I never knew how real “mom guilt” was. Until I become a mom. In fact, I think I’ve finally nailed down why my first six months as a parent were some of the most stressful of my life—without even realizing it. I truly believed there was a right way to parent and a wrong way to parent and that the line between the two was terrifyingly blurred.
There’s No Perfect Way to Parent.
When I was pregnant, I read every book I could get my hands on. I asked for advice. I was certain, absolutely certain, that there was a perfect way to be a parent, and I was determined to be the one to figure it out. Perhaps even more dangerous than that, I believed that anything less than perfect could somehow damage my child irreparably.
But with so many opinions and so many vague answers, what was I supposed to do? How was I supposed to protect my child from becoming a lazy, entitled, non-empathetic monster who only wanted to eat Big Macs and never sleep? I thought there must be a magic formula for creating a healthy, emotionally mature, and well-balanced human being and that anything less would be a complete failure on my and my husband’s part.
You Are Not Alone.
If you have been a parent for much longer than me, you’re probably already laughing. But if you are a new parent, or about to become one, maybe you’ve felt this way too. Perhaps you’re a perfectionist who settles for nothing less than the best, so why would you strive for anything else with your child?
Surely a perfect blend of breastmilk, prenatal yoga, nonexistent access to technology, flawless nutrition, attentive never-let-them-cry sleep training will lead to the next competent leader of the free world.
But here’s what I’ve learned in just 3 1/2 years: there are about a million right ways to be a parent and shockingly few wrong ways. While this revelation may be obvious to some, it was so astonishing to me that it was like getting the wind knocked out of my lungs. It is much harder to screw up and damage your child than you think it is, and it is much easier to let your children know they are loved and secure and safe than you ever imagined.
You’re Doing Great. No, Really. You Are.
If you love your children and want the best for them, and ensure they are fed, clothed, and moderately clean, you’re doing just fine. Actually, you’re doing great. Please let this realization hit you smack in the face like a surprise wave at the beach. Realize that so many different roads are the right roads toward creating a happy, healthy, empathetic human being.
There is no one way to be an amazing parent. If anything, it takes a lot more work to be a really bad one. So let go of the guilt.
You are doing just fine. No matter what your family looks like, what your kitchen looks like, or what your child’s clothes look like, you really are doing OK. Your children are going to turn out great, and—spoiler alert—you are going to turn out great, too. Need some support? Connect with other local moms at Bethesda Christian School and talk with our teachers to get a feel for mom life at our school.