There are definitely things you need to give a fuck about as a parent.
The safety of your children is a huge one. We would all do anything to protect our kids from harm—anything, including risking our own lives if it would save them.
We all want our children to feel loved and protected. That is a given. Our hearts ache when our kids’ hearts ache. We are intrinsically connected to our kids; there’s an invisible tether that connects us to them, whether we are with them at that moment or not.
If we all want what is best for our kids, why is parenting so hard?
Well, part of it is the physicality of it all. Kids are needful and draining. At first, they don’t sleep. Then they whine, cry and destroy your house. They want to eat constantly. They don’t give you much space. Even when they’re older, they demand a ridiculous amount of your attention. So even though we love them with all our hearts, parenthood can be relentless and exhausting, no matter how you resilient you are.
But I think hands down, one of the hardest parts of parenting is how judged we often feel. It’s especially true when we first become parents. Natural or epidural birth? Breast or bottle? Co-sleep or crib? Attachment parenting or cry-it-out? When I was a new mom, it seemed like everyone had an opinion about what I should do as a parent, and they were always happy to share it, even if I hadn’t asked.
And as a brand new mom, this was the time that I was most vulnerable to unsolicited advice. Maybe it was hormonal. Maybe it was the fact that I was younger than I am now. Mostly, I think it was the fact that I was so very new to parenthood, and I, too, was doubting every move I made. Every decision felt ridiculously momentous.
Looking back, no decision I made was really that huge. Now that my kids are older, I realize it didn’t matter one bit if they wore cloth diapers or disposables. It didn’t matter that my first kid spit out every solid food I fed him till he was 9 months old. It didn’t matter the exact number of months it took my kids to learn to walk, dress themselves, or use the potty. Were my kids safe? Were they loved? If yes, then I was winning.
Why did I give a fuck about each and every detail then? Why do I still obsess about the little things instead of looking at the big picture? And most of all, why do I give a fuck about what anyone else thinks?
The fact is that I am the mom, not the family members who still take it upon themselves to give me unwanted advice. I am the mom, not the internet article that said my kid was supposed to be doing xyz by such-and-such a date. I am the mom, not the stranger at the playground who gave me the evil eye when my toddler lay on the floor crying for 20 minutes because I’d run out of Goldfish. I am the mom, not my pediatrician who turned up her nose when she found out my toddler still didn’t sleep through the night.
Why give any friend, family member, idea, book, website or stranger the upper hand? The truth is that we get to choose what matters in life. We have the choice to give a fuck or give absolutely no fucks at all.
I’m learning—as I get deeper into this parenting thing—to do just that. You know the KonMari method of decluttering where you’re supposed to look at each object in your house and ask, “Does this spark joy for me?” Well, I definitely don’t have the energy to do that in my house (and, really, I don’t think this decluttering method is meant for people who have kids). But I can certainly use a version of it in my life as a parent.
It goes something like this: Anytime someone throws their unwanted opinion at me or my kids; anytime I second-guess a decision I’ve made; anytime I judge myself as a parent, I’m going to ask, “Does this really matter? Is it going to impact the safety or happiness of my kids?” And if the answer is no, then I’m not going to give one single fuck about it.
I’m starting today, and it’s already feeling pretty damn good. That spilled breakfast cereal? Who cares? The fact that my 3-year-old was too cranky to go to his third day of preschool? Who gives a rat’s ass? The crossing guard who scoffed at me because my kid wouldn’t wear his winter coat on a 39-degree morning? Who the fuck cares?
Ultimately, what I want most is to end my day with my arms full of kids who feel loved and trusted and who can contribute a bit of spark to the world. The rest of it? Bullshit that I give zero fat fucks about.