Social media takes a lot of heat for making moms feel ‘lesser than.’ And I wholeheartedly agree. For a minute though, I’d like to call out parenting books and parenting experts as huge culprits in causing angst and a feeling of ineptitude across the parent population.
Nothing makes me feel like a worse parent than when I measure my parenting decisions against bits and pieces of expert opinions and research.
As I deconstruct particular decisions I’ve made, I inevitably end up stressing out over the permanent damage I’ve caused my child. My worry is usually – but not always – in proportion to the magnitude of my crime…
Oh shoot, I just bribed her with apples…I’m totally cultivating an unhealthy relationship with food…I wonder if apples are the exception…can a person even have an unhealthy relationship with apples? They are whole, organic foods after all…
Omigosh, I’m sitting here frozen, letting her squirm uncomfortably in that hug from a family member. This incident could prevent her from forming sufficient “bodily autonomy” and she could become a victim of nonconsensual sex.
Urgh, my neighbor called her shy to her face AGAIN just because she won’t say “hi.” Any day now she is going to begin internalizing that label, and it could become a real part of her identity because of a self-fulfilling prophecy.
Oh no…we bailed her out of her parent-and-me swim lessons. We’re helicopter-ing enablers.
You could call me an over thinker, paranoid, or just straight up off-the-rails-unhinged, but whatever the label, these are real thoughts that have swirled around in my mind as I parent our two-year-old and eight-month-old.
I know that it’s irrational to blindly cling to bits of information that are couched within a sentence that reads “Research shows…” much less be haunted by them, but I can’t help myself.
I know I need to remind myself that textbook scenarios can reflect some real-life situations, but in the end, they fall short. Your child and the unique set of circumstances in your life rarely match or even line up at all. Finally, I know that that there are no hard and fast rules in parenting. It’s messier than the neat package of a study, a book, or expert advice that people interpret as “rules” to follow.
So, comparing my parenting decisions against the carefully crafted, edited, and revised expert advice found within studies and parenting books is unfair, to say the least.
You would think that the mental merry-go-round of doubt and second guesses would discourage me from ever opening another parenting book again. But the thing is, I’m an insufferable sucker for both knowledge and self-improvement.
I like stuff that teaches me how to do things better, parent better, live better, even if it does occasionally backfire. It seems to me that the risk is less than the gain because it challenges me to grow as a mom and as a person.
And what’s life if you’re not continually learning and growing?
For the time being, I’ll silence these internal “momologues.” That is, of course, until I read the next most compelling study that completely derails how I was about to respond – or better yet, just did respond – to my children.