I’m not the mom I used to be. Not better. Not worse. Just different.
I am a big proponent of “There’s no one right way to parent.” But I’m discovering something more: There’s no one right way to parent at every stage, with each child, within your own family. If I could rewind 9 years to my first pregnancy, I’d offer up this advice. “Trust your instincts and be willing to change your mind.”
Pregnancy #1 started with that natural desire to learn, to know, to plan everything. This whole baby thing could be planned out so I could do things the right way. I tried to shake off an arrogant youthful habit of using superlatives – “I’ll never” and “I’ll always” – but still felt the weight of caring for someone else so completely. So many decisions. Overwhelming choices. Conflicting advice. Then baby came and so many days I found myself just winging it.
With baby #2, I felt more confident and sure-footed, but still had big plans to do some things “right.” I wanted to conquer the challenges of pumping and actually make that baby food this time around. But then he arrived, nothing like his sister. Ezra seemed hard wired differently. I suddenly understood the term “colic.” Formerly a believer in maybe 85 to 15 nurture vs nature, I experienced a huge paradigm shift. Nature mattered and this impacted nurture. My kids are not the same people. Their basic needs are the same, as are our family rules and structure. But I can’t always pull from the same parenting playbook to meet their individual needs. Realizing this changed me as a mom.
Baby #3 met the standard definition of “easy” or “good” baby. Although, I stand by the belief that all babies are “good.” I digress. I learned to prioritize wants, shoulds, and musts with this baby. Truly learning to confidently babywear mattered to me, so I researched it and overcame my reservations. I still didn’t make my own baby food, but tried to give myself a break about it. I found much of my past experiences parenting babies helpful, which allowed me to focus my energy on learning the ropes of parenting growing kids. With the big kids, I found myself navigating new parenting terrain, trying to find a balance between my instincts and advice. I was winging it all over again.
I’m now a mom of 4, caring for a sweet boy I expect to be my last baby. I see some of his siblings in baby, but he is definitely his own person, even at 6 months. Four is a daily balancing act between how I want/imagine parenting and reality. Some days just feel “right.” Other days, it seems no one’s needs are prioritized and I go for a one-size-fits-all approach that fits no one. Parenting 8 years in teaches me humility regularly. I’ve learned to forgive myself. To be my own cheerleader. To try again.
How has your parenting changed over time?