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What to remember when parenting feels hard

May 29, 2015

With each new stage that my children enter, it’s a new reality for me as a parent. That’s especially true with my oldest. Every new milestone and new horizon for her means that I’m back to square one again trying to figure out this parenting thing. As I sort through the complexities of raising children, there are times when I am overwhelmed with the decisions I have to make and the doubts that linger in the back of mind. Am I doing this right?

When I was a new mother the insecurities manifested themselves in decisions such as breastfeeding (and for how long!), what age you got your baby to sleep through the night and whether you were a stay-at-home mom or a work-outside-the-home mom. I kept waiting for the magical moment to descend up on me. You know the one- the moment where you actually know what you’re doing and can breathe a little easier.

Well, that moment never came. As my children have grown, I’ve realized that parenting never gets easy. It does change and your challenges look different over time, but there are still challenges. Instead of breastfeeding and pacifiers, I am now facing decisions about where to send my child to school and how to teach the values and virtues that I hold dear. And I still struggle with the same question: Am I doing it right?

Other people are insecure about their parenting, too

As I looked around a few years back at all of the other moms I knew, I wondered how they knew what they were doing and how they kept it all together. The dirty, little secret that I uncovered was this: when it comes to parenting, no one knows what they’re doing and no one has it all together. What a revelation that was to discover that I was in the same boat as everyone else. We’re all doing the best we can at the biggest and most important job we ever dreamed of, and none of us got a manual to tell us how to do it right. The other parents that appear to have it all figured out aren’t doing it better; they just may not be sharing their private struggles with you.

Our kids are going to be okay

I remember the days when my mom friends and I all agonized over things like whether we should make homemade baby food or buy the store-bought variety, give pacifiers or allow thumb-sucking and what age we wanted to potty train our kids. I remember feeling somewhat superior to other mothers because my kid was potty-trained before the age of two (It’s sad, I know). Well, guess what? Now that my kid is five, nobody cares whether she was potty-trained before the age of two. Something that seemed monumental to me at the time really wasn’t a huge deal in the big scheme of things.

I heard someone say recently that when it comes to parenting, they major in the majors and let the minors be minor. I think that is wise. There are major things that affect whether our kids will be well: health, safety, nourishment, love, acceptance. And then there are things that just aren’t as big of a deal as we think they are.

We are going to be okay

Here’s another little truth about parenting: just because it’s hard doesn’t mean you’re doing it wrong. This journey we’re on of raising little people isn’t easy or straightforward. There are twists and turns and bumps in the road. Sometimes the hardest part is not knowing whether you’re even headed in the right direction. That’s okay. Good parenting is a marathon, not a sprint; you’ve got plenty of time to turn it around if you are heading the wrong way. It’s the day-by-day listening and learning and being open to the change that your children need that provides your compass. I’ve begun to think that anyone who worries whether they are a good parent probably is.

If that’s the case, I think I’m probably doing alright.

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