I didn’t move into my parenting role thinking, “Wow, this will be so easy”, but I certainly was not prepared for how hard it would be. I read tons of books. I made plans. And I had expectations. For the most part, things didn’t go my way.
Here are just 5 of the misconceptions I had prior to having children:
- Pregnancy Interventions = Pure Evil – With my first child, I thought I would have my baby at home and in the birthing tub. I thought it would be drug-free and beautiful. While I have always valued the advances of modern medicine and the good fortune of having many life-saving interventions at our disposal, I feared the overuse of pregnancy interventions in the hospital because of books I read and movies I watched. My first exposure to this kind of material was the documentary The Business of Being Born. But instead of the amazing experience of a home-birth, I found myself on a very bumpy and uncomfortable ride to the hospital for an emergency cesarean section. Just eighteen months later, I birthed my second baby in the hospital with a midwife and had a much better experience.
- Breast is Best – I thought I would breastfeed until my kids were at least a year old but they both pushed me away and self-weaned prior to their first birthday. I had SO MUCH guilt that I didn’t nurse my children longer. Looking back, that is such silly guilt. Not only is breast not always best in some cases, it’s also not always possible.
- I Will Be a Laid Back Mom – I thought I could be a laid back yet protective, caring and effective parent. Most of the time I just feel anxious that I am incompetent and likely screwing my kids up for life. Luckily I have had many opportunities to gain more and more parenting tools and learn how to parent a little bit better. Even when I appear to be a laid back parent, the “Type A” personality within me is most likely screaming inside and I have to gently tell her to chill out.
- Lots of Kids = Lots More Fun – I used to want a healthy and large-ish family with 4-6 children, but after having just one child I knew I only wanted two kiddos tops. Even though it is my full-time job to care for two boys, I can barely keep up with their individual needs and personalities (let alone my needs and that of my husband). As it turns out, raising two children is enough work and PLENTY enough fun for me!
- Discipline Is Easy – I thought I had a pretty good idea about how to discipline children. Consistency, firmness and follow-through are key, I would say to myself. Ideas about discipline are one thing, but actually implementing them on your own children consistently (especially when you’re in and out of emotional exhaustion) is a whole different story. I used to think a certain level of strictness was better, but I’ve learned the necessity of adjusting to what is best for each kid and for our family as a whole.
These 5 misconceptions (along with many others) used to contribute to my judgmental attitude toward parents who weren’t parenting “correctly”. In other words, if I didn’t agree with other parenting styles and choices, I thought those parents were in the wrong and not doing what was best for their child. I have now been a parent for over 4 years and have endured a lot of battles and exhaustion. I no longer pass judgement about the choices of other parents (aside from the hideous acts of abuse and neglect). While I am grateful for all the evidence-based parenting methods out there, individual parents have the freedom to throw out the method if it’s not working for them. It is indeed very freeing to realize that each parent is different, each child is different, and therefore each parenting method is going to be very different. As I move forward, I am certain I will continue to have unrealistic mommy expectations and plans. But now that I know what I know, I think I can be less judgmental of myself and others as I do the hardest, most important job in my life.
Why is parenting filled with so much anxiety?
I want to close by sharing a great TED talk I stumbled across and just a few of my thoughts. Many of the things Jennifer Senior talks about resonated with me and are relevant here. She talks about how overwhelming the parenting section at the book store is, stating that it’s “a giant, candy-colored monument to our collective panic”. We have more parenting books at our disposal then 50 years ago or even just a few years ago.
I have read many a parenting book and I admit that I often end up anxiously and frantically weeding through all the differing and conflicting opinions. Don’t get me wrong, I think it can be very beneficial to glean parenting wisdom from books and other resources. I just think we get too worried sometimes and forget that people have been raising kids for a long time without this wealth of information to sort through. Recently, a friend of mine put it so well, “Sometimes I decide to throw the book out and just wing it.”
Consider listening to this 18 minute talk while you fold laundry or do dishes, it’s totally worth it!
Any thoughts on raising kids? When do you “just wing it”? Share a time when you were judgmental.