When I was pregnant, my husband and I didn’t really know what kind of parents we would be. Would we make our own baby food and extended nurse? Would we co-sleep? Would we cry it out? Finally pregnant after years of infertility procedures and medications, we were just happy to be waiting on our little one’s arrival. We knew that we were going to be the best parents we would be, and that we would be a team dedicated to raising our kiddo with our family’s core values of compassion, gratitude, and humor. But other than that, we had no idea how we would parent. Somehow, we knew that we couldn’t define our parenting style until we actually had a baby to hold and shape.
As it turns out, we ended up being a hodge podge of parenting styles. We nursed to 14 months and made homemade baby food. We tended to be more of the attachment parenting school of thought, but we didn’t co-sleep and kicked our little one out of our room at 8 weeks because he grunted really loudly and I couldn’t take it anymore. We nursed on demand, and didn’t cry it out, even though our son didn’t sleep through the night for at least 18 months.
We made a decision to parent through experiences, and had our son at a restaurant when he was only 5 days old. We love the outdoors and spent plenty of time stopping to look at rocks and ladybugs when our son was a toddler. We go to church weekly, and read at least twice a day. We don’t spank, and we give our son choices.
However, once you establish your parenting style, what are you to do when you realize that your parenting style doesn’t match the style of your friends or family? We have plenty of family members and friends who parent their kiddos in almost a direct opposite way from us. Here are a few things I have learned in our short run at parenthood over the past 4 years.
Oooh, this is a hard one for me. If I’m honest here, I judge my friends when they swat their toddler on the booty. I also question the judgment of our friends who stopped their child’s nap at 2 years old so that they could send him to bed earlier and have their grown-up alone time. But here’s the thing that I realized sooner than later – everyone is doing the best they can, and the last thing I should be doing is judging someone else on their parenting choices. Once I made the conscious effort to quit second guessing everyone around me, I became infinitely happier.
Don’t back down.
While it is never good to get into a debate about cloth diapers vs. disposable, know that if your family or friends openly question you choices, it doesn’t mean that you are doing something wrong. As long as you and your partner are on the same page of parenting issues, you don’t need anyone else’s support or blessing. Just be the parent you are meant to be.
Make a decision and stick with it.
Second guessing your own parenting choices is a slippery slope that can lead to anxiety and craziness. My husband and I work to make the best decision we can with the information we have at the moment, and then stick to it. Of course, you can always change direction or try something new, but if we spent all of our time re-evaluating every parenting decision we make, we would be crazy people.
Even if your parenting style differs from your friends, and even if you feel judged by them for your decisions, make an effort to speak joy when you are around them. All parents are exhausted and doing the best that we can. Raising small humans is exceedingly hard work and we could all use a vote of confidence or a pat on the back.
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