This is a really difficult time to raise children.
We are surrounded by information, but that information tends to present a lot of problems (what not to eat, what not to buy, new epidemics to worry about) yet rarely offers up solutions.
We also live in a time where it is very easy to passively observe the lives of others. In doing so, people are often quick to judge; the stories we hear in the news, as well as the images we see splashed across social media, are subject to the critical eyes of society.
Some of us dismiss these ideas. We fall back on how we were raised and ignore the endless stream of “new studies” and “better products.” Others respond by rarely allowing themselves to feel at ease, as a little voice nags at them about the ever-present dangers in the world.
On the one hand, we want to do the best we can with the information we have, and adapt our parenting strategy as we learn. On the other hand, we want to keep the larger picture of what’s truly important in mind, and avoid fretting over every new threat. It’s a delicate and difficult-to-achieve balance.
All too often, the current climate results in a tendency to be our own worse critic. We’ll cook healthy, homemade meals only to worry that they aren’t healthy enough- I should’ve sprung for the organic tomatoes (they’re on the dirty dozen list!) and sought out locally sourced meat! We’ll change our babies’ diapers and feel a twinge of concern over the wipes we use- wasn’t there just some sort of outbreak caused by wipes? We’ll pour over how we spent our day- did I read to her enough today? And did she have enough time outside? Is she going to develop an internet addiction because she sees me reading on my kindle app? (That last one might just be me…) We make impossibly long to-do lists and then feel exhausted and unaccomplished at the end of the night because there are items left unchecked. It’s hard to combat this critical inner-voice. All around us are messages shouting “you’re not doing it right!” and “You’re not good enough!” Confirming our biggest parenting insecurities and fanning the flames of guilt.
Reality looks very different from our self-critical stream-of-consciousness. When you cook dinner, you’re providing your family with food— even if it isn’t all organic and locally-sourced (and even if it isn’t homemade at all 😉 ). When you’re caring for your child, you’re more than likely doing your best to make the dozens of choices that need to be made each day (or sometimes, each hour) with intention. You are doing the urgent tasks on your to-do list, and forsaking the less crucial tasks in favor of playing with trucks on the nursery floor.
When we make an effort to catch the negative thoughts and speak truth— that we are enough, that this job of parenting is crazy-hard and immensely important— it’s amazing how our perspective changes.
Instead of dwelling on all of our shortcomings, how about we extend ourselves a little bit of grace? Your child will be deeply and irrevocably shaped by the love you extend to them at this tender age— subpar tomatoes and all.