{Messy Parenting} Jealousy

A friend of mine recently posted a parenting article from Huffington Post on Facebook.  I read it, found some of it interesting, and started feeling a bit defensive.  Why?  Jealousy.

In the article, the author talks about how, through her sleeping techniques, her child was sleeping through the night at 6 weeks and continues to do so as a 3 year-old.  Cool, right?

But the whole article sent me into a depressive, sob-myself-silly, spiral.

None of my babies are sleeping through the night.  And I’ve tried every method!  

After thinking about this for a few days, I came to a conclusion.  My jealousy is okay. It’s also okay for parents to celebrate those moments when their parenting techniques yield successful results.

Being in the thick of newborn sweetness, exhaustion, and incessant crying, my emotions change as often as the weather in my current town (which is to say a lot).   I might react more than I’d like, yet I’m learning lessons a lot more quickly.

Sometimes during these really difficult times – when my older kids refuse to go to bed (coming out of their rooms every few minutes) until after 10 pm, when my baby cries until 1 am, when I’m changing 3 sets of diapers, when I’m cleaning up multiple poop messes during the week, when I subsist on chocolate and cheerios, and when Ben is working 14 hour work days – I doubt my parenting abilities.  I wonder why Sally’s kids are fully potty trained, why Dan’s children sleep through the night, why Julie’s kid eats everything put in front of her, and I think that I must have done something wrong.

Until I remember that their kids are not my kids.  Parenting methods are successful when they fully match a child’s personality.  Some kids thrive under attachment parenting, others through so-called detachment parenting, and others through a mix-and-match of all available methods.  When parenting some kids, you end up writing your own book on how to parent just that child.

That’s okay.

When reading through parenting books, magazines, blog posts, news articles, etc, it’s so easy to think that “if I just did X then Y would happen” and become frustrated when your plans go awry.  Children are as different as the cloud shapes in the sky.  That’s what is so incredibly beautiful and frustrating about parenting, it means finding your own way and can feel lonely at times.

During these moments when everything has seemingly fallen apart and I’m questioning why any person thought I was suited for this job, I have moments when I remember that this gig is as nuanced as I am.  If someone put me in one box, I would feel chafed.  I don’t belong in any personality box, I am me, an individual that exists beyond stereotypes and classifications (except Homo sapien, something that none of us can escape).  Yeah, try to write a book on how to “parent” me.  Good luck.

The same thing is true of children – infants, toddlers, preschoolers and beyond.  Informing yourself is important but pulling your hair out when things aren’t going as the book says it should, is just not worth it.  Shelve that book and try something else.

We, as parents, are too hard on ourselves.  Let’s give ourselves credit today, tomorrow, and forever.

And if you feel depleted, just remember that parenting is messy. Then, join me in my weekly parent validation post (which occurs at any time during the week because my life really is messy right now). I promise, once you give yourself a little credit for things you are proud of, you’ll feel better about moving forward.


(You can find my button here.)



Filed under messy parenting

14 responses to “{Messy Parenting} Jealousy

  1. NewlyHousewife

    I think the best thing I did as a parent after I had my daughter was to take a break. I didn’t go to school, I didn’t go to church, I didn’t worry about cleaning the house; I focused on me. The reason I did that was because after the first 6 weeks, the first time I went to church all I saw was perfect parents. Parents who put a onesie and then a sundress on their daughter with socks, shoes, and a bow to match. Compare that to my kid: no bow, no onesie, no socks, and no shoes. It grew into obnoxiousness when I would go to the mother’s room to nurse my babe and hear endless talks about how so-and-so’s daughter was doing spectacular at school, and how amazing the mom was for juggling this superstar teen on top of a rough baby. Then when the conversation would go to me to brag about my child: “Uhhh…she’s a baby.”

    Turns out I have postpartum depression but I truly do think separating myself from the environment that had me questioning my own skills to parent helped me in the long run. For example, my daughter turns 1 next month and I’m still breastfeeding. Wouldn’t have been able to do that if I kept going to church to look at perfect babies eating cheerios and formula.

    • admin

      When you talk about “separating yourself from the environment” I find myself nodding my head. Yes. That’s what we should all do! Take a break from the world so that we don’t feel awful for everything we do. There really is no “right way” to parent (you know, except beating your children, obviously). I have seen all methods, and been criticized multiple times for how I do things, but I’ve finally come to realize – now that I’ve had my third (I’m a slow learner) – that if I do my best, I am winning.

