Before I became a mom, I had all these ideas in my head of how I would be this “perfect parent.” You know, the one every book and blog and sanctimommy (a sanctimonious mommy) tells you you should be. I would only breastfeed, I would read the perfect amount to my baby every day, I would feed him the most perfectly balanced, completely homemade organic diet, I would do all kinds of activities for his development. He would never touch sugar, and I would never have to punish my child. My house would be a spotless dream home because my perfect child would allow me to keep house like a good wife should. Real moms, are you laughing yet? Because I’m killing myself with this daydream.
Over the years, I’ve learned to throw out the image I had in my head and the expectation that I would be this “picture perfect” parent. For starters, I’m not Susie Homemaker, nor will I ever be. I forget to switch the laundry and have to re-do a load sometimes more than once. More often than not, 5 pm rolls around and I’m face palming myself thinking, “Oh crap, I forgot to defrost something for dinner.”
I did manage to breastfeed well past my goal with Caleb, but it wasn’t without its hiccups. I struggled to produce enough milk for a while, and I had to come to terms with supplementing with formula or donor milk until I could get my supply to where I needed it to be.
And while I did manage to make a lot of his meals, I also learned really quickly that I needed to make the most efficient choices for my family sometimes, and sometimes, a homemade meal was just not in the cards. Pouches and store bought foods became my BFFs. And even though I managed to keep him away from added sugars his first year, after that it was a losing battle - so I limit it when I can and I don’t let him have it in the evenings, but I’m not going to lose my mind over a little frosting.
And my perfect house? Haha. You can only imagine how that turned out.
But what I have learned is that motherhood doesn’t have to be ALL or NOTHING. It is a huge balancing act. And we need to stop feeling guilty for not being the perfect image we had in our heads.
Picture this... you’ve been breastfeeding your whole maternity leave. Come the time you go back to work and you’re struggling to pump and keep your supply up while you’re away from baby. You’re not producing enough while at work. Does this mean the end of your breastfeeding relationship? If you don’t want it to end, why does it have to be breast OR formula, when it very well could be both? Breastfeed while you’re with your baby, and give formula when you’re not. Simple as that. You stop making yourself crazy and you stop beating yourself up.
Food? Pick your battles. All organic can get expensive, and sometimes you just don’t have the budget for it. So stick to buying organic when it comes to the “dirty dozen,” and don’t worry about the rest. Whole Foods doesn’t need to take all your money, contrary to popular belief. If you're really set on home-cooked meals for your toddler, a service like Babe Appetit (which I have talked about here) could fit your bill - and it's been a lifesaver in our house.
And my house? Well, I’ve succumbed to the organized chaos around me, but when we were married, one of the non-negotiables was someone to clean the house every two weeks. So it may not be perfect all the time, but it’s clean.
When it comes to gear, you don’t NEED all the “latest and greatest” contraptions that exist on the market. All these companies are constantly ploying to get you to open up your wallet for them. They convince you that you NEED the $1000 stroller or the $200 baby food maker. Truth is, your baby will be just as safe and just as comfortable in the less expensive stroller and with baby food you made in a blender you already own. Pick and choose what makes sense for you and what will truly SIMPLIFY your LIFE. Babies actually need very little when it comes down to it.
What I’m trying to get to is that there’s no perfect way to parent. Love your kids. Do your best by them. Your best may look different from my best and that’s okay. You have nothing to prove to anyone and nobody needs to be involved in the decisions you make in parenting your children. And if another Mom tries to make you feel bad about something you’re doing, then throw her a bone, because she’s probably beating herself up about something, too.