The lessons of parenthood are many and varied. They come at you constantly. The realizations hit you in the shower (assuming you get one on any given day), in the car on the way to work and soccer practice and doctor appointments, and in bedtime conversations with the tiny humans who look to you for answers.
All of this has been true since the beginning of time, but the process seems wildly accelerated in the social media age. Never before have parents been so connected to each other outside of their immediate family and social circles. We’ve always known how our sisters and best friends were raising their children. Now we know how everyone does it.
Recently while scrolling through my Facebook feed, two articles came up nearly back-to-back. Each was shared by someone I know and trust. The first was about teaching children the art of self-reliance. It worried that we live in a culture too quick to solve children’s problems for them before they can tackle them themselves. It argued that doing too much for our children robs them of the self-confidence that comes from doing these things for themselves.
The second article was about loving service. It argued that we live in a culture too focused on self-reliance, and that when we offer help with laundry, lunch-packing, keeping track of schedules, etc., we give them the confidence of being loved and cared for.
See the problem?
The constant bombardment of advice we face today as parents is stressful because raising children is so important. Parenting is the No. 1 thing we want to do right, and there’s no instruction manual. And while there may be no one way to do it right, it can start to feel as though there are thousands of ways to do it wrong.
Sanity comes when we learn how to take what serves us and leave the rest. Just because somebody wrote it doesn’t make it right. Just because it has a thousand “likes” doesn’t make it relevant to your life. Just because another mother takes great joy in bathing her children doesn’t make you a deficient parent if you dread bath time. (There, I admit it! I don’t enjoy bath time!)
We do the best we can with what we have in this moment. It sounds simple, but I know how it can sometimes feel nearly impossible. If you read advice that stirs that little voice of recognition within you, tuck it away for further consideration. If you read advice that brings out the “Not good enough! Never good enough!” police that live in your brain, discard it immediately.
With so much outside input, it’s harder than ever to trust ourselves – but that’s the only way to navigate parenting without going insane. Trust that these little people are your little people for a reason. Trust that you’ll come up with the answers when you need them most. Trust that you’re doing the best you can with what you have. The rest is just noise. Find the mute button, and use it often.