We all want to be a perfect parent. Some of us even already think we are. We do what we self-righteously believe is the right thing to do, in any given situation, and sit smugly at the end of the day, basking in our brilliance.
Or do we?
I think the more likely scenario is that we’re thrown situation after situation that we’ve never had to deal with, nor have we ever thought we’d have to deal with, day in and day out. And we sit in a panic at the end of the day, wondering if we handled all of those situations perfectly. The way a perfect parent would.
The inherent problem in trying to be a perfect parent is that there are so many different choices you can make and still be a “perfect” parent. Breastfeeding? That’s perfect. Bottle feeding? That’s perfect. Co-sleeping? That’s perfect. Crying it out? That’s perfect. Homemade baby food? That’s perfect. Store bought baby food? That’s perfect. See what I’m getting at here?
We make choices for our children that we feel are the right choice at that time and for that child. And so long as we have our child’s best interest in mind, and are not causing our child harm, that makes us a “perfect” parent.
Another problem with this perfect parent business is that we aren’t consistent. Those of us with more than one child know that you aren’t the same parent with your second child as you were with your first, and so on and so on for subsequent children.
For instance, I breastfed Bowie until he was 13 months old. I made about 90% of his baby food at home. I started solids at 7 months. I started potty training at 18 months.
I breastfed Ferris until he was 8 months old, at which time he self-weaned, and I formula fed until he was 1 year old. I made about 20% of his baby food at home. I started solids at 4 months. I started potty training at 2 1/2 years old.
Each child is their own little puzzle. They’ll be ready for different things at different times. You’ll have more time and more attention to devote to some things than other things, especially when baby #2 comes along. And each child has their own personality. Bowie has SPD and requires a little more attention and patience sometimes. Ferris is more daring than Bowie, and was doing things at 18 months that his 5 year old brother was still too scared to try. You have to treat them as individuals, and hard and fast parenting rules don’t work.
Most of the judgment of other parents, I feel, comes from the newbie crowd and the childless crowd. Someone who has no children of their own, yet has a pretty good idea of how things are supposed to work. Or, a mom with her first infant, with a whole long list of things she deems right and wrong for parenthood, without the actual experience to back up her claims. Parenting is one of those things you are not prepared for until you are in the thick of it. In the trenches, wiping poop off of your own face, trying to calm a screaming baby in a crowded public place, balancing a baby on your hip as you wipe a toddler’s butt, having all your lovingly homemade baby food spat back at you, running after your toddler at the zoo, the park, the museum, helping your Kindergartener with homework, being begged for the 100th time for a cookie you’ve said no to 99 times.
It is in these moments that you make certain decisions. Decisions you didn’t previously think you’d make. Jarred baby food, formula, delayed potty training, kid leashes, fast food, bribery, all those things you swore off, they suddenly become very attractive offers. And you decide that in life, there is give and take, weak and strong moments, and you know everything’s best in moderation. So you do what you have to do to survive, to stay sane. And that makes you a perfect parent.