When I was pregnant with my first child, aside from the ‘Big Love’ everyone guaranteed me was coming my way, parents, family, friends, and even complete strangers started giving me unsolicited advice and tips from the parenting trenches. It quickly became clear how much I didn’t know and needed to learn in order to create a healthy baby and then raise a well-adjusted, intelligent, happy, and contributing member of society.
So, I started to read. I read about what I needed to eat during my pregnancy. I read about the ideal delivery method for minimizing birthing trauma to the baby. And I read about what to do once the baby came home and parenting officially began.
By then, I was eight months pregnant and almost insane with a craving to engage in gluttony with anything deep-fried or composed of pure refined sugar. I refrained, of course, because all the books promised that as long as I followed their listed recommendations, I would be the perfect mother raising the perfect child.
Then, I gave birth and reality set in. It first appeared in the delivery room when the doctor pulled out the forceps and all I could hear were fourteen scandalized voices whispering ‘She won’t push anymore, she just won’t! And she took the epidural!’.
Reality then followed me home. And it was there, subject to randomly unsolicited proclamations about how ‘This baby needs an undershirt’ and dictates about the unequivocal superiority of specific feeding and sleeping schedules, that I realized something. Everyone’s got an opinion. And when it comes to babies and parenting, everyone feels entitled to air it.
When I asked my cousin, a veteran mom of three kids, if she had ever noticed this trend during her mothering career, she started to laugh. Oh, do you mean when people from older generations let you know how much better their way is (In my day, we had babies eating solids and toilet-trained by the age of three months, sniff)? Or, do you mean when people talk to you through your baby (Poor you. Your little hands are soooooooooo cold. Your mommy didn’t dress you warmly enough this morning.)? Or, do you mean other parents who don’t tell you what to do directly, but let you know what they think anyway (Oh, are you doing that? or Oh, I wouldn’t do that!).
Listening to her, I laughed and the tension that had enveloped me in my endeavor to be the perfect mom that never made a mistake started to dissipate. In that instant, I realized that parenting is a process. There are no last chances for success. As long as you love your child fiercely, do the best that you can do at any given moment, and forgive yourself for the moments that you don’t, things will turn out more than ok.