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Monday
Mar232009

You are not a perfect parent...

...but you should be a confident one.

I've read over and over again about the impact that a mother's mental health and frame of mind can have on her children. Children of happy mothers are more likely to develop high self-esteem and are less likely to be anxious and worried. Moms dealing with postpartum depression  should get help, for their own sake and for their child's sake (this has been reaffirmed by people like Kristin @ babyREADY, Jennifer @ Barely Knit Together and Katherine @ Postpartum Progress). But even among moms that do not have PPD, there seems to be an ever-present tendency to question whether we are doing a good enough job as parents.

Oh, the Mommy Wars and the Myth of the Perfect Parent


The perfect parent is a myth. That person does not exist. We all make choices as parents, some free choices and some forced choices. Sometimes we are able to do what is best for our children and sometimes we are not.



I hate the term and the concept of Mommy Wars. I think people often make them up or imagine them. It seems any time a mother talks about the benefits of a choice she has made or questions the opinions of another mother, it is interpreted as a war. If this is how wars begin, it is no wonder there are so many ridiculous wars going on in the world these days.

Some of the wars are over issues where there is no clear better choice. In other cases, there is a clear documented better choice, but not every family is able to achieve that ideal. Some moms breastfeed, but purchase processed foods too often due to time constraints or exhaustion. Some moms formula feed, but put a home cooked meal made from whole foods on the table each night. Some parents smoke, but don't let their kids watch TV. Other parents let their kids watch TV, but also model healthy lifestyle choices. Some parents resort to sleep training, but spend lots of quality time with their kids during the day. Other parents have to go to work during the day, but would never dream of letting their child cry it out.

No one is perfect. Not you. Not me. Not anyone else.

Where does the insecurity come from?


But why can't we talk about what is better when there is science to back it up? Why can't we talk about what works for us and why in case the same thing might work for someone else? Why can't we celebrate our successes without it necessarily detracting from someone else's accomplishments? Why are people so insecure about their own choices?

Mama Hope asks whether it is wrong to openly support breastfeeding.  In her comment on my post for Do Over Day, Annie @ Imagination in Parenting, said:
Pertaining to parenting and not my children per se - i lose patience way too fast when people act like i’m just “trying to be better than them/supermom” if they find out that “we eat homemade as much as possible” or “that i never bought baby food - it was all homemade” “that they never got formula” or “that we cloth diaper” or “that my children don’t watch tv” or “that i get to stay home with them everyday”. I feel like i just want to YELL that I’m doing what WE feel is best for OUR FAMILY/SITUATION and that it bugs me that I have to pretend that we do things we don’t. I don’t offer these things to “show off” ever - i wish the people making assumptions of how everybody parents would just stop - then they wouldn’t make me feel horrible!ha. I just need to learn to not allow it to get to me.

This reminds me of the middle square in Mom's Tinfoil Hat's Mommy Wars Bingo: "By defending YOUR parenting priorities (breastfeeding, natural foods, no TV) you are attacking mine!!!"

Maybe if we were all just more confident in our choices and in our abilities, then we could have normal conversations about the pros and cons of different approaches, about what research says, about success stories and inspirations, without someone feeling judged or getting offended. Obviously, there are unfortunate cases where individuals get attacked for their choices or their actions, but for the most part the so-called Mommy Wars seem to start out as simple discussion about the benefits of one approach over another and then deteriorate into a war because people somehow find a personal attack in between the lines. Is it really so wrong to discuss? Does discussion automatically = judgment? Even if we do judge a choice or an idea, can we not separate judging that choice or idea from judging a person?

Can we avoid passing on this insecurity to our kids?


I don't know what it is that makes people so insecure about their own parenting skills. But I do hope that one of the things I do right as a parent is to find a way to instill enough confidence and self-esteem in my kids that they do not feel threatened by being different, that they take criticism in stride, and that they can accept their own weaknesses.

