Letting go of Mommy Ideals

We all have them don’t we, the ideals we hold on to? We say I’m going to be this kind of mom, person, friend, etc. And then we feel guilty or like failures when life takes us in a different direction. And it often does take us in a different direction.

For example, I’ve read quite a few posts about women who thought they would follow Gary Ezzo’s advice in Babywise, but they tried and it didn’t work for them, so they had to let go of their expectations and change their picture of ideal. (As a side note, I found this article from Christianity Today, saying that Ezzo’s approach is potentially dangerous and that the original publisher was severing ties with him, to be really interesting.)

Tonight I talked to a dear friend who shared about how when her kids where younger the “hot” parenting strategy in their church was Growing Kids God’s Way. She expected to follow that advice with her child, and she tried it for a while, but it didn’t work for her. She felt like she wasn’t being true to who she was when she followed Growing Kid’s God’s Way and it didn’t work with her child. So, she had to let go of her expectations and change her picture of ideal.

Yesterday, I had to let go of my expectations and change my picture of ideal.

I shared here on the blog about Baby Led Weaning and our desire to follow this approach to introducing solid food. We have been doing this for the past few weeks, but most of the time Thaddeus doesn’t eat much of it. He’s still nursing a LOT and so I have been very relaxed about him eating. But, yesterday we went to the pediatrician and there are some concerns. He’s not gaining weight like he should; he’s just above the 3rd percentile now. The doctor didn’t think we needed to run any tests or really worry about it, but she did say that he needs more calories. He needs to be eating much more than he has been.

So,  we came home and spoon feed him some mush – making sure he actually ate it.

I felt sad about it, like I was letting down this ideal that I had, but Thaddeus seemed fine with it. In fact he seemed to really enjoy it. He liked the food, he seemed less frustrated then when we just put food in front of him and let him try and pick it up. He ate well and ate almost all of what we’d prepared.

We all have our ideas of how we want to parent and the types of parents we want to be, but there is something that’s even more important than our ideals – Our Children. What works for one child, might not work for another child. What works for one mom or family, might not work for another mom or family.

My friend told me that whenever she hears parenting advice or someone say “this is the best thing to do for your child” or that sort of thing, she thinks of it like a story. A story of something that worked for a particular child, with a particular parent, in a particular setting and time. Maybe it’ll work for your child too, but maybe it won’t. Don’t hold so tightly to the ideal or the advice. Look instead at your child and be willing to compromise on your ideal for what is best for your particular child at this particular time.

A few weeks ago I read this wonderful post about all the things a “good mom” does and about how being a good mom can look very different in different situations. I love it and thought of it again today as I adjusted my ideals a little bit. There is so much of all of this in each of us. We shouldn’t judge each other when someone else doesn’t meet our ideals. We shouldn’t judge ourselves when we don’t meet our own ideals. We may do things differently, we may not reach our expectations, we may compromise on our ideals, but that doesn’t make us bad moms. We are human, and we do the best we can for our children with where we are at. I am a good mom, even if my baby is skinner than we’d like right now. I am a good mom even if I change my ideals.

Hold loosely to your ideals today. Allow your child, your life, and your God, to shape the mom you are and the mom you are becoming, instead of the ideals you have placed on yourself.

Rejoicing in the journey-
Bethany Stedman

If you'd like to help with medical bills or the other expenses related to Bryan's cancer or Sage's special needs click here. Thank you! We are forever so grateful to so many who have gotten us this far and continue to carry us forward. Grace and peace.

9 thoughts on “Letting go of Mommy Ideals

  1. I think that with anything, once you have an ideal stuck in your head, it’s hard to give it up. But especially with parenting and kids you just can’t ever predict how things will go. It’s so important to be flexible and adapt as you go along…and it’s more of an accomplishment to do that than it is to stick to your guns or to the ideals that you set forth int he beginning. Sounds like you are a GREAT mom!

  2. This is a great reminder. It’s important to remember that everything we thought we wanted doesn’t always turn out to be best for our child or for our situation. But I know for me anyway, I have a hard time letting go of how I think things should be.

  3. Go get a copy of “Real Food for Mother and Baby” by Nina Plancke. If your library doesn’t have it, go buy a copy immediately.

    Nina recounts her meetings with her pediatrician, who was saying all the same things as you’re hearing, and shows why it’s not necessarily a valid concern.

    1. Funnily enough, I actually won a giveaway of that book in April, but had it sent to my in-laws (since I live in Prague and they live in the US) so I haven’t gotten it yet. Our library here only has a limited selection of English books, so probably doesn’t have that one yet 😉
      Thanks for the recommendation though, I will be sure to read it as soon as I get it. From what you are saying it sounds like it might be very encouraging for me right now 🙂 Thanks!

  4. I don’t have it in front of me any more, but here’s roughly how it went: At about 1 year, her son started getting taller without getting much heavier. He was getting more lean, and the doctor started quoting scary numbers at her about weight, and also about anemia, strongly suggesting she should start weaning and giving iron supplements.

    It turns out all children go through growth spurts where they gain height but not weight. Compared against the perfectly-smooth graph of “average weight by age” of course they’re going to fall at the low end of the scale during that period.

    And as for the “anemia”, all children show decreased iron at about one year. It’s not a problem, it’s a predictable phase of growth.

  5. Hi Beth,
    This is Lisa from The WellGrounded Life. Just wanted to pop over and thank you for this beautiful article. It embraces one of my own life lessons as a mama so articulately– thank you for sharing! I’ll be linking here for my readers to enjoy as well!

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