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Challenge: Finding Your Voice as a Parent

Dear Mama, You’re Doing Just Fine

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I just skimmed an article about the five ways I'm probably cleaning my toddler wrong during bath time. I'm serious. I couldn't make this stuff up if I tried.

This is not the first article that I’ve found completely and utterly ridiculous but ended up reading I found out I was expecting. I remember during my pregnancy I read articles religiously, taking notes on what cheese I shouldn’t even look at while growing a human and ways to know if my baby was happy inside my tummy (yes, that was an actual article). Once our daughter arrived, and was very happy I might add, I still found myself enslaved to reading all the latest pieces on all my various pregnancy/baby apps. Instead of sleeping when she slept I read up on how I should be acting and how she should be responding and I quickly realized I would never be able to do it all.

I was exhausted from trying to keep up with all the tips and tricks and ways to be the best mama I could be and cried to my own mother one day over lunch. Being the no-nonsense Southern belle she is she simply said, “You’re the Mama now and you will know what’s best for your baby. Forget all the rest.”

Light bulb moment.

I decided then and there to make a conscious effort to be my own kind of Mama. To not let the noise of articles or well-meaning opinions of family and random strangers to stifle my own voice. Some days I get it right and some days I don’t but the mind shift has done wonders.

From the moment you're visibly pregnant until (Lord help me) the day your child graduates high school, every other person will try to question who you are as a mother. Some will be easier to dismiss than others – I’m looking at you, random man at the grocery store – while others won’t be so easy.

Last week we took our one year old, Annie to the doctor to make sure her cold was simply that. My gut told me it was likely only a runny nose but didn’t want to take a chance with the flu being such an epidemic this season. We were outside the front doors waiting for my husband to park the car since it was 72 degrees out. Annie, Miss Congeniality, started waving to an older lady standing not far from us. She smiled and then glared at me and said, “Little one not feeling good?”

I told her no and explained because her tone made me feel like I should, so she then said, “Well having your baby out in this cold rain without a proper coat is a good way to give her the flu. You should be ashamed of yourself.”

I’m sorry what? I was so taken aback that I couldn’t even form a sentence but later said plenty to my husband after we learned Annie was just fine.

It was 72 degrees out and she wasn’t in the rain – she didn’t need a coat!

Annie was giggling for Pete’s sake and being so friendly and that woman had the nerve to tell me I should be ashamed? Of what? Caring enough about my baby to bring her in to the doctor to double check?

How dare she say that to me – she doesn’t even know me or my baby!

I’m sure most moms have a similar story about when someone's criticism made her fume or worse, lose her confidence that she’s a good mama. The trigger can be anything from an idle remark about how nursing is the only way to properly nourish your baby (LIE) or how she never allowed her daughter to watch TV until she was in middle school to protect her brain development (come on, now).

In the immortal words of my mother, “You’re the Mama now and you know what’s best for your baby.”

All the rest – the opinions and judgments – are just noise and you better believe, there is a lot of noise.

You might feel guilty for letting your kid eat chicken nuggets for lunch when all the experts say organic, farm to table is what you should be feeding your children 100% of the time. They’ll be just fine and chicken nuggets are delicious.

You might feel defeated when nursing just isn’t an option for whatever reason and your MIL just won’t quit pushing you to give it a try one more time. Kindly remind her your baby is being fed and you staying sane is what’s most important.

Do you work outside the home or stay with your kiddos? Both come with their own set of pros and cons and a million ways to give yourself a guilt trip, but don’t. You’ve got this.

Dear Mama, it’s a tough job but listen up, you were made for this. No, you don’t know all the things but who does? You’ll make mistakes and sometimes worry if you’re doing a good job but know, you are. Your babies feel loved and because of you, they will grow into confident, kind adults who will make this world a brighter place. So don’t worry if your baby is getting clean enough in the bath – she is – and chicken nuggets won’t ruin them. Take a breath. Love on your babies and know, you’re doing just fine.

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