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.
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.)