Becoming a parent is one of the most life-changing events one can have.
I was prepared (somewhat) for the hormonal changes.
I was prepared (somewhat) for the lifestyle changes.
However, I was not prepared for how my relationship with my parents might change.
Parenting Styles & Subtle Criticism
I remember thinking if I could parent half as well as my parents; I’d be awesome. For the most part, I still admire their skills and how my sister and I were raised. Nonetheless, becoming a mom gave me certain perspectives I didn’t have before. While I appreciate all my parents did for us….and their wisdom, I also saw things I would do differently.
Honestly, after learning our son’s personality, I realized there were things I HAD to do differently. Having a schedule, self-soothing, sleeping in his own bed were things that kept our household sane. However, I realized that is not necessarily how I grew up. Having an older sibling, we shared a room for much of my early childhood. I can’t say we had a schedule at all and frankly, we did fairly well not having one. My sister and I were pretty independent and responsible kiddos (teachers’ kids, so did we really have a choice?). Expectations were high but we were also trusted. Growing up, my mother endured a super strict household and vowed to ease up a bit when she had her own children. Now that I am a mother, I realize how much my parents and I clash on our styles. They’re Type B and cannot understand how they had a Type A child. Needless to say, this difference has created some tension when it comes to our son. From daycare to feedings to routines…..I felt like I had to explain all the things.
My parents mean well, but Lord knows I could do without some of the well-intentioned questions and criticism.
I’m open to wisdom and know that they have golden advice for this journey. I also realize that raising a kid in 2019 is quite different than it was in the 1980s. Heck, when my sister and I were born, car seats were just a strong suggestion. I know, I know…..”but you turned out fine.” I get it, we didn’t die and that’s definitely a plus. However, in our current day and age, I feel there are more things we must be cognizant of as we raise our son.
The uncertainty of parenting can bring up feelings in us that range from frustration to terror.
How I’ve Learned to Deal…
Initially, this new dynamic was frustrating. I couldn’t quite figure out why my relationship with my parents changed to a constant battle of parenting differences. Every decision seemed to be questioned or receive a silent look of disapproval. I typically reacted by being disappointed, irritated, and angry. I felt disrespected in a way because although I haven’t been a parent for decades…..one thing was for sure: I knew my own child. So, I challenged every comment or silent head shake. I gave a dissertation about why we felt we needed to do x, y, and z. I even had moments where I shutdown and sacrificed our son’s schedule, just so I wouldn’t have to deal with the comments.
However, I have learned a few things along the way that changed my perspective about well meaning grandparents:
- I realized I am a bit of a control freak. So, I had to admit that I needed to lighten up sometimes. These moments were usually the most tense when we came home to visit family. I began to remind myself that things are not going to be as they are at home. Traveling, new environment, and a busy toddler = It’s not going to be perfect.
- My parents can’t see the forest for the trees and I can understand why. Knowing my parents own upbringing put much into perspective. I had to stop and take that into account because I was placing expectations on them for things they honestly didn’t know how to do. For my mother, being raised in a strict household had an impact on her. It caused her to be a little more Type B and honestly, I’m grateful for it. I always remember feeling so comfortable with my mom because she was good about not sweating the small stuff. In that same vein, balance was lost. So, my need to strike balance between rules and freedom is foreign to her. Reflecting on their vantage points helped me to have a little more compassion. I’m sure it’s hard to balance your child’s growth into adult and parenthood….all while being disconnected from some of the advancements your own generation did not experience.
- Having boundaries is okay. I learned that I hadn’t grown up quite yet. Many of us assume that we’re adults when we finish school, start a career, get married, pay bills, have kids, etc. However, I have learned that those actions don’t necessarily constitute adulthood. While I was going through the motions of adulthood, I was still seeking my parents approval. Wanting them to be ok with my decision-making. Having a child definitely brings up matters you didn’t know existed. Once our parenting styles differed from what was the “norm” in my family, I had to learn to be secure in those differences because after all, our son was OUR child. At the end of the day, WE are responsible for his upbringing, good or bad. So, while we may want our families or village to accept our choices, know this won’t always happen. It isn’t because you aren’t loved. I know that we are loved to pieces, but even family will not understand when you begin to establish your own boundaries (although some may be better at understanding than others). Have boundaries. Stick with your boundaries. Don’t fear disapproval because it will consume you. If they don’t like, oh well. You will survive and life will go on. Once I learned this…..that’s when I became an adult.
- Just ignore it, girl. It’s easy to get caught up in the frustration of seemingly critical parents or opinionated villages; especially when your little one is new. The stress and worry of raising a child is enough without also knowing what everyone thinks. Someone will always have an opinion. Nonetheless, how we react to those opinions will either cause us to drown or prevail. Know that you are doing the best you can and that your best means the world to your child. Your kid won’t remember if they were sleep trained, or whether you allowed a paci, or how much sugar you hid from them (while grandma still snuck and gave them treats)….but they will remember how they felt. How loved they are. How you handled others in their presence. What values you taught them. They won’t remember the frustrating debates you had about the car seat or if ice cream was a meal (it’s not by the way, but some grandparents beg to differ). Your kids will still be well-adjusted, awesome people. Ignore the eye rolls or passive aggressive judgements. You know your baby and their needs. Ignore the junk, and let YOU be enough, mama.
The growing pains are the seasons many fail to warn us about. We’re always prepped for the beginnings and their ends, but the meantime and the meanwhile are the areas we most need help navigating. Even as we become parents we are still evolving in our own relationships as children. I hope to remember this time of growth and understanding when our son becomes a parent himself.