“The baby’s feet are cold,” one of our many visitors said to me just a few days after the birth of our firstborn child.
I reached down and touched his tiny foot. It was NOT cold. It was warm outside, warm in the house, and the baby had on long sleeves and a blanket. If anything, he was probably hot.
The visitor looked at me expectantly. “Oh, okay,” I said sheepishly as I walked out of the room to fetch him a pair of socks, despite the fact that he certainly didn’t need them.
While it seems insignificant in the scheme of things, this was just the first of many different times in the first year of my son’s life where I let someone else’s opinion dictate what I did as a mother. As a 22-year-old with very little experience taking care of a baby, it made sense. If someone told me not to give the baby a pacifier, I didn’t. If the article I’d read in a parenting book said “breast is best,”I struggled to try to breastfeed. If some random person on the Internet thought that swaddling your baby was the most effective means to help the baby sleep, swaddle I did.
Why did I do whatever anyone else said? Because I was very unsure of myself and extremely self-conscious. I wanted everyone to think that I was doing a good job at this whole parenting thing. I didn’t want to mess up.
But can I let you in on a little secret? It’s a pretty important one, actually. It’s the secret to happiness as a parent: stop caring so much about what everyone else thinks and worry more about what you think.
It’s easier said than done, of course, to just NOT care what anyone thinks, but let me explain what I mean. I mean that you, as a parent, have every right to decide what is best for you and your child, and you deserve to feel confident about those decisions without criticism and worry.
Unfortunately, there will never be a time where every person will unanimously agree that a choice you’ve made is best. There will always be someone who disagrees. I mean, think about it: co-sleeping, cry-it-out, pacifiers, breastfeeding, vaccinations, types of diapers, and the list goes on; parents are forced to make countless decisions about how to raise their children. It would be impossible for everyone to approve of your personal choices. And with the Internet, we, as parents, are subjected to even more criticism now more than ever. So what do we do? How do we handle it? We do what WE think is best and what WE think is right.
And sure, there will be times where you might feel unsure or uninformed about a decision that’s been thrust upon you, and that’s normal. It’s okay to seek advice and input from those you trust. But what’s not okay? Someone pressuring you or bullying you when you feel confident in a choice you’ve made.
And you know what? There many different ways to effectively raise a child. So when an acquaintance questions one of your choices as a parent, whether it be feeding your child, clothing your child, sleep habits, or anything else, keep your head held high and keep your confidence. Don’t let others bring you down, because we’re all just doing our best to raise happy, healthy kids. And THAT is what’s important: the wellbeing of our children. What others want to criticize or look down upon? Don’t worry about it. You’re doing great.
Rookie Mama Musings: This column is published weekly on Thursdays, by Morgan Starr, right here on the Mama Lovejoy blog. Morgan Starr is a mom of three young boys who is embracing the wild ride of motherhood and learning as she goes. She’s a high school English teacher by day and a writer by night, blogging at www.rookiemommyraisingboys.com. You can keep up with her kids’ antics on Facebook and on Twitter. For more information on the Rookie Mama Musings column, please visit the Rookie Mama Musings page. If you enjoyed this article and you’d like to see more from Mama Meditations or from Mama Lovejoy, you can follow Mama Lovejoy on Facebook, or @Mamalovejoy1 on Twitter, Tumblr, Instagram and Periscope.