I wrote this short essay for my book club after we read This I Believe. It is a collection of essays from the NPR series of the same name ( http://www.npr.org/templates/story/story.php?storyId=4538138 ). It is a short description of my basic belief in parenting that we don't have all the answers and we do the best we can.
"Parenting is Not an Exact Science"
The best advice I ever received for getting my babies to sleep was to do “whatever works.” So my oldest ended up sleeping in a swing, a car seat and eventually my bed for the first months of his life. This idea has seeped over into other aspects of parenting. When I had a three-year-old throwing a temper tantrum (he skipped his terrible two’s which made the three’s pretty tough), I would stick his binky in his mouth and thought to myself, “whatever works.” Parenting is hard enough and if I can find something to pacify my toddler, why not use it? He has since grown out of using his pacifier and the fact that I let him use it longer than the conventional norm has not hurt him in the long run. ‘Whatever works’… works for me.
If I were to write a parenting book today, I think I would title it, Parenting by the Seat of Your Pants. Sometimes “winging it” and listening to your instincts is the best thing to do and I wish that I would do it more often. I, along with so many well-intentioned mothers, over-think my decisions when it comes to my kids to the point of obsession. Do you know how long I researched car seats before settling on the two in my car? I stress about organic foods, hydrogenated oils, nitrates and now our water supply! I lost sleep over which pre-school to enroll my son. I have finally come to the realization that the rare trip through the drive-through is not going to hurt my kids and there are very few decisions I make today that will adversely affect them for the rest of their lives. I am pretty sure that I make decent choices for them every day. If one of them isn’t optimal, I am hoping that everything else will make up for it. By trusting my instincts and doing what I think is the right thing at the time; I am doing the best that I can. I find that the more relaxed I am with my parenting choices, the better mother I am. Whatever works, right?
I used to harshly judge people for their parenting choices before I had children. I was one of those single thirty-something’s that had opinions on child rearing that had absolutely no basis in reality. Some of the things that bothered me as a childless yuppie still stick with me today, however. I still have little patience for children running around a restaurant—but I don’t think I am alone in that one. Most of my judgments, on the other hand, have been thrown out the window. For example, my second child cured me of ever looking down on a mother with a dirty kid. It is not a matter of poor hygiene; some kids just make a mess. I tried to keep her clean and have changes of clothes etc., but I quickly realized that I am not that perfect mom and if my daughter gets black beans all over her dress, that is what Oxyclean is for.
As long as my children are happy, healthy, and reasonably well behaved, I must be doing something right. No matter what I do or how well adjusted they seem, I will always worry that I am doing the right thing by them. I have talked to so many moms like me who obsess and agonize over making the wrong choice and being a “bad mom.” My true belief is that anyone who worries about being a bad mom isn’t one. It is the ones who don’t care at all that are the bad ones….