I have read that avoiding stress during pregnancy can help (managed that with one pregnancy, but not the other). I've read that being happy and confident around your infant can help (think I managed that one). I've read that interacting and engaging your baby, smiling back when your baby smiles and talking to your baby can help (think I managed that one too). I've read dissenting opinions on the pros and cons of praise and am still working through all of that. I've read books like Dr. Sears The Successful Child, Margot Sutherland's The Science of Parenting, and Louann Brizendine's The Female Brain that all have great ideas in this regard.

My son recently told me "Mommy, I really like me". You cannot imagine how happy those words made me.

Image credit: Amit Gupta on Flickr
« Behavioural Targeting Fail | Main | Teaching Tolerance »

Reader Comments (58)

Fantastic post! I so enjoy reading your blog!

I've just been working on a post that's taking me a while to write, in part because of this issue. I want to be mindful of wording it so that I don't make someone else wrong for doing things differently. I just want to share my experience so that someone else my feel comforted, reassured, supported, or even just intrigued.

I know that I can't control other people's reactions to what I write. I also know that I feel good about my parenting choices and happy with their results, 2 1/2 years into this experiment. Hopefully that positive energy is what is communicated instead of any sort of challenge to someone else's perspective.

Cheers!

March 24, 2009 | Unregistered CommenterAlexis Ahrens

Something about confidence is that if you fake it a while, you will start building some. Try it. It works.

A few months back a woman wrote a really troubling post on her blog about mine, it said that my blog made her feel like a bad mom. That my son was always so neat and tidy and could wield a glue bottle perfectly. Of course none of that is true and that is exactly the opposite intention of my blog. I use pictures of my son to show people that kids CAN do these things.

Okay so that was troubling and it was the first time I read something negative but the comments were worse. One person called my son a freak of nature and suggested that he wasn't do all the activities himself. I was in tears. My heart , my soul my time , my sleep was all in that blog. My passion for teaching, for helping moms and kids were being negated and my son , good grief my son even in jest do not call anyone's child a freak of nature.

So yeah I faked it, I faked confidence, I faked being calm because really it wasn't about me, it wasn't about my blog it was about breaking someone down to make her feel better. We've all done it. I pulled up my big girl pj pants and decided I was going to be confident, because the thing is I am not the most confident person in the world but there are two things I know I can do teach and parent. I was really sad I made her feel poorly and just getting angry and defensive wasn't going to help a thing.

So I left a comment on her blog. I appologized that if the way I had portrayed things on my blog made her feel inadequate, I meant it too.

I also learned from it, from then on I made even more mention of failures we had, of glue my son eats, of tantrums he has. He's 2 I thought it went without saying , but I learnt it's best to say sometimes, moms need each other, so I am willing to make sure that no one feels the way she did. The thing is I have gotten much more confident because of that experience.

March 24, 2009 | Unregistered CommenterAllie

I do get a little worried about the confidence argument sometimes -- not that I disagree with it at all, just that I've seen it turned against the very people it's supposed to help. For instance, a friend of mine who was struggling with depression and ambivalence in pregnancy was told by a health care provider that she should apologize to her baby because the stress and anger were damaging to it. And in general, saying "you should be more confident", said to certain people (like me, in my less healthy moods), is only more fuel for our self-flagellation.

Again, I still really like and agree with what you have to say here.

(On the "mommy wars" topic, I recently wrote two posts you might be interested in: http://raisingmyboychick.blogspot.com/2009/03/patriarchy-loves-mommy-wars.html" rel="nofollow">The patriarchy loves the mommy wars and More thoughts on the mommy wars.)

March 24, 2009 | Unregistered CommenterArwyn

Thanks for the link love.

Yup, that is exactly why I wrote the bingo card, and made that the center square. Most parents can handle that other parents make different choices than them. But, a vocal few not only feel insecure about their own choices, but get incredibly defensive if other parents explain their parenting choices in their earshot, or in their view on a computer page.

Everybody compromises, and nobody is perfect.

