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