Early in my parenting journey one of my good friends said something to me that I’ll always remember and I often repeat to myself and to others. It usually starts like this – A friend or co-worker and I will be talking about our young families and she’ll say, I should really stop doing this or that. Or I should really start doing this or that. Let’s use co-sleeping as a quick example. My friend might not even think about the fact that she has a co-sleeping family. It might not have been a conscious decision she made. Maybe it’s just the only way she’ll get any sleep at night. So I ask her how she feels about co-sleeping. What is it about the co-sleeping situation she’s in that she doesn’t like? She might say that she just doesn’t think you’re supposed to do that. Or that she worries the baby will never learn to fall asleep alone. Whatever it is, I ask her – Is this a problem for you? Is it keeping you up at night? Is it making you miss out on evening time with your husband? Or with yourself? It might be doing just those things, but she just doesn’t care – it’s not a problem for her. I give credit to the woman who said this to me and then I say, “It’s not a problem, unless it’s a problem for you.” No matter what the “issue” is, don’t start or stop doing whatever it is unless it’s a problem for you. Don’t feel like you need to change something about your parenting choices just because you see someone else making different choices – unless those choices are no longer working out for you.
So often I’ve heard someone complaining about something they had to “fix” about themselves or their child. I’d be upset hearing that, get defensive – I didn’t think there was anything wrong with those choices, I’ve made them for my family. But for them, there was. It might not have been a problem in my life, but for another woman it might be really causing them strife. Just because she’s saying it’s a problem for her, she isn’t saying it’s something I should be “fixing”in my life if it isn’t a problem for me.
That being said, be open to changing. Just because you made a decision at some point in your life, like maybe before you even had any inkling as to what parenting was like, it doesn’t mean you’re stuck with that decision for the rest of your life. It’s easy for an overworked corporate employee with no kids to think she’ll be much happier not working and staying home with the kids. That goes for being a working mom too. Maybe you thought you can have it all and you realize it just isn’t working out for you. Nothing is permanent. If something is wrong, or it doesn’t feel right, try something else. This could be something small like putting the kids to bed a little later or earlier. You can always try it to see how it might affect them (and you) and if it’s not a good choice for your family, go back to the way you were doing it before.
So this is your reminder not only to try to judge others less and love others more, but also to try not to judge yourself against others too. I think it’s a nice catch phrase to remember: It’s not a problem, unless it’s a problem for you. You are making the best choices you can for your family.
Tomorrow, March 4th, is Moms for Moms Day. It’s a day created by CTWorkingMoms.com and The Bump to encourage mothers to celebrate and support each others individual parenting choices. It’s a (mostly) virtual day – we’re asking you take photos of yourself and your friends holding supportive signs. Even if you haven’t made your sign, there’s still time and you can use our pre-made signs or template. Be sure to post all your photos on March 4th with the hashtag #moms4moms and tag us so we’ll see them! More info here.