I don’t know about you, but there is a charity coming to my door at least once a week asking for money. As much as I genuinely support these worthy causes in spirit, it is impossible to support all of them financially. The person at the door may assume that I am selfish or don’t care about the cause. They don’t know that I have chosen two causes to support which mean a lot to me. Even though I feel terribly guilty telling the very nice representative that I can’t help the refugees/children/animals that their charity supports at this time, I know that it doesn’t make me a bad person.
I think parenting, especially in the early stages, is a lot like this. I wish I had known that going in.
When you are preparing for the arrival of your baby there will be so much to research, so many different parenting philosophies, trends, and ideas that will demand your attention. They will all assure you that they are the key to raising the best children. Some of these ideas will be easy to implement and others will involve complete lifestyle changes. They will all insist on some degree of commitment on your part.
Baby-led weaning, baby wearing, cloth diapers, co-sleeping, cry it out, breastfeeding vs. formula feeding, attachment parenting, sleep training, baby sign language, organic food…the list is endless. It is easy to get sucked into too many philosophies and worry that you are not doing enough. It is so easy to feel like a bad parent for not doing all the things that the people in your pre-natal class say you should. What will people think if I formula feed/co-sleep/let my baby cry it out, you may wonder. The short answer? Who cares.They are not raising your kids.
Like deciding which charities to support, you need to pick one or two parenting causes and give yourself permission to forget the others. You just do not have the time, finances and mental energy to commit to every idea about parenting that you think is interesting. There will be ideas you start to research and forget. There will be ideas you will try and discard. There will be ideas that you will implement and force yourself to stick with, only to discover that you don’t care about them as much as you thought.
For me, cloth diapering was one of the causes I gave up on for this baby. It was something I thought I might try before I got pregnant. During my brutal pregnancy, I barely had the energy to live my life and prepare for the basic needs of the baby. I realized that the whole cloth diapering thing was just not my biggest priority. Something needed to fall by the wayside, and I chose that. I picked the ideas and philosophies that were the most important to me and I don’t regret it.
Even though I could try it now, I probably won’t. Do I worry sometimes about the diapers filling up landfill sites? Sure. But do I think I am a bad parent because I didn’t do it? No, I do not. In fact, I feel good that the energy I would have spent feeling guilty can be channelled into something I really care about.
So, if I could go back and tell myself one thing during those last months of pregnancy, when I was so busy trying to plan the kind of mother I wanted to be, it would be this: You cannot commit to every parenting philosophy you like. Choose the ones you think suit your lifestyle and values. Pick one or two of those and really commit. Add others as you can or want to, later on. Don’t feel guilty about what you didn’t have the energy to do. Your children will be just fine, and so will you.