Here's To The Non-Parents Who Help Us Be Better Parents
Every mom of littles needs a veteran mom to be your go-to when you need help.
You know the one. Her kids are older than yours, but not so much older that all the rules have changed. This seasoned mom doesn’t panic about fevers or minor injuries. She has seen enough weird diapers to assure you that your newborn’s poop is, in fact, normal. You know she’s caught vomit in her hands, and she’s seen a broken bone or two. She can talk you off the ledge when your toddler eats a spoonful of glue or 14 Tums. You know if she says to call the doctor, you call. She wouldn’t say it unless she was sure.
She’s been there, done that, and you wouldn’t want to live without her.
I’m lucky enough to have two of these parenting experts in my corner. I’ve also managed to piece together an incredible pack of mom friends. My mom friends have become my regular old best friends, and we share everything with each other now. Over the last six years, my circle has changed a few times, but a few great women have been my constants.
Mom friends are exactly the kind of support I figured I’d need when I had my first baby. What I didn’t expect, however, is how much I’d come to rely on the wisdom of non-parents.
My friend Anna is a former children’s librarian and children’s pastor, and currently works as an online content creator. I have followed Anna’s work for several years now because her philosophies about childhood resonate with me. She’s all about seeing children as whole people, rather than potential adults. On a recent phone call, Anna gave me some poignant insight about schedules and routines, and it has helped me reevaluate how much time I spend just trying to bend my children to my will.
Because Anna isn’t raising her own children, she is less inclined than my exhausted mom friends to just say, “Girl, I get it. Kids can be the worst. Want some wine?” She intentionally views my frustrations about parenthood through the lens of a child, and she tries to help me remember how it felt when I was a child and wasn’t in control of my own time or schedule. Anna helps me get my mind off the pressure of raising children, and back onto the wonder of guiding human beings into adulthood.
My Aunt Julie does not have children. When I was little girl, she was like another mother to me, and now she’s like an extra grandmother to my sons. Unlike Anna, children are not Aunt Julie’s life work. She doesn’t have specific, researched philosophies on childhood. She just knows what she’s observed. Many of the children she’s loved are adults now, and almost all of us have turned out perfectly fine. She happily celebrates my children’s accomplishments, but rarely validates my worries. Julie believes in my ability to raise my children precisely because I’m so unsure. She once said, “Nobody who thinks about it as much as you do is messing it up, Katie.” Aunt Julie reminds me to trust myself and trust my children to create their own magic.
My dad married his husband when my kids were babies, and they don’t remember life before Doug. Doug has been their grandfather in every way since the minute he joined the family. He doesn’t have his own kids, but loves me and he understands my boys. Doug has helped me learn to trust. Welcoming a new man into my children’s lives was scary for me. Doug doesn’t try to give me parenting advice. He teaches me by just being who he is. He developed an instant bond with my youngest. I’ll never be a mom who trusts a lot of people, but Doug helps me parent with less fear.
Even my brother, a 26-year-old musician with no interest in ever procreating, occasionally supports me in an unexpected way. He forwards me articles about cutting-edge child-development research or sends me YouTube videos with ideas for fun home school projects. He doesn’t want to raise his own children, but he does want to see me raise mine well, so he is always forwarding information about summer programs, special events at local parks, and opportunities to introduce my children to the bustling arts scene in Nashville.
Look, I know unsolicited opinions from non-parents can be the literal worst. Ridiculously oversimplified advice can be infuriating. I really can’t stand listening to overconfident people talk about how they’re definitely going to parent their future children, casting judgment on every single thing I do for my kids now. I mean, sure it’s possible their future child is going to be a multilingual Mozart enthusiast with the palate of a restaurant critic, but somehow, I doubt it. When they find themselves in the same Baby-Shark-and-chicken-nugget hell as the rest of us, I’ll be the first to welcome them with a giant “I told you so.”
Thankfully, those clueless, annoying non-parents aren’t the only kind out there. There are tons of wise, kind, intelligent non-parents whose advice can enrich you and your kids if you’re willing to listen. Parenting is HARD. Any time you find someone who offers you healthy suggestions and loves your babies, I say, consider their advice, and hold onto them tight.
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