Before I became a parent, I had worked for years in childcare and early childhood education. Because of my experience, I felt fairly confident in my ability to parent and handle the typical struggles of parenthood. I had a long list of things that I had seen other parents do that I was positive I would never do. My parenting style was going to be somewhat strict and very structured. I was able to successfully potty train other children, teach them to nap on mats and feed themselves at the table so surely I’d have no trouble with my own children. I can say now with great confidence that I was very naïve.
There’s no doubt in my mind that my childcare experience helped me as a parent but caring for other children is extremely different from raising my own children. I realized that some of my confidence in my abilities to parent was actually just judgmental thoughts about how other people parent. My thoughts were “I wouldn’t let my kids get away with that” and “Why wouldn’t the parent just do it this way”. The solutions to other’s parenting struggles seemed simple to me. So you can imagine how guilty I feel about those judgments now that I’m a parent myself and I’m seeing how these parenting struggles are truly difficult. I’ve learned that I don’t have all the answers and I never will.
Every child is so different and there’s not a single strategy or approach that will work for all children. There are also so many different kinds of parents and parenting styles. We aren’t all going to choose to handle things the same way or all follow the same steps. When it comes down to it, finding the right way to teach your child through every stage and milestone is hard and can constantly change.
Parents offering each other support without judgment is an amazing gift and encouragement. We can appreciate each other’s differences in parenting and learn from those differences. I think most parents would agree that we want our kids to be themselves and love the person that they are. If we all raised our kids exactly the same way, would our actions teach them to be themselves? Our kids will learn from what we say but also what we do. To me, that would mean that each parent needs to be themselves and make parenting decisions based on their family’s priorities and personalities. As a community of parents, I think laughing together, having compassion for each other and encouraging each other will make us stronger and better parents.