Parenting with humor: How to survive criticism and self-doubt
Like most new parents, I spent the first few days of my daughter’s life getting knocked off my feet by a mind-blowing tidal wave of emotions. I devoted a whole bunch of time crying about the terrible scenarios my daughter would have to face throughout her life. Someone’s going to break her heart! Someone’s going to betray her trust! Someone’s going to be a terrible friend—wait a minute, what if she doesn’t have any friends? Aaaand cue the sobbing in the soup aisle of the grocery store.
Turns out I was silly to worry. She’s never struggled to make friends, and watching my kid choose new people to love is pretty amazing. The thing is, these adorable little friends have much-less-adorable full-grown parents, and now I must run the gauntlet of birthday parties, school events, play dates, and soccer games that force my interaction with those parents. And let me tell you: IT’S THE WORST.
I’ll admit, I have met some truly lovely parents in my time as a mother, and they are absolutely people I would’ve sought out as friends even if we had met at a house party in college instead of at an ice cream social for the PTA (and to be honest, my behavior was equally questionable at both). But things can get a bit trickier when it comes to inter-parental relations, and the reasons are even more unnecessarily complicated than agonizing over whether it’s okay to give your child high-fructose corn syrup (and that’s a lot of unnecessary complication, let me tell you).
Part of this is our own fault. Having a kid these days means being completely inundated with advice and information (and misinformation) from the very start. It’s confusing and overwhelming and scary, so when we finally do commit to a decision as parents—be it about feeding or sleep training or vaccinations—we become hair-trigger-level defensive about those decisions, and that can bleed into our relationships with other parents. You can be surfing along in a conversation with another parent on a mild, non-offensive wave of small talk, and then someone drops the “I don’t let my kids watch television” bomb, and suddenly you’re the monster who’s letting Nick Jr. raise your daughter. The judgment! It’s not overt, but it’s implied, and that’s enough to make you fantasize about pushing the other parent into a giant tub of the highest fructose corn syrup.
And that’s out fault: we are in control of how we react to other parents’ perfectly valid choices, so we are the jerks here…up to a point. The other part of the equation is the paranoia- and fear-driven industry that keeps parents in a constant tizzy over each and every aspect of raising kids.
Remember 150 years ago when the biggest parenting worry was whether darling little Frederick would wake up in time to make his shift at the mill? No, of course you don’t, because you’re a modern parent being led to believe that the wrong brand of stroller will make you a social pariah at the park. Not that we should all yearn for the days of child labor (…would it kill my second-grader to pick up a telemarketing shift here and there?), but there’s something to be gleaned here.
Loving parents managed to raise perfectly well-adjusted children for centuries before the Internet was around to lecture us about pacifier use and early intervention orthodontist appointments. The “experts” are constantly in our heads now, and that’s exactly where they want to be. The self-doubt they plant within us makes us willing to throw money/clicks/page views at whatever seems like the best and most responsible option or advice. It makes us total wrecks, which also makes us kind of the worst.
So if you’re an expectant parent wading through stacks of baby name books and filling your browser history with mommy blog after mommy blog: you’re turning into the worst. But—just like the rest of us—you’ll keep forging full-steam ahead because you love the heck out of this little person you’re getting ready to meet. And that kind of worst? Well…it’s the best.