Thursday, July 5, 2012

Is There a "Right Way" to Parent?

It's amazing to me that so many people have an opinion on the choices that I make as a mother. Feeding, sleeping, discipline, childcare, schooling... the list goes on. No matter what I do, it seems I'm being judged.

I can't figure out why people have such strong feelings on these subjects. Are they insecure enough to need validation for their own choices as parents? Are they threatened by the unfamiliar? Or is it an evangelical mindset - are they trying to "save" me?

When I was breastfeeding I got support, but it was conditional. If my baby became "old enough to ask for it," it would be "weird" for me to continue. Although my parenting style is reminiscent of the Attachment Camp, I didn't co-sleep. Worse, I "Sleep Trained" my first born and let her "Cry It Out." Baby-wearers  clutched their hearts in horror, thrusting accusatory studies under my nose that preached the developmental harm of such tactics. My younger child has a strong personality (I call him a "Force of Nature"). I have yet to figure out how to definitively guide his behavior, so in lieu of a better plan, I ignore or redirect. I can sense eye rolling and head shaking as I struggle with the short term and faithfully continue on in hopes that my work will pay off in the long run. I've chosen a Waldorf school for my older child (which some would say is one step away from homeschooling). Turns out people don't know much about Waldorf, but that doesn't stop them from having an opinion - never mind that my daughter is smart as a whip and a voracious reader to boot!

The biggest judgment of all: Choosing to be an at-home parent.

I've written about this before (Confessions of a SAHM). It seems to be the prevailing attitude of society that at-home parents are entitled or lazy (or both). Women of my generation were raised to believe we could "Have It All." But I can't devote the time and attention I know is necessary to both a career and my children. So I chose to focus my efforts where I feel they're most needed and most effective.

Most people I know who choose to be at home with their children are bright, thoughtful, diligent parents. We're here not because we are lazy - quite the opposite! We work day and night (literally) at our jobs. And this job can be thankless. While those in the workforce are getting a bonus or a pat on the back from the boss for doing a good job, I get yelled at when I do the right thing. I never work harder than when on a family vacation - time off for me is a trip to the grocery store by myself. But I wouldn't trade this life for anything! It's utterly gratifying to see my hard work pay off in a shoe that I didn't tie or a kind gesture from my child to a friend.

Children are like weeds - they grow fast and furious no matter what we do. We shouldn't underestimate our influence on their burgeoning souls, but the truth is they become their own people before we're ready for it. No matter the choices or mistakes we parents make along the way, I say there isn't one "right way" to raise a child. But "Good parents" do seem to share one thing in common: Love. Love is the great equalizer. No matter the differences in parenting style, a loving home renders a secure child. So maybe we should stop scrutinizing others' choices and just enjoy the results.