Mom-ing is hard.
It is by far the hardest thing I have ever done.
Not only is the carrying, the feeding, the tucking back into bed several times, the answering endless “why?”s, and the stepping on legos in the middle of the night physically and mentally taxing, but the emotional merry-go-round of wondering “Am I doing this thing the right way?” is enough to make anyone crazy.
We wonder, us moms, should the apple have been organic? Should I have tried harder to breastfeed? If I buy plastic containers for my kid’s lunchbox will that give them cancer? Will it make them feel entitled if I spend $40.00 on the stainless steel bento box? Should my kids be watching less TV? Or more educational programming? Should I be working harder with them on learning their colors? Or should I let it go and encourage more free play while they are little? Should we just let them sleep in bed with us? If we send them back to bed, will that make them feel insecure about our love? Or if we let them sleep with us will they ever learn to sleep on their own? Will my kid ever like anything besides potato chips and hot dogs? Should I try harder to make them eat vegetables? Should we be giving our kids an allowance? If we make them earn money doing chores, will that give them a strong work ethic? Or will it make them think they don’t have to pitch in and do chores without being compensated?
And that’s just scratching the surface, isn’t it, mommas?
I think it’s hardest when we are brand-new to being a mom, and the barrage of choices that we have to make upfront or completely ruin our children forever is totally overwhelming. But I’ve been at this for four years (which is not forever, but a still a good little chunk of time) and I frequently struggle with self-doubt in a lot of the daily parenting decisions I have to make.
If you think a newborn baby’s cry is heart-wrenching, then you’ve never seen a two-and-half-year-old clap his hand over his mouth in despair and collapse into tears in the doorway because we asked him to go back to bed by himself, as Garret did a couple of nights ago. It broke my heart to watch him cry. Maybe he knows that, and that’s why he did it. And maybe he’s just still a sweet little baby who needs his mama. Maybe I should snuggle him every night before bed, and maybe I should toughen up and teach him to soothe himself a little better. I still don’t know the answer to that one.
But let me give you one simple tool to make some of the other (plentiful) decisions that come with parenting a little bit easier:
Whatever way you decide to parent your children, that will become the “right” way to them.
Think back to the first time you lived away from home with someone who was not a part of your immediate family. Chances are they did some things differently. Maybe they folded towels in thirds instead of halves, or cut sandwiches into triangles instead of squares. Maybe they had a different method of cleaning the sink or slicing an apple.
And if you ask them why they did it that way, I would bet you that their response was this simple phrase: “That’s how my mom always did it.”
Whenever you second-guess yourself today, picture your children twenty years from now, defending they way you did something simply because you are their mom. The way you wipe the counters or make oatmeal raisin cookies or teach them to tie their shoes will eventually be the default, or perhaps even the only way to do those things in your kids’ minds.
I’ll say it again: whatever way you decide to parent your children, that will become the “right” way to them.
So relax a little bit today, momma. You’re doing this right.