Being a parent is hard. I know I’ve said it before and you can bet that I’ll say it again. There’s just no way around it. It’s hard on you physically. It’s hard on you mentally. It’s hard on you emotionally. It’s hard. And the amount scrutiny most parents seem to find themselves under certainly doesn’t make it any easier.
We are constantly bombarded with things we should and should not be doing with, for, and to our children. We’re constantly seeing news articles and posts on social media about “bad” parents or parenting methods. We’re constantly being offered unwarranted advice and being told what is right for our kids. Don’t get me wrong, there is a lot of great information out there. And there are a lot of good people who genuinely want to help me as a parent by putting in their two cents. Here’s the thing though, I knew before I even had kids what kind of parent I was and was not going to be. I knew how I wanted to handle every situation that arose. I knew what disciplinary actions I would use. I even knew at what ages I would introduce what level of electronics. I put a lot of thought into what kind of parent I was going to be. And guess what? I’m not that kind of parent at all.
I learned pretty early on after my first son was born that parenting styles are, for the most part, more of a fluid kind of thing than something set in stone. Now, that doesn’t mean there aren’t things that I am unwavering about, because there absolutely are, but it’s the little day to day things I thought I had all figured out that have turned out to go almost exactly the opposite of how I imagined. I can’t even tell you how many times I thought or said “I’m never going to be the kind of parent who…” only to find out That’s exactly the kind of parent I would be.
I was never going to yell at my kids. I’d seen so many other parents in my life who were constantly yelling at their children. Some, so it would seem, didn’t really have another tone or volume they ever used with their kids. It always hurt my heart to hear the kids being talked to like that, so I promised myself I would never yell at my kids. I can’t tell you the exact moment that changed, but somewhere between my oldest trying to stick his pretzel sticks in the dogs booty and running straight out into the street, suffice to say I found myself yelling. Admittedly, there are times I have been over-emotional (whether from sleep deprivation or PPD) and have unwarrantedly yelled at the boys, but overall I think I’ve found when and where is appropriate to use an escalated tone and volume with my kids. Now, some parents manage to go through parenting without yelling at all, and that is amazing and commendable, but I’m not that parent, and that’s ok.
I was never going to allow my children to watch tv at a young age, or use electronics at all for the most part. It has always struck a chord with me to see kids who aren’t able to behave without their faces buried in a screen. I wanted my kids to play outside, interact with other people, and be able to go on outings without being glued to a tablet. By the time my oldest was six months old, I was at a point where I hardly ever got to shower and was usually only eating one meal, sometimes two, a day. Thank God for Daniel Tiger. In an act of utter desperation, I turned on Netflix and let my son sit in his jumperoo in front of the tv while I took what was easily one of the top five most glorious showers of my life and hoovered down some lunch. We still limit the boys’ tv time and they almost never get to use tablets, but I don’t feel guilty when they do. And I don’t feel so negatively towards parents who have chosen to use electronics as tools to help them navigate the rough waters of parenthood and childrearing. I know there are some parents who have stayed steadfast in not allowing their kids any screen time, which is awesome, but I’m not that parent, and that’s ok.
Those are just a couple of examples of things I was so certain I wouldn’t do. Even though everything hasn’t gone exactly as I imagined it would, I also never knew how much joy, pure, unadulterated, unbelievable joy, I would feel being a mother. I never thought I could love as deeply and devotedly as I do with my boys. I am, in pretty much every aspect, the mom I never thought I would be. And you know what? There is so much freedom in that. Even though I’m not the parent I thought I’d be, I’m definitely a better parent than I could have imagined
Letting go of so many preconceived notions I had on who I had to be as a mother and how I had to raise my kids has allowed me to be open minded and open hearted to learning and adjusting. It’s made me more compassionate to other parents, especially those whose parenting methods I may not agree with (not because they’re unsafe, but because they’re not what I would choose). I used to feel so much guilt in the fact that I wasn’t the parent I wanted to be, but now I just feel proud that I’ve grown so much and allowed for change.
It’s easy to get swept up in negative feelings, especially when you feel like you’re not doing a good job, or that you’re letting your kids down, or like you’re not enough. It’s easy to compare ourselves to others and feel as though we fall short. It’s easy to regret things that were said and done at the end of a trying day. It’s all too easy, but hey, parenting isn’t meant to be easy, so do the harder thing and find the positive. Take pride in who you are as a parent. Rejoice in your accomplishments (going to the bathroom uninterrupted counts, just so you know). You may not be the parent you thought you wanted to be, I know I certainly am not. But I bet you anything you’re better.