When I was pregnant, one of the best pieces of advice I received went something like: Come to terms with the fact that every parenting decision you ever make will be the wrong one.
I have come back to that idea over and over again in my six months as a mom. There is not one right way to do anything, much less how to raise a child. And I remind myself that people have been birthing kids and raising kids, since, say, the beginning of time. Since before we knew about SIDS. Before formula. Before car seats.
Here are two ways that I am trying to combat fear (and fear of failure):
1. Stop surrounding myself with information and advice that is not encouraging
For every decision you make, someone will think it is the wrong one. And, often, people are very, VERY vocal about why their decision is the only right way, especially when they are sitting comfortably and isolated in front of a glowing screen.
I am absolutely thankful to live in a time where information is at my fingertips. In a time where I can find support when I’m crying big tears full of hormones, pain, disappointment, and exhaustion as I try to latch my newborn. I’m thankful for a time where we know more about infant safety, and car seats are mandatory.
But, unfortunately the internet–in both the sheer amount of scary information and people’s unfettered ability to express their opinion–often cultivates a mindset of fear. What if I do something wrong and it harms my child? What if I delay my child’s development? What if I fail? What will people think?
Often, we look to the great interwebs to grant us a blessing before we make any parenting decision. When I was pregnant, I must have signed up for every pregnancy, breastfeeding, and parenting online group there was. I poured (obsessively) over birth stories and breastfeeding tips and do’s and don’ts. While I learned a lot of useful information, my research binges often left me feeling depressed, fearful, or simply overwhelmed. And, if you’ve ever read mom comments, sometimes they can be plain hateful. Too often a mom’s plea for help is met not with encouragement, but judgement and disdain.
If you are reaching out for help on the internet and you are not feeling encouraged, then stop reading! Click the little red square in the top right-hand corner (or left, if you’re way cooler than me) and walk away. You do not need anything else to make you feel overwhelmed. Simply musing on your role as a parent is overwhelming enough.
2. Remember that failure is an integral part of learning. Failure does not mean that you are a failure as a parent.
Sometimes we need to remember that just like our littles are learning to sit up and grasp and babble and wobble, we are learning how to parent. It is a continuous process. Not only are you learning how to care for a child, you are learning about who your children are becoming, and who you are as a parent. And just like your little one will fall after those first steps, we have our falls as parents.
Sometimes we try something and it doesn’t work out or we get lost in the chaos. You get to the point where you are ready for “cry it out” and it doesn’t work as promised. You keep forgetting the “schedule” and your little is screaming and overtired. You can’t remember the last time your kid had a bath. Your kid just won’t poop in the toilet. The first word is . . . ahem. . . not pretty.
Or we have goals that don’t pan out–but that doesn’t mean you are a failure, either. You plan for a natural birth and end up with a C-section, but you have a healthy baby. You breakdown and supplement, but it takes a load off of your shoulders. Exclusively making homemade baby food proves to be more work than you thought, but you’re still able to feed your kid.
I am trying to take life as it comes, go with my gut, and be confident in my decisions–even if they fail. Instead of getting lost in parenting forums, I’m trying to pick up the phone and call or text a fellow mom. Or call the nurse instead of asking Dr. Google. Often the best advice is just a set of ears to listen and a friend to tell you their story.
My goal as a parent is, ultimately, not to do everything right, but to raise an individual who can lead his own life. Who is creative and independent and loves others well.
If you love your kids and are doing your best to love them well, then you’re doing a great job. We are all worried that we’ll screw up our kids, and we probably will a little.