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How I Stopped Feeling Guilty About My Less-Than-Perfect Parenting Skills

Photograph by Twenty20

I am a product of the '90s. I was raised on cartoons, fake food and red dye No. 3. As a new parent, I’ve been reflecting on all the ways my parents did it “wrong” by today’s unreasonable standards and its helping me feel less guilty about my own parenting skills.

My parents raised me before the internet was telling people how to raise their kids. Without the chorus of judgement. Without the encyclopedia of rules. They managed to raise a smart, confident, well-adjusted human being. I hope to do the same without succumbing to the ever-present shame, guilt and paranoia modern parents are plagued with.

Below are a few things I'm sure my parents would get judged for if they were raising me today:.

1. My mom quit work to stay home with me

Every family’s circumstance is different. I’m grateful to be in a position where I get to stay home with my kids. It is certainly a full-time (often thankless) job, but it’s exactly the job I’m meant to be doing.

I’ve been reflecting on all the ways my parents did it 'wrong' by today’s unreasonable standards and its helping me feel less guilty about my own parenting stills.

2. I was formula-fed from day one

Every mom must decide how best to care for their baby. No matter what choice they make—breast or bottle or both—there’s bound to be a level of sacrifice, guilt and even inconvenience involved. I’ve chosen to exclusively breastfeed my daughter. I’ve received a lot of unsolicited advice from people, including my mother, telling me to give her formula so she’ll sleep through the night and so I don’t have to take my breast out in public. Luckily, I’m very good at ignoring unsolicited advice.

3. We co-slept

I slept in my parents' bed well into elementary school. I’d even set up blankets and pillows to sleep on the floor next to my mom. It may be the reason for my separation anxiety now, but I’d say that’s a small price to pay for the security I felt as a kid. My baby girl is still sleeping in my room. She’s probably ready to sleep in her crib, but I’m not. (See above: separation anxiety.)

4. I’d watch TV to fall asleep

I had a computer in my room and I had access to the internet. Dial-up internet, but still. Today, I feel guilty when I let my kids watch cartoons all morning. But I know it’s not actually rotting their brains. Like anything else, screen time is all about balance and moderation.

5. I ate ALL the sugar

I ate so much sugar, I’m surprised I still have all my teeth. My Cuban grandparents would literally give me a cup of sugar with a spoon to eat. As an adult, I’ve become incredibly conscious about what I put in my body and I do the same for my kids. However, knowing that I was raised on a diet of additives and chemicals, I don’t have a total meltdown when my kid eats a bag of Cheetos at a birthday party.

Of course, we want to give our kids everything we never had. We want them to have perfect lives. But, they can't. Their lives can't be perfect because there's no such thing. Social media temporarily tricks us into believing it is real and attainable—but, it's not.

We're killing ourselves trying to chase unrealistic expectations. And while we're busy chasing, our kids are watching and learning. That's not what I want to teach my kids. I don't want to teach them that they need to be chasing happiness or that they need to be rushing, busy and perfect.

I want them to know that sometimes life isn't perfect, but I'll always be there for them when it isn't.