Motherhood is just like law school.
In law school, particularly in the first year, there’s this intensity around finals that’s pretty nuts. Despite the fact that NO ONE HAS DONE IT BEFORE, and everyone has a STRONG opinion on how to study correctly based on books they’ve read or people they’ve talked to.
It took me far too long to realize that there was no “right way” to prepare for finals, no matter how authoritatively someone spoke about their approach (these were lawyers-in-training, after all).
Instead, my classmates just wanted to tell you what you should be doing because it weirdly assured them that they were doing it right. Like, “if you do this too, that means we’re doing it right together.” It doesn’t make sense, but I get the human nature behind it.
You can see where I’m going with this. Motherhood is full of people who don’t know what they’re doing and want to feel assured that they do. It’s totally understandable – but also very stifling and often harmful.
While experience is of course valuable, even if you’ve raised 4 kids, you’ve raised THOSE four kids (and I do think every kid is different), every season is different, and you probably forgot exactly what you did the season before about six months after it happened.
Yes, there are principles that are worth following, and I read parenting books to try to help me figure this out. But at the end of the day, I still don’t know what I’m doing, partly because there’s no “right way” to do it. (It’d be a lot easier if there were.)
Based on the frequency at which I say it, my parenting motto seems to be, “who knows?!”
And that’s okay. We need to get real that we don’t know what we’re doing, and touting around some approach as the “right” approach can be truly harmful.
For example, as any new mom will tell you, you’re clobbered over the head with “breast is best.” But what do you think that does to the mom who’s already anxious because she can’t produce enough milk? Or to the mom who knows pumping at work will require her to stay an extra hour to do it — an hour she could have had with her kid? These are factors moms have to weigh for themselves and decide what’s best for them. There’s truly no right answer — other than a HAPPY mom is the BEST thing for her kid. However that happens.
This mom thing is hard. None of us know what we’re doing other than we’re doing the best we can. Whenever you feel judged, remember there’s no “right” way and they really don’t know what they’re talking about. And whenever you feel that sneaky feeling of “I want them to do it like me so I know I’m doing it right,” dismiss that for what it is and give that other momma – and yourself – grace. We’re all doing the best we can.