Even as I approached thirty, the thought of passing a large group of seemingly cool teenagers or walking into a hipster retail store made me a little nervous. Do I fit in? Do I stand out? I am so not kidding by the way. Once I was fully intimated by the uber-cool store clerks at a clothing shop that I walked out with a shopping bag full of clothes I never intended to purchase. I just started frantically pulling clothes off the hangers, eager to look the part. That awkward thirteen-year old girl was still buried in there somewhere.
And then I became a mother.
As a new parent, you are bombarded with what is ok and what is not ok. You will be handed down approximately 34 different pregnancy/baby/parenting books in which all seem to contradict what the other is saying. Magazines, blogs, friends and family will all tell you the right way to grow, birth and parent your baby. Some are subtle and others are most definitely not. You will be criticized (you use paper diapers? Shame on you, you must be lazy and have no love for our environment), you will be mocked (you puree your own baby food? How quaint, must be nice to have all that time to stand around your kitchen and cook) and you will be deemed mentally unwell (you still sleep with your child?). These decisions, we are told, will shape your child’s future self. It is hard not to take all this noise personally.
I quickly realized that if I was going to survive this parenting gig, I needed to skip the heaping side of guilt that seems to appear as soon as you birth a child and replace it with some bravado. Oh and I would like to exchange those trendy clothes too while I’m at it…white backless t-shirts are suddenly not my thing anymore.
This can take some time – as it turns out, those exchange policies are not automatic. But eventually it happens. I can remember the morning when I woke up and realized that I didn’t give a shit about the article in the paper that criticized how I sleep-trained my children or the stranger who looked distraught as I breastfed in a public park.
I have a newfound confidence that didn’t exist before. I grew these two darlings in my womb, birthed them and continue to care for them the only way I know how – I just do what feels right and what makes the most sense. And guess what? My children, as far as I can tell, are not harmed nor traumatized by the once occasional but now everyday paper diaper or the second mac n’cheese meal of the week. In fact, they love me for it.
Like, a lot.