      Good for you for figuring all this out with your first.

      • NewlyHousewife

        I like to think I have the wisdom of a 40 year-old trapped in a 21 year-old body. Gets me plenty of friends online, but no one else seems to enjoy it.

      • I wonder just how often the comparison game leads us frown that slippery slope to deep unhappiness?

        By the way, it doesn’t seemed like matching bows and shoes made for happier people as we grow up. It’s hard to see all the put together folks, but that just shows they put more time/money into their appearance. Nothing else.

  2. Amen. Every kid is different. And you have to figure out what works for them and you and not what everyone else thinks you should do.

    My granny used to say opinions were like a certain body part – everyone had one. She was not a sweet old lady, she had the mouth of a sailor, so I’ll leave you to imagine what body part that was.

  3. I read part of the article you refer to at the beginning of your post, and I hope you can answer one question honestly: would you want someone this critical and sarcastic as your mother? It sounds like she is doing some things that work for her, and I hope they are honestly working for her child. But it seems quite narrow-minded to be so critical of attachment parenting simply because her technique worked for her child. That is a sample size of one, which is not exactly statistically significant. Her approach may be what her child needs, and the opposite of what many others need.
    Besides, there is one thing that is MUCH more important than teaching your children to self soothe from day one (which is not always that easy, regardless of what technique you use): making sure they know you love them! You are absolutely doing that. You probably haven’t tried the method of putting in ear plugs every evening and ignoring your children all night long. In the absence of a parent meeting their needs, they would eventually learn to self soothe. But they would also learn that you don’t care. And that would be tragic.
    Instead, you are making a HUGE sacrifice of time, sleep, and emotional well-being in order to be there for them. Staying up all night with crying babies doesn’t mean you are doing anything wrong, it just means you are a very committed mother. I applaud your efforts, and thank you for sharing. It helps the reset of us feel more normal.
    Also, I don’t know what your feelings are spiritually at the moment, but I have felt comforted in believing that God knows my child’s needs even when I don’t, and I feel that He has helped me understand them better.

  4. Amber, this is why I love you.

    Your reaction to this very opinionated piece is nuanced and though you say your emotions are big, it seems like a very level headed response. Mine isn’t. First, I would love to know how it goes when she’s out of that crib. Second, I wouldn’t want to slingshot my babies. Sorry. They are babies. (and I’ve heard that babies are showing up in the ER dehydrated because of some great advice books about making those babies adhere to your schedule)

    Parenting is messy business. The right technique is what works for you and your kid (and it’s humbling to see how different it is with each chilld).

    I hate the labels. I do not subscribe to a certain philosophy of parenting. I find what keeps me sane and my family healthy.

  5. Oh hell.

    I was jealous of everyone for the first four years of my sons’ lives – largely because I didn’t get an uninterrupted 6 hours of sleep during any of that period.

    Those who tout various methods of parenting for this or that? Great! If it works! And for the rest of us?

    Tears, chocolate, and all the expletives we feel like indulging in, when it comes to how we really feel hearing that life is easier for that other parent. Then again, we don’t know what’s actually going on.

    Do you always believe the lovely picture that is painted in what you read? (It’s never that simple. It’s never that perfect.)

  6. You know which parents I trust most? The ones who say, “This is hard!” and whose kids occasionally show up to school pictures with their shirts on backwards – because, in my experience, every family has its challenges: whether it’s eating or sleeping or temper tantrums. As Kate said above, the right way is what works for you. (And as we moms of more than one can probably agree on: just because we figure something out with one, that doesn’t mean the other one(s) aren’t going to throw us for a loop.)

    Keep the chocolate flowing! xo

  7. Elizabeth P.

    wow. That article you referred to was atrocious! After being a parent I’ve realized I can’t judge. It’s tough. And each child’s so different. When I worked at a preschool and saw kids come in with snotty noses and their hair a mess I vowed my kid would never look like that. But now that I have kids, I see how unrealistic that was and how judgmental I was! I think you’re an awesome mom and we miss playing with you and your kids!

  8. Amber,

    My girls were both terrible sleepers and Miss D. wasn’t fully potty trained until she was almost four. *eek*

  9. Great advice!!! It’s hard to remember this when you’re in the throes of parenting but i’m glad you are taking a moment to realize…parenting is messy!!!