Parenting is full of lessons, some big, some little, but regardless, parents are always learning. I was recently reflecting on my parenting journey and I came to a realization: When I had my second daughter I made a HUGE mistake.
Now I know that parenting mistakes are common, but this mistake is one that I think parents are making all the time and they don’t even realize it!
Before I tell you about my greatest parenting mistake, I have to first give you a quick summary of my journey as a mom….This is the greatest parenting mistake she ever made. Are you making it too? #parenting Click To Tweet
Despite having 17 years of experience working with young children, when I became a mom I was clueless.
Nothing prepared me for the challenges that parenting would present. Prior to having my first daughter, I was confident (almost arrogant) about the type of parent I wanted to be. My high ideals were almost sickening.
Like any parent, I muddled my way through. Fortunately, my oldest daughter was such an easy-going child, guiding her through the formative years was a breeze.
Then I got pregnant with my second child.
We knew that this baby would be the final chapter in our family. We wanted two children and made plans to stop there. Since this baby was my last “experience” in birthing and caring for an infant, I decided to do things differently. I did so much reading on natural birth and gentle parenting, that my vision of motherhood changed.
Suddenly, the way I had been caring for my oldest child seemed all wrong.
I was too structured, too organized, and too methodical with my care for her. As a result, I allowed myself to be carried away into the world of following the child’s lead.
All my years of early childhood education and the gentle parenting books I had been reading led me astray. I began to believe that I was a bad mom to my older child and that if I did things differently, I would be a better mom for both my children.
I was wrong.
The first year of caring for my second daughter was absolute chaos.
I tried to co-sleep with my daughter but I couldn’t relax and enjoy it, plus she didn’t seem to like it either. I was sleep deprived and miserable. Everyone, including my children, felt the effects of my misery.
Take away point: Parents need to make sleeping arrangements that work for them. If that means co-sleeping, fine. If it means that the child is in their own room, fine. Parents shouldn’t feel inadequate or less loving because they decided to put their child in their own room.
Quite frankly, I’m sickened whenever I see an article where “experts” say children who sleep with their parents are happier children and have closer relationships with their families. That kind of shaming is burdensome to a sensitive mom.
If you co-slept with your child, that’s awesome, good for you. However, if you didn’t, you shouldn’t be shamed for your choices and it doesn’t make you less of a parent than the co-sleeping mom.
When I had my first daughter, I had a tight schedule of feeding times, sleep times, and even structured/organized play times.
With my second daughter, I decided to follow her lead. Unfortunately, we all suffered as a result of this decision. She was a terrible sleeper, a horrible eater, and highly distracted in play.
Take away point: Schedules offer children a pattern and predictability. While some children may fall into a natural schedule and rhythm of their own, others may need the parent to determine a reasonable schedule for them.
When I implemented a schedule for my youngest daughter, her sleeping and eating patterns turned around within two weeks! It had taken over nine months for her to start sleeping through the night and I honestly believe that change was due to the fact that I put her on a schedule.
Too many choices.
My desire to follow my child’s lead meant I offered her far too many choices. While I’m an advocate for offering children choices, I think I took it too far, to the point of: she got to choose whether she wanted the red bowl or the blue bowl. The result?! I have a child who desires a choice with regards to everything and let’s face it, you don’t get choices for everything in life. Some things just are and there is no choice.
Take away point: While children need choices, they also need to learn how to accept circumstances outside of their control. The best place to learn that not everything is a choice, is in the safe and caring relationship with their parents.
My greatest parenting mistake.
It’s easy to see my biggest mistake as a parent. I let articles, popular culture, and social media dictate what is and isn’t a good parent. I went against my instincts and as a result I struggled through my second daughter’s early years.
So don’t make the mistakes I made. Don’t let a book or a philosophy dictate how you should raise your child. Approach your child with love and parent them as the individuals they are. If you’re struggling, pray for guidance and wisdom.
You know your child best. Let your desire to be a great mom overpower any of the contradictory influences around you. Your motherhood journey is as unique as you and your child. Don’t fight your uniqueness, embrace it.