When you start a family, it seems as if everything you do is fair game for scrutiny. You’ll find yourself fiercely defending what once felt like the most inconsequential decisions, as if your child’s future wellness and happiness were in the balance because you purchased a particular brand of stroller.
Then there’s whether you breastfeed, co-sleep, spank, vaccinate or not. What kinds of food you serve. How long you let your kids watch television or play video games. When you allow your teenager to date (can we hold off until their 20s?). And the big one: do you retain paid employment or become a full-time mom (which is a job in itself).
At times, it can feel as if you’re on trial, and the prosecutor can be anyone from your mother-in-law to a perfect stranger. The verdict? Chances are likely that it’s guilty.
After remaining in a full-time job that I loved for nearly 10 years, I made the difficult decision to start working from home. Reactions of my friends and family varied, but the scariest was from a co-worker who took it upon herself to explain that I would never be able to balance work and family without the steady security of a corporate job. This from a woman I had spoken to only a couple times in passing. Not to mention, she said it on my last day at work. But I digress. The point is: Everyone has and will share his or her opinion, whether solicited or not.
The Internet further complicates the problem. Anonymity armors naysayers, giving them the freedom to ruthlessly strike down your actions without having to deal with your fractured feelings. Plus, we have access to nearly limitless information and obsessively research every statistic and every proclaimed specialist on every subject concerning our children, often resulting in more doubt than clarity.
After hours of scouring sources explaining the pitfalls of being a working mother, I eventually had to peel myself off the ceiling and realize that even the experts aren’t experts. Raising children is not an exact science. Each kid is different, as is each parent and situation. There will be an equal amount of statistics in favor of something as against it. So, use the tools and opinions available to weigh your options, but don’t let them overwhelm you. Sometimes you just have to trust your gut.
And when you’re in the midst of the mommy wars, where opinions fly like fists in a martial arts flick, keep in mind that if you decide something is best for you and your children, it’s not any less valid because someone else made a different choice.
Parenting is hard enough without the judgment. At the end of the day, we all want the same thing: to be happy and raise a happy family. We don’t need to look down on others for making different choices, nor do we need to defend our own. The only approval necessary comes from our kids when they look at us and say, “I love you, Mom.”