Sunday, January 01, 2006

Competence and Confidence

I don't know about the rest of you, but my ego as a mother is exceedingly fragile. After 2 weeks of erratic schedules (making for a fussier than usual baby) and exposure to lots of people who feel both the desire and the right to tell me how to raise my child, I am really feeling like I might be just about the worst parent on earth.

Some of the criticism I've endured recently:
1. She's too fussy. If I would just give her a pacifier she'd be quiet.
2. She's too big. I should start her on solids and give up that foolish "feeding on demand."
3. Something's wrong with her. She should be taking 2 two-hour naps instead of 4 one-hour naps and sleeping through the night.
4. She's spoiled. We hold her too much. She should be willing to sit unoccupied for longer.
5. She's anti-social. We need to let strangers hold her even if she is crying.

And, of course, I always try to explain my parenting decisions. They are almost always decisions that my partner and I have consciously made, taking our instincts, the research, and what we remember about our own upbringings into account. Somehow none of that seems to matter to folks who don't care about the link between starting solids early and food allergies (for example) because that's what they did. Although I know it shouldn't, the criticism, especially when people label my daughter, leads me to feel that I am a bad parent.

I'm doing the best I can. There will come a day, or several, when my daughter blames her quirks and dysfunctions on me and I want to be able to look her in the eye and tell her that I did my best. In my mind that means trusting my gut and the research even if it means discounting the wisdom of those who mothered before me.


Blogger Jessica said...

I (like most moms I know) can completely relate to what you're saying. I never quite realized until I was a parent myself how awful it feels when someone criticizes your parenting. And it's especially infuriating when you have consciously and conscientiously considered the merits of different approaches and chosen a particular one.

I'm afraid I have no helpful response here. I think your approach is the best one, the one that will leave you feeling like you can look your daughter in the eye!

9:55 AM  
Blogger think-knitter said...

I completely identify with the feelings of incompetence. My family live far away, and they don't have enough evidence of my parenting skills to make comments (although at times they manage without evidence). My insecurity, however, comes from within. My mother always told me that I have two left hands; therefore, I'm incompetent at many tasks (I'm also hopeless at dancing, have thin hair, crooked legs and badly in need of a nose job - thanks mom). Therefore, no matter how many times my husband tells me that I'm a good mother, I still fees hopeless at it.

Having re-read what I've just written, I think I should be appointed the morale czar on the blog, because I'm so good at being positive.

11:20 AM  
Anonymous rebecca said...

Oh, this post hits home. I am so defensive about everything to do with my daughter. I sometimes dread seeing my extended family because I am the only one who has a child, and I feel like they are all judging me. "Wow! She's a big girl!" sounds to me like "Why are you over-feeding her?" "She's so independent!" sounds like "She'd probably like you better if you were a better mom."

All children are different, though, so there can't be "right" answers.

Trust your own instincts!

8:22 PM  
Anonymous Scott Moss said...

My favorite advice: my grandmother was incredibly insistent (which is her usual mode) that, as of one month, we should give Piper lots of water. Her rationale? She has a lot of friends (in their 80s, like she is) who have kidney problems because they hadn't drunk enough water.

8:48 AM  

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