As 21st century parents, it is easy to burden ourselves with guilt and anxiety about whether or not we are doing the absolute best as parents. We start making parenting decisions before a child is even conceived, making proclamations about what we would or would not ever do as parents.
Then children arrive. We find that many of those bold proclamations don't work out the way that we expected. Or a child cries and cries, and we find that we can't keep our patience. We find ourselves defending our parenting decisions to family, friends, and even strangers. The internet is funky like that.
There are the so-called "Mommy Wars," which tend to be more mainstream moms versus the "crunchy moms." Flame wars erupt on blogs and Facebook posts with moms attacking each other. (I'm focusing on moms here simply because I haven't seen too many dads involved). Even within each "side" of the war, there are skirmishes, mutinies, and other divisive attacks.
Ladies (and gentlemen): Stop. Parenting is hard enough. Listen to each other. Be able to say: "This worked for me. This did not work for me. Your experience might be the same or different. As parents, we do what we need to in order to survive sleepless nights and long days."
Here's my own before and after:
Then: "I think I'll probably breastfeed for six months, but I'll definitely stop after a year. It's creepy when children can ask for it."
Now: We're ten months in (almost), and I have no plans to stop anytime soon. Partially because I've realized there's nothing sexual about it and partially because I've learned that extended breastfeeding is normal in much of the world and the World Health Organization recommends continuing until at least the age of two. I'm also grateful to be able to do this for my child when many women cannot. More on that another time.
Then: "I'll never let my baby sleep in my bed. It's dangerous and establishes bad habits!"
Now: It started by accident. She slept with me because I'd fall asleep nursing her and be too tired to return her to the bassinet. And then I realized I loved waking up and looking at her little baby face. At six months, she transitioned to her own room because that's what worked for our family of three (partner input is so important!), but she still sleeps with us occasionally.
I've changed my opinions on many things along the way. Plus, I sometimes lose "crunchy" points because I vaccinate on time and I had a hospital birth that resulted in a c-section.
Luckily, I've found a couple of other moms who help a lot! The three of us can share the good, the bad, and the ugly, and we refuse to judge each other for differing opinions. We don't all agree on all parenting decisions, religion, or politics, but we have a great time together. We try to avoid feeling guilty because we know that we are doing the best we can to make the right decisions for our children.
My point is: if we spend less time judging others and attacking them, we might be able to feel less guilty about our own decisions. The great thing about this is that it works beyond just parenting. Try listening without judging when you disagree politically or religiously! It's hard. Really, really hard. But you might learn something.
Why can't we all just get along?