March 24, 2009 | Unregistered CommenterMomTFH

exactly!

March 24, 2009 | Unregistered CommenterNaomi

I think I can understand something of the other side here, so I will play devil's advocate, okay? It's very hard for me to know how much of my insecurity as a parent is because of my general nature, and how much is do to what I see as real shortcomings.
I think what happens is, we do all know what's best for children in some areas: less screen time, fewer refined foods, fewer fast food meals, building attachments. But what if you know this, and you just don't do it? What if your children turn out to be more of a challenge than you expected, or life does?
I have one autistic child who is extremely emotional and aggressive. When he was a baby, my husband was deployed for 15 months, leaving me alone to raise him and our older daughter. Many of the things I knew were healthier choices fell by the wayside as I struggled to meet everyone's needs and get things done.
Now I find that I have tossed it all out the window while I've struggled with PPD. I could go into why it's so hard for us to have a healthy dinner at home, but this is where the "war" starts. From your position, you could pick apart my defense of my decisions or my inability to make the changes necessary to have healthy, homemade meals most of the time. You don't know my exact circumstances. But even now, I feel like telling you all the reasons - a teenager I have to get to work in the evenings, my own work two evenings a week, a husband who works a lot, often until the kids' bed time, all piled on top of this child who requires most of my energy just to manage during the day.
I understand that if we are going to feel bad about the decisions we make, we should probably make different ones. But it's hard - oh so hard. Really it is.
And I know perfectly good people who were raised on McDonald's Happy Meals and wore disposable diapers. However, every person I know who is really messed up in some way doesn't believe his or her parents really loved him.
I think the thing you hit on that means the most is the happiness, love, and confidence that the parents show.
For me, learning how not to be defensive, to be "radically accepting" of the way things are, is a skill I'm only just recognizing the value of. But the confidence and happiness my children need more than anything (except of course, love), require that I master it, and soon.

March 24, 2009 | Unregistered CommenterJennifer

Great topic!

I think every parent, no matter how he/she portrays his/her level of confidence on the outside constantly scrutinizes him/herself on the inside. It's like there is a constant dialogue going on inside and you rarely get the affirmation you are seeking.

I know I've been mentally turned upside down after running into an old friend and seeing her child reading books at age 2 when my little one was mastering the art of stringing together full sentences. There I was, thrilled at my son's articulate language mastery and her daughter COULD READ. I immediately assumed I was the problem--I had somehow failed. Until a third party asked me to reexamine the situation and I realized that the 2-year-old who masters reading is the "rare" case, I was blaming myself. I had lost all parental confidence!

There is no perfect parent--no where. :o)

March 24, 2009 | Unregistered CommenterJessica

Good one! Thanks for bringing these issues up!

March 24, 2009 | Unregistered CommenterAshley

@ Jennifer : I agree completely that no one can possibly do everything that they know is "best". But I think we need to forgive ourselves for that and still be confident enough to not be offended by other people saying that it is best or being proud that they accomplished that. All of us have talents and all of us have limits. We should try to be accepting of our own limitations and celebrate our accomplishments. If I wasn't confident that I am doing my best, I might have been offended by your http://barelyknittogether.com/2009/03/22/reduce-reuse-reincarnate/" rel="nofollow">Reduce, Reuse, Reincarnate post. I recycle and I donate or sell my kids stuff when they are done, but I do buy most of their stuff new. But rather than be offended by your post, I've tucked it away as an idea, an inspiration, a "maybe one day" thought. Right now, picking up a new t-shirt in the grocery store while I'm there anyways buying food is the easiest way to dress my kids. Maybe when I have more time, I'll be able to do more of the things you suggest. But I won't be insulted by the fact that you are doing better than me in this regard, I won't write an article called "The Case Against Reusing and Recycling". I'll accept my weakness, celebrate your accomplishment, and move on.

