If I have learned anything since becoming a mom, it is that there are million right ways to parent. And if I have learned anything else since becoming a mom, it is that most moms believe with confidence that their way is the number one right way. And since learning these things as a mom, I have had to learn what it looks like to embrace my authority as a parent. It is a process, and I am learning constantly, but I realize a little bit more every day that it comes down to this: my kid, my rules.
Now, before you think this is an entire post about not receiving advice from other mamas, don’t.
I actually think the strength and unity in motherhood is so powerful and such a beautiful thing. As I was visiting my family and community in California recently, I was blown away by the impact of being surrounded by other mamas in my stage of life and parenting. There has not been a single time since my baby was born that I felt so incredibly uplifted, understood, and empowered.
And something really beautiful happened in the midst of all of that love, encouragement, and empowerment. I realized that other mamas are for me. They are not looking at me with as much judgement as I think, but rather, they are looking at me with compassion, because they have either experienced what I have and empathize, or they haven’t experienced the exact same thing, but recognize how hard something is.
I was in the car with an amazing mama and mentor when it dawned on me that I actually give people far more credit than they deserve when it comes to judgement. I realized that I spend way too much time justifying all of my decisions as a mama, out of fear that others will judge me. I feel that if I just explain myself or my decision enough, that it will diffuse their judgement.
As I was sharing this with her, she made the point that it is just human nature to make a judgement. That doesn’t mean we are necessarily forming a negative opinion about something, but it’s just our nature to have thoughts about what we agree or disagree with, how we would do it differently, or to think that our way is better. What we do with that initial thought is what really makes a difference. If we just think to ourselves, “I would probably never do that,” but then move on, there’s really no harm in that. Or even if we share politely how we might do something different, or even offer a suggestion that might help, that’s not really harsh judgement. If we allow ourselves to further assume what’s going on, form negative opinions, or even attach incorrect motives or finish the story in our heads in an incorrect way, that’s when it becomes a problem.
And I realized that I live in a fear that other mamas will always do the latter.
So I spend a lot of time explaining myself, justifying my decisions, and giving examples of why a certain decision is best for us as a family. I assume that others think I am doing this mom thing the wrong way, when really, I just need to embrace my authority as a parent and be confident in the way I am raising my baby.
And the reality is, most mamas probably don’t care. Just like I don’t care if a mama has a different style than me, that same mama probably could not care less if I do things differently than her. Because what difference does it make to her? (Unless, of course, there are safety concerns involved, and that’s another topic that has to be navigated delicately).
A few of my mom friends have shared how they walk through the same feelings and emotions, and how they spend way too much thinking about what other people think.
So why do we do that? Why do we spend so much time worrying about what other mamas think? Why do we spend so much time trying to explain ourselves?
I think, if I am being honest, that we assume others are judging us, because we are judging ourselves.
Raising kids in my generation is so hard. Everyone has an opinion about everything, and it seems like every single week there is a new trend and a new right way to do something. There’s new studies on everything- from sleep, to carseats, to vaccines, to how you feed your baby, to whether or not they should see a screen… the list goes on. And it can often lead to us mamas questioning ourselves a lot. We spend so much time judging ourselves and wondering whether we are doing things right or wrong, and we forget to have grace for ourselves. So we assume others are judging us as harshly as we are judging ourselves. And it’s likely that they aren’t.
Because what it comes back to, is that there are a million right ways to parent.
And what matters most is that you find your own right way. You find the way that works for your family and for your baby.
And if your best mama friend has found her own right way, that doesn’t make your way any less right.
It all comes down to is this: my kid, my rules. And I have to remind myself of that when I notice the need or desire to explain or justify all of my decisions. It is an active choice to embrace my authority as a parent.
As I embrace my authority as a parent, I am learning that it is not so much about ignoring the opinions and advice of others. It is about recognizing that many other mamas have less opinions than I give them credit for, and just like me, they are likely too scattered in their own whirlwind of parenting to be worrying about what I am doing. And when mamas offer advice in a loving way, I still get to choose what to take and what to throw aside.
And for every ten mamas that don’t judge, maybe there is one that does. In that situation, to embrace my authority as a parent means that I get to stand firm in my decisions, and I am not obligated to explain or justify myself. And even if questioned, I get to choose whether or not respond.
Because my kid, my rules.