Having a baby is no joke. You can never fully prepare for the experience before it happens and then BAM. Hit by a truck. My military husband once said that having a newborn was akin to Navy Survival School where service members are thrown into the woods and told to survive for a week alone. They return disheveled, exhausted, sometimes a bit traumatized and mostly in need of a good, hot shower. See the similarities there??
I am happy to say I survived the baby stage (more than once) and graduated to the next chapter. Let me tell you- IT FEELS GOOD. Some days I miss those precious times but usually I am relieved to have that stage behind me- diapers, naps, screaming, no sleep, buh bye. And THE PRESSURE to do things “right”. Oh, the pressure.
It’s unfortunate that society lumps parents into sides and groups and then sprinkles judgment upon us all, but it happens: breastfeeding or formula, rocking to sleep or crying-it-out, on-demand feeding or scheduling, napping or no, organic food or no, spanking or time-outs, etc, etc. Looking back, I am content with some of the sides I chose but regret other decisions I made in those busy days. I did the best I could, people, and always hoped that it would be enough for my kids. And I know my friends were doing the same.
From a mother on the other side, with all her kids in school now, let me say this: IT DIDN’T MATTER. Not at all. Those sides did not define the success or health of my kids, moreso than any of my friends’ kids. You will find that once you exit that stage, no one cares anymore and no one asks.
No one asks if my kids were born in a hospital, at home or in a hot tub. No one asks if I had an epidural or used essential oils to hasten the delivery process. Honestly, the biggest question being asked in my circle is- why do kids want Tik Tok?? But I digress…
None of the second grade teachers have asked me how long I nursed my child. None of the middle school teachers have asked me if I let my kid cry-it-out or if we co-slept or if my kid was potty trained by age two. NONE. It seems a big deal at the time and I read the books and stressed over the various physical developments but in the end… my kids are doing just as well as any other kid.
From a mother on the other side, let me tell you that the kid who was breastfed for four years isn’t doing better than the neighbor kid who drank formula. They both do well in school and contract winter colds from time to time.
The kid who was up three times a night at age one is doing just as well as the kid who “slept through the night” at six weeks. (I put that phrase in quotations because I think most parents lie about this anyway. But that probably needs another blog post.)
From a mom on the other side, let me tell you that the kid who didn’t potty train until age four is doing just as well as the kid who rejected diapers at age two. (Neither of them wear diapers in Middle School so YAY.)
So if you are smack dab in the middle of that baby/toddler stage, please do what works for you and ignore the pressure. If scheduling your baby’s naps makes your life more manageable, then do it. If wearing your baby in a wrap all day adds joy to your life, then do it. I’m not saying to ignore science, reject advice or forego any parenting books… just know that many of the details we Baby Moms stress about won’t matter in the long run. My friends and I made different decisions and subscribed to different philosophies but all of our kids are now thriving.
Is there a larger lesson here? In a world filled with so much criticism and critiquing, can we refrain from judging the things that don’t matter? Can we support and encourage our friends who are uniquely navigating this road of parenthood, just like we are?
Looking back, I see the road as an exhaustive race. Some families hopped towards the finish, some ran, some rode their bikes, some were fast while others were slow but they all made it across the finish line. Our children received their hugs and medals, graduated to new stages of independence and together we journeyed to the next leg.
Whether you are sprinting, hopping or limping, YOU ARE DOING A FINE JOB. And an IMPORTANT job. Do your thing and accept the mothers around you who are doing their own thing. We are all in this together and I am cheering for each one of you.