In these covid times, this takes on a new meaning, “it takes a village to raise a child”. Last night, my husband, Chad and I were talking about the network effect and how having a big family provides a built-in support network when things get tough. Chad is an only child and I have three siblings. He has made me appreciate the things I take for granted having a large family. Amusingly, Chad now wants a lot of children whereas I would be fine with just one or two.
Being practical as I am, I can’t help but think about the money and time investment each child would require and I want to make sure that I do parenting right. Which brings me to the point of this article: as moms, we often think that we must be everything to our children at all times and any accomplishments or shortcomings of our children are a direct reflection of us. As a new mom, I have experienced this guilt. Is she feeding enough? Am I holding her enough? Is her brain stimulated just the right amount to maximize learning? Is she achieving and surpassing all the milestones? And the list goes on as if our children are pass/fail exam of our parenting skills and commitment. What’s more confusing is all the noise around us with new scientific research, books and articles on how to be optimal parents and how to curate every single aspect of our children’s lives from eating and sleeping to brain development. There is something alluring about this narrative of the mother being the end all be all for her child. It offers a sense of power and purpose to the mom and makes her feel invincible which she frankly needs to get through the hardships of motherhood. She has and must have the desire and ability to offer anything her child wants or needs on command.
At the same time, there is a rational voice inside reminding her that she can’t possibly be the end all be all for her child. If this were the case, society would collapse. Children of working moms, single parents, orphans, adopted children or large families where out of necessity the mom is not as available would suffer and the children of affluent, stay-home super moms would be the most successful. In reality, there are many examples of people from difficult childhoods who become extremely successful adults. On the other hand, suicide, drug and alcohol addictions and psychological challenges are common in many affluent and well-educated households despite hyper active parents who are very involved in their children’s lives. In fact, I would venture to say that children who experience some adversity early on in life become more capable, resilient and successful adults. What’s more important than the mom’s constant time and attention is the ability for the child to have varied life experiences, both good and bad, that teach them important life skills to become independent, adaptable, resourceful and disciplined.
Rather than trying to become the perfect parent, learn to ask for help and recognize that your child’s life is influenced by many factors beyond you. We humans are social creatures and the support structure (or lack of) offered by the father, grandparents, uncles, aunts, cousins, friends, neighbors and community members is much more influential on your child’s healthy development than your personal quest to become the perfect mom. And those extra zzzzs for mom don’t hurt either!