Things I’m Not Going to Apologize for Anymore
Guilt is a very real issue in parenting. On a daily basis I find myself feeling like I'm failing or like I could be doing so much more. I know that I need to work on my own perception and the ways that I am hard on myself, but what I'm really feeling over is the guilt or judgement that adds on to my own self doubt coming from outside sources.
Sadly, those outside sources are often people that we care about – friends or family – and more often than not, they're other mothers. You can check out the mom-shaming stats that Mom.Life collected to see the reality. It would be nice to just distance yourself from these bullies, but often they're connected to you in so many ways that it can be hard to make that break. So you find yourself forced to put up with commentary from someone who fails to recognize that her choices being different doesn't make them better.
To be honest, I'm tired of feeling like I need to apologize. I'm tired of it for myself and I'm tired of it for all of you, too. Motherhood is the most complicated and rewarding thing I've ever done, but I'm ready to let go of some of the criticism and embrace the happiness of every day. How about you?
Here are a few things I'm done apologizing for.
What I feed my kids
Oh, you thought it would stop after the whole breastfeeding vs formula debates? Nope. Whether I want to drive my kids through the fast food line or grow my own organic vegetables using compost, the important thing is that I somehow manage to keep them relatively nourished on a regular basis. As far as I'm concerned, unless you're coming over here every mealtime to cook and provide meals for this family, you don't get an opinion on what we're eating. So I'm not going to make excuses about why I decided to order pizza – again. Instead I'm going to gobble down that slice of pepperoni with the kids and enjoy the moment.
I still look around and wish that the piles of paperwork on the counter and the laundry all over the bedroom floors were better contained, but they're not and that's alright. Because there's only so much you can do in one day and that's where I cut my corners. I'd rather watch a movie snuggled on the couch while my babies still want to snuggle than mop the bathroom floor.
However I don't think you should need to apologize if you keep your home perfectly clean and organized either. In fact, I think it's pretty awesome. If that's what keeps you sane and functioning then more power to you and keep doing your thing!
Being on my phone while with the kids
There are working moms who are squeezing in a few more emails while they let their kids run around the park or stay at home moms who are organizing the next PTA event or any kind of moms who just want a break to think about something other than their kids for five minutes. Each of them deserves some guilt-free time to get it done without anyone's judgy stares.
Personal parenting choices
My major goal in parenting is raising decent human beings. For me, that means respecting that they have feelings and opinions while also setting limits and expecting certain kinds of behavior. When my kids burst into tears when I tell them no or wake up in the middle of the night or talk back to me it's on me to determine the best way to deal with it. I don't always get it right, but I follow my heart and try to remember that while this moment is difficult, overall I've got three amazing kids who are growing into truly kind and loving little people.
So at our house, we might have kids in our bed in the middle of the night, or homework that doesn't get done, or a sassy kiddo that loses iPad privileges. And my friend might never let her kids sleep in her bed, require that homework is always completed, and never allow iPad time in the first place. I can recognize that there is more than one answer that can work, and spending my life trying to be “right” is a losing battle. It's not about “right” – it's about what works for me, and for whichever kid I'm dealing with at the moment.
How my relationship with my spouse operates
Parenthood brings a new dimension to any relationship. Our oldest is 10 years old and my husband and I are still figuring out the best way to navigate a marriage and parenting. But at the end of the day what it comes down to is the two of us and our kids. What works for another couple could be disastrous for our relationship, and that's normal. We're all working on finding the right path. Just because mine doesn't look like someone else's doesn't mean that it's wrong.
Listening to my kids
I like to hear what my kids think, what they're interested in, what they're scared of or excited about. Yes, sometimes it can be painfully boring – they can talk about Minecraft for so long and it all begins to run together – but it's worth the time invested.
There's a quote from Catherine Wallace:
“Listen earnestly to anything [your children] want to tell you, no matter what. If you don't listen eagerly to the little stuff when they are little, they won't tell you the big stuff when they are big, because to them all of it has always been big stuff.”
And all I have to say about that is yes. Exactly.
Don't get me wrong, I've come up with an assortment of ways to get out of playing Barbies or building with Legos yet again. But I'll also happily cancel weekend plans with friends when I know that the bad behavior I'm seeing at home is really just a cry for a little more attention. And I won't feel sorry.
I spent a long time thinking that value was found in me being able to do things on my own. It was only a valid accomplishment if I managed to handle it without “breaking down” or asking for help. But here's the lesson I finally learned: asking for help is actually the stronger choice. It allows you to build relationships and learn from other people. My children are better off for having more people in their lives who love and care for them. And I'm a better person for feeling the gratitude and connectedness that comes from letting others in willingly and acknowledging the value that they bring into our lives.
Whether I admitted it to myself or not, I always needed help. I'm better off now that I've accepted it as a gift instead of a failure.
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