@ Jessica : I see that happen all too often. One parent has an overachieving child and is rightfully proud of their accomplishments and other people end up feeling bad as a result. Each child is different and has different abilities. I think we all need to keep that in mind and not use comparisons with others as a gage of our abilities or our children's abilities (easier said than done, I know)

@ Arwyn: I can't believe someone told that woman to apologize to her baby for being depressed. That is nuts.

@ Allie: Thanks for telling your story. I often wonder whether to write more about the things that don't go so well. I want to, so that people don't get the impression that I think I am perfect, and so that they know it is okay that it isn't easy all the time when following the attachment parenting principles. But I hesitate sometimes because I don't want to open the door to the anti-AP vultures that would have a field day with any admission of weakness. Ugh....there is no right answer!

@ Alexis: Positive energy is a great thing to strive for in your writing! I'm sure it will be great.

March 24, 2009 | Unregistered Commenterphdinparenting

What a great topic! The "mommy wars" infuriate me sometimes because I really think that we should all be playing for the same team and understand that we all try our best to do what's right for our children and what works for our unique situations. I'm lucky enough to be surrounded by people who don't question my parenting techniques, aside from my mother in law who tries to find every opportunity to tell me I shouldn't be breastfeeding my two year old while pregnant with her brother. I simply back up my decisions with either research that I've done myself or information that my doctor has given me. I am constantly questioning my parenting style, not because I'm not confident but because I think parenting is a liquid "sport" and what works one day may not work the next. I also believe that there's always room for improvement. I am by no means a perfect parent, but I strive to work on the things that I know need correcting and stand behind the decisions that I make. But as Jennifer said in her comment,

"And I know perfectly good people who were raised on McDonald’s Happy Meals and wore disposable diapers. However, every person I know who is really messed up in some way doesn’t believe his or her parents really loved him.
I think the thing you hit on that means the most is the happiness, love, and confidence that the parents show."

I guess what I'm trying to say is that, while my daughter may watch more tv than recommended and not every meal is homemade, I KNOW she KNOWS that I love her. The fact the she hugs her toys and our pets on a regular basis and tells them and me unsolicited that she loves me tells me that I am doing my job in showing her love and I think that's the most important thing you can do for your child.

When she was only a few months old I used to get grief (and still do) for holding her too much and responding to her immediately when she cries. Everyone would tell me that I was spoiling her and I would regret it later. As I told my husband and everyone else, "you can NOT spoil a child with love and when I respond to her when she needs me I'm showing her that she is loved and valued" and that's what I think is the key to raising a happy, healthy child. :)

March 24, 2009 | Unregistered CommenterRhyah

Great post. I am so tired of moms criticizing one another. What I've found is that most often it ends up being moms who really care, who really are trying to be great moms. They may have different philosophies, BUT THEY CARE!

I worked on a children's mental health crisis unit many years ago. It was the most awful experience and it broke my heart every day dealing with children from abusive and neglectful homes. Since then, I've been much more appreciative of good parents from across the philosophical spectrum.

I think there's a clear difference between moms that are simply sharing experiences and moms who are outright criticizing. As caring moms, we will likely always be our own worst judges and feel we aren't doing our best (it's the mark of a good mom to care that much) which ultimately makes us defensive when we see or hear about other moms doing what we wish we could.

At the end of the day, we all love our kids intensely and that's what counts. So, please, moms who feel they need to name call or criticize - if you don't have something nice to say, don't say anything at all. We need to support each other because mommying is the toughest job. And, moms who feel bad, (and I fall into that group very often) every time you think a negative thought about yourself - stop and say five nice things about yourself instead. A little self-affirmation never hurt anyone.

