child. One right way to do things and if you don’t do it that way your child will be harmed, damaged, or messed up in some way.
Well, you know what I think? I think that’s complete crap!
I like to think that only a mother knows what is best for her child. Every mother, father, child, and family is different. What works for one family might not work for another. And that is completely okay!
Of course, there are a few lines that can’t/shouldnot be crossed when it comes to parenting. If some decision you make is putting your child in danger and causing them pain in some way, then maybe you should take a second look at the decisions you’re making. Still, this post really isn’t aimed at those parents who we all know shouldn’t be parents. Whether it’s drugs, abuse, etc. that’s a whole different ball game and I’m not in the position to tackle it.
I am talking about the average mother who is doing everything in her power to be the best parent possible. The mother who is reading the articles and mulling over the advice. The mother who is questioning her every move as a parent because she cares enough no make sure she’s not making any mistakes.
Raising a child is not like a college major you can master.
It’s mostly making things up as you go, trial and error, and figuring out what works for your particular child. My mother has five children. If you asked her if she raised each one of us the same, she would probably laugh and say, “Hell no!”
We need to stop with all the recommendations, all the scientific studies, all the guidelines. We need to stop judging other mothers for the choices they make for their families. Most importantly we need to stop judging ourselves.
There is one thing you quickly need to realize as a mother: You will never be a perfect mother. You will make so many mistakes, you will make a million wrong choices, and you will feel like your failing more often than not. That just comes with the territory of being a parent who cares about the well-being of their child.
So take a deep breath, loosen the reins, and enjoy the crazy journey of parenthood and the time you get to spend with your babies.
Creating your own manual for parenthood is such a beautiful thing. Children who are raised in different households, whose parents made different mistakes, instilled different traditions, and created different memories bring color to the world. Every choice my mother made, every mistake and decision made me the person I am today. A person completely different from the person sitting next to me, because their parents raised them differently. If we all were raised exactly alike, this world would be a very boring place!
Because I know there are people out there who probably think I am ignorant and foolish to boil down the doctors’ recommendations and scientific studies as culturally dulling, I get it. Of course, doctors and scientists are smarter than me. I can’t argue with that. But there is one thing I know better than they ever will…my child!
Lily does not watch TV during the day. Most of the time she is playing independently with her toys, my parents, one of my many siblings, or me. I didn’t necessarily do that on purpose, she just isn’t really interested in watching TV. The one time she watches TV is to fall asleep. At nap time I will rock her to sleep while she’s watching music videos. At night, if she doesn’t fall asleep on the boob, she will fall asleep 10 minutes into a movie. Actually, sometimes she will watch youtube videos on my phone when we are in the car. She is not a fan of the car and I would rather have her watch TV than scream her head off the entire drive.
So, is letting her watch less than 30 minutes of television a day going to damage her beyond repair? I really don’t think so. Should I beat myself up for enjoying a cozy moment watching TV with my daughter? In hindsight, probably not. Will I look back on this article in a few years and laugh at my naivety? Maybe. But right now I am pretty confident in these words.
The next time you are judging yourself or feeling the pressure from outside sources regarding the way you are parenting your child, in the wise words of Elsa, let it go!
Stop trying to be the perfect mother. Ask yourself, “Am I doing the best that I can?”, “Are my children happy?” if the answer to those questions is yes, then give yourself a break. Trust your instincts and be the mother only you know how to be to your children. This is exactly what I will be doing from here on out!