When I had my first child, I knew everything. And not only did I know everything, but I wanted everything. I don’t mean I wanted a fancy stroller or a fabulous diaper bag. I mean I wanted my child to have the best, fiercest love from a mother making only the best, fiercest decisions.
And in my zealousness as a new mother, I equated every decision I made for my child as the only and best decision to make. I was not a new mother plagued by indecision and doubt; my intent to do right by my baby was so righteous, so fervent, that I convinced myself that the way I was raising my baby was the only, best way to raise a baby. Any baby. My baby, your baby, that baby I saw crying in a stroller and wondered how on earth her negligent mother could leave her crying in a stroller like that when babies needed to be held, comforted, loved.
Everything I did was the best way to do it – the right way to do it. And you know what? It absolutely was. For my child.
And then I had another child who was very different from my first, and I had no choice but to adjust how I mothered her. I started to realize that there could not possibly be only one way to raise a child well. In fact, I broke my own inaugural rule of best motherhood by having a c-section. I had to have drugs and surgery and I did not get to bring my baby straight to my chest to hold her until the chord stopped pulsing. Was I failing my child?
In fact, I could look back even earlier in the course of mothering this second child, and tick off all the things on the perfect mother checklist that I was already doing wrong for both of my kids.
Spend quiet moments gently caressing my pregnant belly, murmuring words of love to my unborn child? As if. I had a toddler to run after, and a dying father to tend to.
Prepare myself for tandem breastfeeding, intending to not force my firstborn to stop simply because a sibling was on the way? Right. See above. I gave myself a much needed 4-month break from breastfeeding before I started again with a newborn.
Even before my second born had arrived, I had, by my own standards and expectations, failed both of my children.
My circumstances could not change. So guess what did?
My kids are both happy, healthy, loved and well-adjusted.
I made the best decisions – for my kids. And I have learned, in nearly a decade of being a mother, that you probably did too.
And the decisions that I continue to make as a mother continue to hopefully be the best ones for my children.
But if they aren’t, I don’t need you to tell me.
You may not like the decisions I make about my children’s education, and I may not like the decisions you make about your child’s lunch. Awesome.
I may think your kid is spoiled, and you may think my kids are coddled. Fine by me.
You may think that I trust in an unproven science, and I may think that you believe in rainbows and fairytales. Good stuff.
Here is the new contract I enter into as a mother with that blessed tiny amount of experience and perspective:
I will leave you to raise your children, and you may leave me to raise mine.
This is not about the village. This is about what happens inside a home in the village when the doors are shut and real work must be done.
This is about understanding that if other parents do not make the choices I have, it does not diminish the great job that either one of us are doing.
This is about understanding that different does not equal wrong, and that there is more than one way to raise a baby.
This is about appreciating the unbelievable privilege I have to raise my kids in so safe and secure an environment that I can actually make these choices. Perhaps taking this privilege for granted is what first made me think that it was my right to comment on the choices you make as well.
I think my kids are amazing. Not perfect, but amazing. Because of, or despite, the choices I have made.
I bet your kids are as well.
So if you want to know what I think, what I would counsel, what my thoughts are, or what my perspective is, go ahead and ask. Otherwise, there are plenty of other, much more interesting things, for us to talk about.
When the doors to our homes are opened and we step into the village square, there are lots of aspects of the childrearing we should share.
Our righteous indignation over the choices somebody else makes, is not one of them.