The Internet is full of experts, with everyone claiming to be a know-it-all on whatever topic for no other reason than that the Internet allows people to send their opinions and thoughts out into the world and share it with none-the-wiser fools.
I, of course, say this as a blogger—someone who is often guilty of assuming I hold some nebulous authority on various subjects (even if it’s only in my own head). Much of what I write is based purely on emotion rather than facts or evidence. After all, I’m a working mom with three kids ages five and under, and I write on the side, in my not-so-spare moments. Emotion is an excellent (and is sometimes the only) motivator to get my fingers to the keys. And this article is no exception.
In the past 48 hours, I’ve been home with two sick kids. The middle somehow managed to avoid the puke-fest and is having a grand ol’ time at daycare without siblings hogging her spotlight. I find myself with a couple of hours while the baby naps and the big kid has quiet time. Wait, let’s cut the bull. He’s watching his third movie of the day. Some days just call for it, am I right? Regardless, I’ve had ample time to write, but no motivation—until I read these words of a mom debunking the myths of parenting.
Perhaps it’s the sleep deprivation or the charming smell of kid vomit mucking with my head, but this article—not so different from every other parenting piece I’ve read (or written, for that matter)—sent me into a firestorm of emotions. Well, that’s not entirely true. It actually just really pissed me off. So I let my fingers loose and ranted and vented and ripped apart the words of another mom. Because I could.
Thankfully, I have good friends who edit my work and tell me when I’m wrong, so I scrapped that ranty hot mess of angst and emotion. While I still don’t agree with everything Nicole said in her myth-busting parenting piece, I’ve calmed down enough to hopefully provide insight rather than insult for her and other parents who may feel clueless, frustrated, and alone.
1. You Are Not Clueless
At least, not completely. Even the mother of a newborn knows the basics: baby needs food, clothing, diapers, and love. She may not know how to get the colicky kiddo to stop screaming or how to make time to shower with this new life depending on her 24/7. But not being an expert in advanced newborn wrangling does not equate to knowing nothing.
Parenting is complex. It’s not as easy as choosing Solution A and determining whether it passed. It’s more like throwing everything we know at the wall and hoping something sticks; however, with all our parenting efforts, strategies and tactics, it’s nearly impossible to know which—or even which combination—led to our successes or failures as parents.
We may not be able to say with confidence “that regular bedtime routine definitely caused little Johnny to be valedictorian,” but this in no way indicates we had no clue about the general benefits of that routine.
Sure, that regular bedtime routine may fail some nights, because children aren’t always the most cooperative. We can struggle to get them to eat their vegetables or battle with them over the torture that is brushing their teeth. We may spend weeks or months of frustration wrestling them in the pews at church. Our efforts fail and we may feel stupid, but these setbacks do not in any way negate our knowledge that these are all worthy endeavors. Our implementation may be off, and we may need help and guidance, but we’re far from clueless.
2. You Do Have This Parenting Thing Down
Stop laughing and hear me out. You’re likely better at this parenting thing than you give yourself credit for, and that’s not just smoke I’m blowing.
This isn’t a matter of deceiving ourselves into thinking everything is awesome as long as we smile and nod and put on a good show for the neighbors—or the mirror. This is also not about ignoring where we struggle or downright fail. Nor is it about pretending we are all perfect parents. We aren’t. This is about not letting our faults and failures, mishaps, and messy moments define our parenting in its entirety.
We celebrate the successes and learn from the mistakes, because you will have both, even if they aren’t on the same day. I mean, some days just go horribly, horribly wrong, and that’s okay. We’ve all been there. Now, I’m not insisting we pat ourselves on the back constantly and print parenting participation certificates to hang on our love-me wall. But, c’mon people, find your confidence and own where you do well. If you suck at discipline and your kids do run the roost, seek advice and help from friends and fellow parents, but don’t let that one failure mask the fact that you’re awesome at feeding, clothing, and loving those little buggers.
3. You Are Not Alone
Parenting can feel lonely. Even if we’re surrounded by fellow parents at church, mom’s groups, work, or online, we can delude ourselves into thinking we’re suffering some personal and individual hell which no one can relate to. Man, we’re a self-centered bunch, aren’t we? The fact is, many have tread this path before and faced these same frustrations and trials, and many will after us, too. We need these been-there-done-that parents to listen, commiserate, and offer help if warranted.
It’s easy to want to throttle the kind-faced stranger who provides her two cents when you let it slip you’re seeking a magic bullet in the lotion aisle for your awake-all-night baby. Being tired and angry to begin with makes it that much harder to see that stranger in the best construction—as helper, not judgy-over-stepper. Before you tell ‘em to shove off, think back to the five minutes before when you may have felt like you’re the only parent in the world whose baby just won’t sleep, and then thank them for the suggestion.
This goes for friends and family, too. Yes, it can get touchy when people close to us start shoving their advice our way, and some advice may not always be offered in the best tone or at the best time. But don’t let the occasional irritation from someone’s apparent know-it-all-ness scare you away from seeking them out for help when you really need it.
No, they may not have that perfect solution for you and your kids, but if there’s anything that makes parenting easier it’s a well-stocked arsenal of strategies, tips, tricks, and advice from people, especially people you trust, who have employed them in the past. That, and wine. Wine is always good.
4. You Will Survive Small Children
Listen, I’m no fortune teller with a crystal ball, but statistically speaking, you will more than likely survive this crazy season of raising littles—and so will your kids. The days may seem endless and more boring than you expected. There may be more tears and screams than you are proud of (from both you and the kids), and there will be many hours spent wondering if you’ll ever sleep again, or eat a hot meal again, or own spit-up free clothes again. You may feel dumb and incompetent. You may have moments when shame and regret plague you. Not may—you will. Because none of us is perfect.
But perfection isn’t what we need as parents. Instead we rely on a healthy balance of humility and confidence, the ability to say, “Crap, I need help” while still acknowledging “Hey! I did that really well!” We need the humility to concede that parent over there might just know a thing or two about children and sleep and listen rather than shun them for being better. We also need a wee bit of cockyness to say “I got this” when it all hits the fan and our kids need us to take charge.
Nicole was right in her article. There will be fun and joy, monotony and disappointment. But instead of celebrating our failures as parents, acknowledging and assuming that we’re all just faking it to save face, we should face this crazy vocation of parenting head-on, plowing through all the discipline challenges and the multitude of bodily fluids to be cleaned up while holding fast to these truths to keep us going.
And when we forget them, no worries. There’s always some expert on the Internet willing to help.