Recently, one of my oldest mom friends and I were chatting about raising older kids. (Spoiler alert: It’s just as hard as raising babies, but in different ways.) We were talking about how difficult it is to get good advice in this stage of parenting, and how easy it is to doubt whether you are making good choices for your kids.
"Remember what we used to tell each other when our kids were babies?" she asked me.
And I did remember. It came to me right away, actually.
When our now-tweens were tiny infants—when we weren’t sure if we were holding them too much or too little, when we were getting constant unsolicited advice from in-laws and even strangers, when it felt each day like we would never feel like ourselves again—there were six words we’d say to each other that somehow made it all better:
"You are doing the right thing."
These words did not offer any concrete or particular advice, like how often to breastfeed, when our kids would be ready for solid foods or how to answer those annoying strangers who kept asking us if our babies were sleeping through the night yet. It wasn’t about what we should or should not be doing.
Whatever stage you’re in, however many WTF moments you have each day, remember that you are the parent.
Instead, it was a simple validation that whatever we were doing was what we should be doing. Why? Because we were the parents, we knew our babies best and we were the ones who should decide these things—no one else.
It was giving credence to something that no other parent, parenting expert, book or even doctor could have the last word on: our parenting instincts.
How often are new parents told to trust their instincts, that they are the experts on their babies? Not nearly enough, even though it’s the damn truth.
Of course, there is a place for advice, for healthcare professionals and safety experts. Your baby needs to be healthy and safe, and not all new parents have all the info. But when it comes to the way you parent your child? Well, that’s completely up to you, and don’t let anyone tell you otherwise.
All the most common baby and early childhood debates (breast vs. bottle, co-sleeping or not, working or staying home, etc.) don’t have a clear-cut answer. And in most cases, whatever you choose usually works out just fine in the end. The stress of new parenthood is more about how much self-doubt parents feel and how much freaking judgment they get from others.
Having a mantra like this one and having friends or others who validate your choices and decisions is really empowering. We are all doing the best we can, finding our way and trying to do right by our kids. It looks different for everyone, but we’ve got to have faith that whatever choices we make as parents, the kids (and us) will be all right.
For those of us raising bigger kids, those same words as just as important now, maybe even more so. In many ways, moms of older kids don’t get nearly enough advice, and so few of us talk about how difficult parenting continues to be.
But the same truth holds. Whatever stage you’re in, however many WTF moments you have each day, remember that you are the parent. You know yourself and your child best. And I promise: The kids will be just fine.