Being a parent is at once the most wonderful and stressful experience in many persons’ lives. The wonder and the worry that accompany the raising of a child never ceases to amaze me. Thankfully, a myriad of modern amenities have emerged to help with the day-to-day challenges of parenting. Things like video baby monitors, minivans with automatic doors and iPads full of educational games and animations make life with kids a little easier to manage than it was a decade or two ago. But with every fancy child-soothing gadget, so comes a new standard for the “appropriate” way to raise a child. These days, everyone is so quick to pass judgment, but, in reality, no one but a parent knows what will best serve the needs of their children. I often wonder if concerning myself with what is deemed acceptable parenting by today’s standards helpful or hurtful to the modern mom and dad?
When I had my first child, I was an innate people-pleaser with a desire to do everything by the book. I followed the rules and never questioned them. It was exhausting. I wondered if other parents felt as tired and miserable as I did. This was my child, but oftentimes I would go against my own instincts to heed the advice of others – doctors, child experts, authors, mommy bloggers – whomever I deemed more knowledgeable than myself as a first-time mom. I held myself to impossible standards and felt like I had no real control. I was afraid of being judged.
My second daughter was born just 13 months after my first, and although I was exhausted as I was raising my two babies, I feel like her sooner-than-expected arrival forced my hand in the best way possible. It made me wake myself up from the fantasy of trying to be a “perfect” mom. I stopped listening to all the mommy-shamers who frowned at the bottle-feeders, scoffed at the co-sleepers or wagged their fingers at the moms who let their kid play on an iPad. “Didn’t I KNOW that no child should watch videos or TV before they are two?”
No one is exempt from an outbreak of parental shaming, not even David Beckham! This past summer, the soccer star faced challenges over photos made public of his 4-year-old daughter with a pacifier in her mouth. Tabloids and twitter rants immediately called for the dad to know better, citing potential speech and dental issues associated with pacifier use. Thankfully, Beckham used his celebrity status as a platform to spotlight this issue of parental shaming, telling his critics to “think twice about what you say about other people’s children because actually you have no right to criticize me as a parent.”
Now, when I hear someone say that a parent “should” be doing something, I take it with a grain of salt. Every child (and parent) is unique and has unique needs. There is no one-size-fits-all solution to parenting. Let’s all admit that we’re not perfect parents. Let’s talk about our mistakes, our “mom fails” and our “dad disasters.” (Stories of my toddler caught drinking water from the dog bowl come to mind!) Let’s build each other up and support each other in this most trying and wonderful of times. Let’s leave the judgment at the proverbial door and treat our fellow moms and dads with the respect and compassion that we all deserve. Let’s bend it like Beckham and tell our naysayers to kick their negativity to the curb!
-Written by Arts In Action’s Guest Blogger-Erin Dalton