Do You Feel Judged for Your Parenting Choices?
Parenting to Your Child's Needs
Maybe the title "No Stress Parenting" is a little misleading. Perhaps "no stress" parenting is a myth. Raising kids can be pretty stressful. Sometimes the mere fact that I and my family made it through the day alive and without any serious injuries feels like a major accomplishment! But I'm not so much talking about the activity of parenting, as much as the methodology of parenting.
I'm talking about getting rid of the stress so often generated by how we parent, or more specifically, the incessant questioning of whether we're doing it "right" or not. We've become obsessed with the recommendations of the professionals about how we ought to parent our children. When we read an article on the Almighty Internet-especially written by someone with a few letters after their name-we act as if we've discovered the Holy Grail of parenting strategies: "Oh, THAT'S how to make my kid eat his peas!" Sometimes, that internet authority tells us that our method is wrong, or potentially harmful, we tremble at the thought that we've been doing it "wrong" all this time. Or, we find a PhD who affirms our parenting style, and we say, "See! I knew it!" And when someone isn't doing it the same way as we are, we say, "You know, you should really read Dr. So-and-So."
This wouldn't be so bad if the professionals all agreed - but they don't! Their opinions and recommendations are as varied and diverse (and contradictory) as ours. One says, "You've got to let them 'cry it out' or else they'll never learn to sleep on their own." Another says, "The 'cry-it-out' strategy is harmful to your child and increases anxiety." I read a funny internet rant by one exasperated Mom, who humorously stated the expert advice she had received: "Co-sleeping is the best way to get sleep, except that it can kill your baby, so never, ever do it. If your baby doesn't die, you will need to bed-share until college."
I think every parent has been there; the recipient of some piece of advice from an 'expert' (often through other well-intentioned, but often judgmental parents), that either directly contradicts your current parenting choices, or which seems so foreign and so strange that you can't imagine ever implementing the practice (for most people, breast-feeding until the child is 4 years old seems a little odd).
Here's where "Stress Free Parenting" comes into the picture. I'm no professional - just a new dad that's struggling my way through this whole parenting thing. I've learned not to ignore the professionals, nor the mountain of unsolicited advice I've received. However, I never take them as absolutes, but as options. At the end of the day, I have to do what's best for my child and my family. I know great parents who have great kids who told me that if I didn't let my kid "cry it out," that he would never be able to sleep through the night. Well, we didn't feel comfortable with that strategy, and yet our son has been sleeping through the night since about 9 months old. Right on track. Breast feeding was a nightmare for my wife. By 7 weeks, we had given up entirely. Nipple damage, mastitis in both breasts, constant pain, engorgement and pumping at all hours of the night, not to mention a miserable, hungry baby, all led to the ultimate decision to bottle feed. I remember one late night, awake with a screaming baby and sobbing wife and knowing that my son needed to eat, and my wife could not take the pain nor produce the necessary milk - I made a decision to go to the grocery store and buy some bottles and formula. We felt like failures, it felt like we were giving up, it was not part of the plan, but it was the right decision for my family. We've experienced sharp judgment from others for that decision - from people we truly love and greatly respect. But we had to do what was right for our family.
Go ahead and make the "No Stress Parenting" plunge. Accept the fact that you will make some mistakes, just like all those PhDs who wrote those articles online. You will have to make some difficult choices along the way - but they'll be your choices. Every child is different, and every family is different. It is simply impossible to come up with a "one-size-fits-all" approach to parenting. So don't worry so much about doing it RIGHT, just make choices that best suit the needs of your child and your family. It's not that all those other people are wrong, but they're not you, and they don't know your child.
Let me end on a spiritual note if I may. The child you have is a gift from God. God gave that child to YOU for a reason. If God wanted the PhDs to raise your child, than He would have made your child a part of their family. In the same way that we believe that God has blessed US with our children, so God has blessed your children with YOU. Trust Him to guide you and trust in your own choices for your family.
"Sons are a heritage from the LORD, children a reward from him." Psalm 127:3