If you’re a parent, it’s very likely you’ve heard of something called the “mommy wars.” It’s almost impossible to avoid; nearly every parenting website out there at least hints at them, or fuels the fires. Though if you’re lucky enough, you may have been able to skim over or just bypass the whole ordeal entirely: arguments over which parenting style is “best” for kids, what kind of rules, which rules, and on and on and on. Crib bumpers! No crib bumpers! Breast is best! Formula! Cry-it-out! Attachment parenting! Helicopter parents! Pacifiers!
I’ve been accused of being several different “horrible” types of mom, which is interesting considering they’re all contradictory. I’ve been told I’m “helicoptering” the same day I was told I was doing a disservice to my child for not immediately rushing over to worry when she fell and scraped her knee. Can one even be a negligent helicopter mom? Apparently I can!
My kiddo is four years old, and she’s the wildest little kid I’ve ever met. She gets her height from my partner, but everything else is me made over: messy brown hair, cheesy gigglesnorts, tiny little round nose. What’s most important to me, though, is that she is almost always smiling. She has an excellent sense of humor, always laughing and playing and joking and squealing, like a little kid should. This house is filled with her giggles and it’s peaceful and heartwarming, but it wasn’t always like that.
A little over a year ago, I had come to the realization that my mental health was affecting my kiddo’s mental health. I’ve struggled with it in the past – more on that another day – but I thought I could handle it alone, and I thought I was handling it — until I listened. The house was so quiet all the time, and I couldn’t remember the last time I’d heard her laugh. It was like a slap in the face — what was I doing?! I looked at her and my heart broke, and I decided to get help.
Every morning is a ticklefest, and every night is a bedtime story and cuddle. We’re silly, we count toes and wiggle butts, make funny faces and use ridiculous voices, we run and play and hide and make messes and clean them up. She crawls into bed with us sometimes at night when she has a bad dream, and she even comes right to me now when she makes a ‘bad choice’ and something gets broken/messed up to let me know what happened, rather than waiting for me to find it.
I couldn’t begin to tell you what my parenting “style” is, and five years in, I don’t really think it matters. I’m happy with how we’re raising her, and the metric I use to gauge that is her happiness: the bumps and thumps of her playing and bouncing off the walls, her ear-to-ear grins, her adorable little shrieking giggles, her confidence in making messes, her enthusiasm for hobbies. I took care of my mental health so I could take care of hers, because I realized that it’s very important to me for her to have stability, comfort, and support.
Whether you rear-face your kid’s car seat past two years old, or homeschool, or formula feed or breastfeed or pump or use pacifiers or cry-it-out or do any of the many, many things someone, somewhere will tell you you’re horrible for trying, please don’t let it get you down. Just let criticism roll off like water off a duck’s back, because your child’s happiness and well-being is more important than bickering over how to make your child happy. Don’t spend even a single moment of the precious time you get with your little ones worrying about how, and just do.
Take them out for ice cream for the hell of it, even once. Surprise them with a trip to their favorite park. Fingerpaint with them. Let them help stir the cake batter, even if you know it’s gonna be a hell of a mess. Never forget to tell them how proud you are of them, or that you love them. Make up silly songs with them, and cute little dances to match. Let them paint your toenails even when you know they can’t even color inside the lines yet in their coloring books. And, at least once, let them jump in that mud puddle with their “nice” clothes on.