Monday, October 27, 2008

The pursuit to be a "perfect" parent

I have been dealing with a lot of guilt as a parent lately. Everytime I am trying to do something that isn't "Skye-centered" (helping one of the other kids, doing housework, going to the bathroom, cooking, etc., etc.), and she is crying her cute little head off, I feel the enormous weight of guilt.

I was going to write this blog a few days ago, and entitle it "attachment parenting and life." Much to the raised eyebrows of my mom and a few other friends and relatives, I have decided this go-round of babyhood parenting to use a method called attachment parenting. A lot of it is stuff I have always done anyway, or have come to realize is what I think is the "best" for me, my baby, and my family as a whole. Honestly, I wish I had stumbled on it way back when I had Seth. (And therein lies another crop of guilt; guilt over all the "mistakes" I made as a naive young mom who didn't know any different. Anyway....) However, attachment parenting is tough, especially when you have 2 other kids, a husband, a big (4 bed, 2bath, 2 story) house to manage, tons of school and extracurricular commitments, errands to run... Some days, truly, it doesn't feel like attachment parenting really fits into my life. Still, I do believe its the best thing for Skye, and the rest of us. So I keep on keepin' on.

Anyway, back to the whole guilt thing.... I can't stand to listen to Skye cry. Her fussiest time of day is while I am cooking dinner. I think she has already successfully figured out that it is the time of night when mommy disappears into another room and doesn't come out every 2 minutes to play with, talk to, or nurse her. She hates cooking time! And consequently, now I do too. I get so stressed listening to her cry that I will get tension headaches, be snapping at anyone who dares step a toe into the kitchen... Yeah, I'm not much fun to be around right then. I am sure no parent really likes to listen to their child scream, but when you are following a parenting method that tells every fiber of your being that you are NOT supposed to let them scream without meeting their needs, well, that takes it to a whole new level.

Truth be told, numerous times a day I beat myself up over it; that balance between meeting her needs and not letting her scream, and meeting the needs of myself (going potty is a neccessity at some point) and the rest of my family. I want to be a successful mother. I want to be a mother who does things the "right" way. I want to be a mother who is the most nurturing, caring, and fostering that is within my power. And when I am not able to get to her needs right away and she is crying hard, I feel (at least momentarily) like a failure, and I am sure (again, momentarily) that I am scarring her for life and making her feel insecure and unloved. (I recognize that sounds like a gross exaggeration, but really, that is the uncensored thought process that I have during those moments.)

Anyway, earlier this evening, I was sweeping my kitchen and dining room floors (Jeremy politely asked me to do them almost a week ago...), and despite the fact I had Skye in the room where she could see me the whole time, she was screaming her head off. In the midst of all this crying, sweeping, and inner guilt, I had a much-needed epiphany. There is no such thing as a perfect parent! I know it sounds so "duh!" but honestly, I think ALL parents want to be the best. We want to be that parent that has the perfect kids and is the envy of the playgroup (or whatever) because they have it all together; the parent who doesn't make mistakes, and doesn't ever let their baby scream, and still manages to have the Martha Stewart clean home, and always has a batch of home-baked cookies ready for a snack when her children and husband get home because she had some free time. I KNOW how unrealistic it is, I really, really do, but still, I think all moms, in the back of their minds, wants to be "that" mom.

I was trying to offer some words of comfort to my friend, Allyson, last week about something like this. She was told, and truly believed in her heart, that breastfeeding was the best thing for her baby. Due to what is speculated to be a weak suck, her baby wasn't gaining weight adequately. So Allyson decided to exclusively pump and feed her little girl breastmilk in a bottle around the clock. Like me with the attachment parenting crying issue, Allyson dealt with the guilt of feeling like she wanted to do the "best" thing by giving her baby breastmilk, and wanted to maintain that "perfect" mom image (don't get me wrong though, she is an AMAZING first time mom - she doesn't need an "image!") but she was exhausted, both physically and emotionally. For weeks, she hung on, somewhat resentfully continuing to pump, because she just felt guilty entertaining the notion of "jumping ship" and switching to formula. Finally, with reluctance and sadness, she decided enough was enough, and has switched over, and is becoming more okay with that choice everyday.

My point in all this is, we all strive to be the best parents we can be. We all want to give our kids everything we can possibly offer them, and make the best choices for them. And at the end of the day, its the effort that matters. Our kids will all have their moments when they falter, and maybe it will be our fault, but then again, probably not. We can all only do the best we can do. And it may still feel like we are selling our kids short of parental "perfection," but we are still doing the best we can. So by my epiphany's definition, a perfect parent is the one that never stops striving to be that much better every single day, and tries not to sweat the small stuff, just trusting their kids will all turn out okay. Maybe not perfect, but the best they can be, because we tried our best. And as long as we keep trying, I think that is perfect enough.

1 comment:

Beth said...

I dont believe in attachment parenting at all. I do believe that you should try to meet the needs of your child BUT I dont believe that the child always knows what those needs are. If my Seth is crying because Im making dinner, its probably because he wants me to pay attention to him. Unfortunately for him, I cant give him one hundred percent of my attention and get dinner done on time too so he learns that my time is divided among a family of people and other things I have to do. He learns that he has to count on himself to entertain himself sometimes and thats okay because when we're all grown up, its yourself you always have to rely on so its not all that bad a lesson to learn. Even this early. He learns that he fits into the family. Maybe he isnt sure where yet but he learns patience. He learns to watch me and realize that just because he wants something from me doesnt always mean that Im going to provide it for him at that very second. So in the end, I guess having my son cry while I make dinner has actually satisfied alot of needs that he may not "need" at that very second, but will in time and at that very second, I need to make dinner! :)

Sometimes it has to be be about me. Sometimes. And thats okay too.