Raising children probably causes more self doubt among women than any other subject I know. The minute that fateful stick turns pink, or they get a notice from their adoption agency, women question their choices, their decisions, and their actions.
I am no better. While pregnant with my first child, I read too many parenting magazines and ended up hysterically shouting at my husband when he returned from the grocery store, “How could you buy those hotdogs! Nitrates are from the Devil! Do you want this baby to have two heads?” This coming from a woman who never turned down a hot dog off the grill in her entire life. Until she became a mother.
For a long time I viewed being a mother as doing something the right way (breastfeed! no pacifier! organic food! join PTA! save for college! ) or the wrong way (formula fed! damn binkies! co-sleeping! homeschooling! raising a Democrat!). It wasn’t until I had committed every “parenting sin” I listed above (with the exception of raising a Democrat, although I’m sure it will happen at some point) that I realized this one eternal truth:
THERE’S NO SUCH THING AS PERFECT PARENTING. THERE IS NO ONE WAY TO RAISE CHILDREN.
There really and truly isn’t. I promise. All that matters is what works for you, your children, and your family. That’s it.
So to remind myself of that truth I have created my own mothering manifesto. (Plus, I just like using the word ‘manifesto.’)
1- I will never apologize for under-utilizing my nipples again. Bottle feeding worked for me and my family. So there.
2- I will borrow ideas from other mothers I admire, ONLY if they work for my family, I will NOT use them to beat myself up or to create some unattainable standard of excellence.
3- If any mother tells me she is doing something different from my way of parenting, the only words out of my mouth will be supportive and uncritical. And I will attempt to do it with a sincere smile on my face, even if I feel it is a bad idea.
4- I will not give out any unsolicited advice. Even if holding it inside causes internal damage to my spleen.
5- I will accept that I am not a crafty mom. My birthday cakes will never look how I want, but they will taste okay. And that is enough.
6- Anyone who is going to judge me on how my house looks, is not someone I want in my house. If I do feel a strange desire to clean my home it will be for me and not to impress someone else.
7- I will enjoy who my children are, instead of worrying about who I think they should be. If they become a Democrat, that will be <big gulp> okay. But I do reserve the right to oppress their personalities when it comes to table etiquette. If they are going to be a Democrat, damn it, they are going to be a well mannered one.
8- I will not let anyone bully another mother in my presence. I’m going to be like the Night Avenger for hassled moms. I may even start wearing a cape. But someone else will have to make it, because I am not crafty. And that is okay.
9- At the end of the day I am going to remember all the things I accomplished instead of making a mental list of what I didn’t get done.
10- Finally, I am going to compliment the mothers I know more often, for the great work they are doing. Because mothers don’t get enough praise, especially from their comrades-in-arms who know how freakishly hard the job really is.