In-home nanny or daycare?
A firm “no” or redirection?
Superman or Monster pajamas?
Public or private or homeschool?
If you stop to consider all the big and small decisions we make for our children each day—even by default, at times—parenting can feel a bit overwhelming.
To complicate matters, parenting “experts” often say things like:
“One of the most important things you can do for your children is to be consistent.”
This is great advice, and I certainly don’t dispute it. My background is in education, and I know that things like routines and clear boundaries are incredibly helpful for children.
But here’s the problem: I’m not a naturally decisive or consistent mom.
Sometimes I rock the baby to sleep. Sometimes I don’t.
Sometimes I buy the organic applesauce, and sometimes I buy whatever fits the budget.
Sometimes I quell the toddler tantrum by cracking jokes, and other times I use my firm voice.
Some days I allow a lot of screen time, and other days I limit it entirely.
Let’s not even try to classify my parenting style! I love both baby-wearing and scheduled crib sleeping. I let my kid eat hot dogs, but he dips them in organic ketchup. I breastfeed, yet I have loved weaning my babies to formula.
Occasionally, I try to remedy my own mothering inconsistencies. I make strict schedules or elaborate plans for how I’m going to end my 3 year-old’s constant bartering for snacks once and for all.
Sometimes a new routine does work and stick, and then I celebrate it and try to keep it going! But often I end up back in my indecision, sometimes ordering the expensive natural sunscreen, and sometimes picking up whatever is on sale at Target.
I do wonder if my children are going to grow up confused because they were raised by a woman of such contradictions. The verdict is out on that, of course – we don’t get to see the end results of our parenting until after we’ve made all these decisions.
But I’m working on finding peace with my indecisive parenting. I’m trying to embrace my own style and personality as a mom, even if it’s not always well-defined.
When my first child was a baby, I often called my own mom and gave her reports like this: “The new bedtime routine worked like a charm! Finally! We’ve found the secret!”
And she would respond by saying, “Each day is a new day.”
I didn’t understand what she meant by that, until the next night, when the bedtime routine when to crap again, and the baby was crying and up six times because he was sick or cutting a tooth.
Over time, those wise words from my mom have sort of formed the basis for my own parenting philosophy, inconsistent though it may make me: Each day is a new day. Today, we can try the sticker reward system for potty training and rejoice if it works, or we can start over tomorrow using M&Ms. Today, I can declare it a day of watching PBS and eating peanut butter crackers, and tomorrow we can play letter games and eat organic carrots.
Maybe this approach to parenting is not your style, and that’s OK. But for now, this slightly chaotic approach is mine, and I’m growing to like it.
Because you know the one thing I’m never indecisive about? How much I love my kids.
They might be confused what’s happening at 9:30 a.m. or whether they have to eat vegetables at every meal, but at the end of the day, they always know where to come for a hug and a proud high-five.
And I’ve decided that’s what matters.