There’s a bit of a learning curve when you become a parent, and no amount of literature or advice can prepare you for the job. You just have to jump in and swim. Anyone who is a parent will tell you that.
We all experience moments of defeat, uncertainty, and disappointment, and those are the moments when we learn the most.
As parents, we are our own biggest critics. Forget the mob of angry onlookers waiting to roast you over a spit if they catch your kid with a bottle of formula, or god forbid, if you let them have high fructose corn syrup — what kind of monster are you?
Before the internet existed, parents made mistakes without fear of judgment for the most part. Mothers served their kids frozen meals and no one batted an eye. There wasn’t an ever-growing list of parenting expectations. You did your best, and when you made a mistake, you learned from it and moved on. The end.
Modern-day parents don’t have that luxury.
The internet and social media have connected us in ways unimaginable to previous generations. Information is at our fingertips, and social media has provided an ever-present jury of our peers, ready to judge our every move. How lucky for us.
This accessibility has transformed parenthood. In one way, we have it made in the shade when it comes to parenting dilemmas — thanks, Google. On the other hand, all this information comes with a vast array of opinions. And sweet mother of screen time, do people love their opinions.
Well, I have good news and bad news.
The bad news is that you will never meet the expectations of modern-day parenting. The good news is that you don’t care. Trust me, you don’t. Allow me to give you an example of these obnoxious and impossible expectations.
Society: Don’t let your children sit inside all day; it will ruin them. They need fresh air and creative play time.
Me: We go outside every day for creative play.
Society: Oh, you let your kids go outside? Do you stay with them the whole time? What if they were injured or abducted?
Me: They are safe. I stay with them.
Society: Oh, you stay right there with them? You’re a helicopter parent. You’re ruining your child. Congratulations. Oh, and by the way, while you were outside — being a helicopter parent — I hope you thought to protect their skin. Cancer is real, y’know.
Me: Yes, I use sunscreen. I even remember to reapply it every hour.
Society: Oh, you use sunscreen? That toxic death spray? Why would intentionally expose your child to such danger?! You are a horrible mother! CPS should take your children and sterilize you. And maybe a couple of your siblings, just for good measure.
See? You’re damned if you do, and you’re damned if you don’t. So I don’t, and you shouldn’t either. Here’s my advice, if you want to survive the gauntlet that is modern parenting:
1. Do your best. And ask for help when you need it. Don’t be afraid to admit when you are overwhelmed.
2. Use the village. Some of us are here, ready to pitch in at a moment’s notice. We’ve all been there and understand.
3. Ignore the mob. With their pitchforks and torches, they will burn the village down the first chance they get.
I’m sorry, but I refuse to participate in the absurdity of these impossible parenting expectations. And furthermore, I refuse to judge another parent because they don’t parent exactly like I do, or how society expects them too.
I’m so tired of watching people attack complete strangers over their differences. We are already broken and divided on so many other areas of life, can’t we just stick together on this one? We all want to be good parents, and we want to raise good kids. Math isn’t really my strong suit, but I’m certain there is more than one way to do that — and it has nothing to do with your kid eating Cheetos or GMO-free soybeans.
I’m not naïve. I know there are bad parents out there and I’m not talking about them. I assume we can all agree that abuse and neglect are wrong. I’m talking about the good parents that are being dragged through the mud over every decision they make, or worse, over accidents.
I have a message for all those who are quick to judge a parent: If you think someone’s parenting is to the detriment of their child, step back and acknowledge that you may not have all the facts before you go charging in on your high horse, keyboard drawn and ready for battle.
If you have a genuine concern, do some investigating and gather the facts. Then, take those facts and do something to initiate a change. Slanderous comments on social media do nothing, for the record.
I have yet to meet a perfect parent, or a perfect person for that matter, so before you start slinging boulders around your glass house, you may want to consider how you would feel if the roles were reversed.
What if someone was judging you for your choices and mistakes?
I implore you to be empathetic and compassionate — and if you still don’t have anything nice to say, keep it in your head. If you can’t refrain and absolutely have to comment out loud or on social media, there’s a chance you may just be an asshole. There isn’t much anyone can do about that. But hey — glass half full — I’m sure the view is breathtaking from your ivory tower.
For the good parents out there doing your best and making mistakes, keep at it. Mistakes are a necessary part of life and will only serve to teach you. You are never alone, and the village is still here if you need us. Don’t be discouraged by the mob.