When I found out I was pregnant with my first daughter, I just knew I had to do everything right. After all, I wasn’t supposed to be able to have children (according to the doctors). I kept telling myself that I have to do everything “by the book” because I didn’t want to mess this up. I wanted to give her the very best from the very start.
While I was pregnant I did all the right things—I ate right, I exercised, took my vitamins, and read all that I could. I read about vaccinations, the importance of early education, the effects of spanking, developmental milestones, proper behavior, and everything in-between. I just knew that with my newfound knowledge, I had this parenting thing locked down! I had it all planned out! My daughter was going to be an early walker, talker, and reader. She was going to be a multi-lingual, MMA-fighting CEO, by the age of two. I may have overexaggerated the capabilities of the average 2-year-old, but my daughter wasn’t going to be average—she couldn’t be. Otherwise, I was failing as a parent.
I knew that if I wanted my daughter to be a 2-year-old CEO, I had to start early. While I was pregnant, I played her music, sang to her, and read to her. Once my daughter was born, everything I did was research-based. I had read all about the different ways that a baby could get sick from contact with others, such as a kiss, perfume, or being breathed on; so I vigilantly guarded her against as many germs as possible. The books I read said that she needed a routine, so I gave her one. That routine consisted of timed feeding, scheduled play times, learning times, awake times, and sleep times. I stuck to that schedule like glue!—I wouldn’t even leave the house to make sure I stuck to it. Anything that touched her body had to be of the purest standards—even if that meant me reading the ingredients on the back of toothpaste for 30 mins at Target (I had read about trace amounts of an ingredient that ends in -ide, that would one day lead to some yet-to-be-discovered disorder).
New information on parenting and children’s health are being researched and published every day. And while instant information can be a good thing, it can lead to parental interference. I found out the hard way that while living in the Age of Information is a good thing, information overload is not. When I became a mother, I had a hard time finding a balance between the two.
Other parents had always told me how hard, yet rewarding, parenting is. Once I became a first-time mom, almost two years ago, I realized that “hard” was an understatement. While I loved my daughter from the moment I found out I was pregnant with her, once she was born, I felt less than joyous. I constantly felt overwhelmed, overly emotional, and was not living in the moment. Sticking to such a ridged routine made me feel distant from her. While I could have chalked it up to “new mom jitters,” I eventually realized that it had a lot to do with me second-guessing my maternal instincts. Out of fear of being an inadequate mother, I soaked up everything that I read and all the advice that I was given, and as a result, my maternal voice became muffled.
Raising a child in 2019 is like living in a glass house; especially with your neighbors constantly watching and waiting for you to misstep as a parent so that they can pounce on the opportunity to give you “advice” on how to raise YOUR child. In some situations, having an “off” moment as a parent can result in losing custody of your child.
As a child, I was spanked (and not just with an open hand), left home alone, and given herbal remedies for everything from a cold to chickenpox. When my parents got frustrated with us. they yelled, cussed, and even kicked us out a few times (not that we went anywhere), and I think I turned out just fine. Although, I definelity don’t plan on adopting many of their parenting practices, when I became a mother myself I felt that I had to reinvent the parenting wheel because of how society expects parents to raise geniuses while not raising their hands or voices. These days, you can’t spank, yell, or even give your kid the side-eye—or even have too high of expectations for your children because “that’s too much pressure” on them. There isn’t a move that a parent can make without there being some research against it. There is even research that will tell you that you are holding your baby wrong or how a slip of the tongue around your newborn will scar them well into their adulthood.
Being a millennial parent can quickly become draining when we are expected to raise our kids according to impossible societal standards. I easily fell into that trap. All of the research I did made me feel that I had to raise my daughter to be ahead of the game and to prepare her for a competition that may not ever start. From the day my daughter was born, I realized that she was going to move to the beat of her own drum. Yet, I tried my hardest to get her to conform to standards that I had read and heard about. I tried my darnedest to raise a prodigy. She is on the verge of 2 years old and is nowhere close to being an MMA-fighting (only in her head…she studies the fights) CEO. She doesn’t even talk yet because she chooses not to (she has hand gestures down to a science). While I did learn some things from all the research that I had done, I actually learned a lot more from my daughter. Through her, I have learned that it doesn’t matter how much research I try to implement, she is going to be her genuine self. She taught me that she expects me to raise her to the best of MY ability, and MY abilities are innate, God-given discernment that no research could ever give me—I just wish I had realized this a lot sooner.
Reading (on how to parent my child) was the DUMBEST thing I could have done as a mother (well, the dumbest to date). I am almost two years into this parenting thing, and I am by no definition a “parenting expert.” However, as a parent, I can give you some advice—simply, listen to yourself. Don’t second-guess your decisions. At the end of the day, no one can parent and love your child like you do.