Looking Back on Six Years of Parenting Choices

A few days ago, my six-year-old son was rifling through my closet in an effort to further procrastinate putting on his clothes and getting ready for school. He pulled out an appointment card from an old purse and handed it to me: it was a reminder card for his own two week check up, back in 2008. It suddenly hit me how much time has passed before my very eyes. I can vividly remember this specific appointment. I’d been a mom for exactly 14 days, and I was fraught with worry. Nursing wasn’t going well. I had horrible pain; he had a bad latch. I was overwhelmed by the demand of nursing literally all day and night. I worried about causing flat spots on his tiny soft head if he slept too long in one position, and I worried even more when he didn’t sleep at all. I worried about SIDS. I worried about his recovery from jaundice, and his umbilical stump. I worried about everything.

I can't believe he was ever really this small!
I can’t believe he was ever really this small! Someone should go back in time and tell this mom not to panic.

Over six years later, and I can’t say I’ve stopped worrying. However, I can look back on how far we’ve come and know I am doing okay at this whole parenting thing. Like all parents, I’ve had to make choices for my family along the way…big choices. I left a job I loved, we moved to a new area, I started and finished graduate school, and I began a new job, all in the past six years since becoming a mother. Oh, and we added another child to our family during those years. Did I always make the “right” choice? I have no idea. I find myself looking back and wondering “what if” sometimes. What if I’d kept my old job? What if I’d gone back to school before having my sons, instead of in the thick of motherhood? What if I’d just cut myself some slack now and then and not worried so much about every little thing? Of course, I’ll never know the answer to these questions. All I know is that when I look at my family’s life today, things seem to be going okay. I still have no idea if I’m making the “right” choices, and frankly, knowing that I am making decisions that directly affect the lives of the four people in our house is still totally overwhelming. But it has gotten easier. With every success, I’ve become more confident in my ability as a mother to make good decisions for my family, some of which have been hard choices to make. Of course, there have been times when I’ve looked back and wished I’d made a different choice, and I’ve learned from those times. My decisions have rarely matched up exactly with those my friends made. I’ve learned that this is okay. Different doesn’t mean wrong; different simply means different.

Checking out some sea creatures at low tide with my kids, age 3 and 6
Checking out some sea creatures at low tide with my kids, age 3 and 6

I think of all the things I’ve learned since becoming a mother this is the most true: different does not equal “wrong”. The choices we make as parents have to take into account so many factors and nuances that it simply makes sense that we wouldn’t all do things the same way all the time. Before kids, and even in the early days of motherhood, I didn’t realize this. I thought there were clear “good” and “bad” choices one could make as a parent, and I was constantly worried about making the correct decision. Not true. Parenting is 99.9% looking at your own life circumstances, your children’s individual needs, and responding to that combination. I know I have years of parenting decisions ahead of me. Hopefully I will be able to remember this as I go forward, and trust my own judgement as a mother over the feeling of what I should do.


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