This article has been circulating emails and Facebook. In case you haven't read it (and don't want to click on the link), it's a letter from a mother of three, "Apologies To The Parents I Judged Four Years Ago." She apologizes for all the ways she judged parents before having kids of her own. She lists her ideals pre-children (which she implies are naive and unrealistic) and compares them to her reality now with a four-year old girl and twin 20-month old boys.
I appreciate her humor and honesty. I too, have thought of things that I was smug and judgmental about pre-children. For years, many of our friends and family had been having children before we had our first, and we spent a lot of time observing, watching, absorbing, and (if I'm being super honest,) judging. Michael and I often discussed what we saw or heard in these homes, and what we appreciated, but mostly, what we would do differently. As most couples judge pre-children, we had an arsenal of observations ready to be implemented with our own children.
I'm acknowledging that we were naive to think we had some things all figured out. We both could admit that every child is unique, and every parenting style is different, and that we would experience a lot of "baptism by fire," learning as we went, but, we had some ideas of how we would do things "differently" (read: better).
I can admit now that I was much too harsh and quick to judge. I only have one 17-month old. I am just at the very beginning stages of the toddler tantrums and terrible twos, not to mention I only have one child begging for my attention during her every waking hour. I acknowledge that my thoughts are based on the limited experience of having only one child, and I accept those judgments from you parents of more than one child who are thinking right now, "You only have one. Just wait until you have two or three. Then you'll see."
In a few short months I will begin a whole new round of realizing how judgmental I've been, and maybe I will eat some of these words.
But in my current reality, I have to say that though this author has a lot of good points, I think she doesn't necessarily speak for all mothers. I am a full-time stay-at-home mom of one (although I do work a few hours a week), so I know I have something many mothers don't have: time. I can look over her list and reflect on my own pre-children/post-children experience and feel good about at least some of the decisions I've made and how we've kept those commitments through the first 17 months of my daughter's life.
To those of you who read this article and think that all of your ideas and desires for parenthood will be thrown out the window the moment your first baby arrives, I'm here to say that some of them, at least, are possible. They take hard work and commitment, but they are doable. You will probably have to choose which are most important to you, but don't give up on them all completely.
In fact, I'd say many of the things I am committed to now for my daughter have actually grown in strength as she's gotten older, not waned.
Here are a few examples:
Cloth diapers-I love using cloth and until I was pregnant had never even considered them before. They were extremely intimidating at first, but after asking hundreds of questions to my cloth diapering friends I've found that I get a real sense of satisfaction from using cloth. (I LOVE to help other new moms get started on cloth diapering. I have "tutored" many friends into the cloth diaper world.)
Cleaning without chemicals-This was something I've stumbled upon more recently, but I don't think I'll ever go back. I clean mostly with vinegar and baking soda and love knowing that I'm saving money AND creating a much healthier environment for our entire family.
Eating/Feeding mostly organic, homemade food-I was never much into organic until I started preparing to make food for Ellie when she turned six months old. As I researched I became increasingly convinced of the necessity for at least some things organic. The cost isn't that much more than regular food, depending on what it is, and I think the long-term benefits outweigh any cost. Making large batches of homemade food is not as time-consuming as it seems, and there are plenty of things I could give up for an hour or two to make food that lasts for days or weeks.
No sugar (or very little)-This also came along with my food research. I have seen no reason to give Ellie many sweets, and as they say, "If it ain't broke, don't fix it." Ellie eats whole grains, fruit and vegetables (among other foods), and the sweetest thing I give her is crackers or bread. A couple weeks ago we gave her ice cream for the first time, and she wasn't interested. Recently, we have offered her a bite of cake or sugar but she refuses a second bite every time. She does, however, ask for seconds and thirds of the meals and vegetables I make her. Why mess with that? Most likely she will be a child who loves sweets in due time, but I'm in no rush to jump start that.
No TV- We haven't had a TV for years, though we still watch plenty on the internet. Ellie hasn't watched much TV, except when at other houses where the TV is on a lot. Even then, she mostly doesn't seem interested for more than a few minutes. She's used to playing and keeping herself busy. Everyone keeps telling me this, of all things, will change when baby #2 arrives. I can see how that's possible, but I don't think it's as inevitable as people say. I do think if I had it I might be tempted to use it, but if that were the case I probably would have turned on my computer and let her watch cartoons by now. Neither of us realize what we're missing out on, and I'm fine with that. I appreciate blogs like this one that give me plenty of ideas for activities to do with Ellie instead of watching TV, and also appreciate being validated that there are other moms that make no TV a priority as well. I'm not judging other families who let their children watch TV, I'm just acknowledging that if no TV is something you want to implement, it's not impossible.
I only share this list to show that some ideals of parenthood are doable. You don't have to compromise everything you'd hoped for pre-children. Of course, this article did help me think through some of the judgments and ideas I had pre-children that have changed.
Discipline- Oh, how many times did I see a kid throwing a tantrum at the store or in a restaurant, and immediately my first thought was, "Wow, that kid needs a good spanking." As I mentioned before, I'm just beginning the first stages of tantrums with one child, but already I have been humbled in my judgments regarding other parents' styles of discipline. Everyone has different methods and philosophies, but suffice it to say that we have totally changed our tune in regards to discipline, spanking, and how to approach these with our child(ren) (that could be another post). I would echo the author of the article and apologize to the many, many parents I judged in this area. Whew!
There are plenty more, but I will end by reiterating what the author of the article states. Parenting is tough, and every child and situation is unique. What works and has worked with my first-born daughter most likely won't work the same with the next one. I write all this knowing that in a few short months I may once again apologize for judging those parents of multiple children.
But for now, I am going to cling to the hope that if I could make it this far with at least some of my ideals in tact, that hopefully I can continue on, even as I hold them loosely. Parenting is humbling, hard work, and I have a new appreciation for every mom or dad I see as I walk through the grocery store, kids begging for candy or crying or whining.
I too, know better now than to judge those other parents.