And then cuddle with your kids. Cuz that's really the best part of all of it anyway :-)

March 24, 2009 | Unregistered CommenterJanelle

Well answered! I know for me, the issue is a personal one, so my feelings might not be the norm. And it's so funny - I never would have called myself a better mother because I make funky clothes from used stuff lol! I think we probably all have the problem of not being able to see the good in ourselves as well as we might. Maybe it's an issue of exposure - we see all the time how other people are doing it. We cannot all do everything all the time - then we would all be as crazy as I am! (and I don't mean I do it all, I just mean I'm crazy ;))

March 24, 2009 | Unregistered CommenterJennifer

OMG Annie you are SO right on with this post!!!!
I have taught thousands of expectant couples over the last ten years. One of the exercises I do with all of them is I ask them to tell me, privately, what worries them about becoming parents. Overwhelmingly "will I be a good parent" is at the top of the list. I have to admit, as an educator, that when I read that they are worried about having this ability, I stop worrying. If they care enough to WANT to be a good parent, then they are going to read, ask, research and adjust their parenting styles to make informed decisions what work well for their family.
I have opinions. When I am asked for them I offer them. However, my bottom line is always that what feels right for my family won't always feel right for everyone. I LOVED learning that concept at the first La Leche League meeting I attended (11+ years ago); "take what works for you and your family, leave the rest behind."
Most of us were raised in a "gotta keep up with and do better than the Joneses" world and now that the playing field, for a significant number of us, is much more level -- not necessarily financially but certainly from a basic education perspective -- it seems that we need to dissect and belittle the "Joneses." Since we aren't having to strive to "succeed" in parenting the same way anymore, I wonder if that opens us up to this breaking down, undermining and open ridicule of our peers. We want everyone to know that we've read, listened and learned.
I remind the couples in my classes of the challenges that lie ahead that come in the form of well-meaning (usually) questions. I let them know that there are going to be times that they feel assaulted by all of the questions they are bombarded with regarding parenting choices they have made. I encourage them to let their home be their refuge and to make their decisions together so that when they are feeling somewhat battered and bruised they know they can come home to their partner and reconnect, remember and refuel. I also let them know that this concept will work better some days than others. That's just the way of the world.
Thanks again for another great post!!

March 24, 2009 | Unregistered CommenterbabyREADY

I think the challenge is that many of us are beating ourselves up. We wound up doing things not because of a choice we made that was right for our family, but because we found ourselves in circumstances we didn't expect or couldn't control. I suffered from PPD after the birth of my first child, not my second. I didn't interact with my first child in the early days in the same way, and so I beat myself up about that. I want to have offered her the best, and I didn't. I did the best I could, but it will always sort of hurt to think maybe it wasn't good enough.

Knowing this, that the people who become defensive and angry are often hurting, has changed my perspective. I take it much less personally when I try to support breastfeeding or co-sleeping and receive 'negative' reactions. It's not about me. I don't expect moms who are hurting and defensive to be rational and understand exactly where I'm coming from.

But that doesn't mean that I don't share information or offer support. It doesn't mean that I don't share my own experiences or viewpoint. It just means that I know not everyone will be receptive, and that's OK.

March 24, 2009 | Unregistered CommenterAmber

Great post! I have often heard it said that if you are confident in your parenting choices, you won't care what other people say about it. And then there's the famous quote, "No one can make you feel inferior without your consent."

I will never understand how stating a fact can be construed as "offensive." Facts aren't inherently good or bad; they just are. I know my toddler veges out on WAY too much TV. Am I offended when someone posts a study that too much TV is bad for your kids? No way! I know full well too much TV isn't good for her. But that is the choice I have made right now, and I will try to do better in the future.

I get a ton of flack for posting studies about breastfeeding, from moms who use formula, and natural childbirth, from moms who use labor drugs, etc etc. But how can it be disputed that formula is potentially dangerous? Or that labor drugs go to the baby?

The problem here is that women assume that information = judgment. But at least for me, information is just information. If I am judging someone for their choice, I will come straight out and say it: "I judge you for your choice." Otherwise, people should just take the information and move along.

Maturity is accepting your choices, right and wrong, and resolving to do better next time. Or at least being man enough to admit you prefer the lesser choice.

March 24, 2009 | Unregistered CommenterEmily Jones

@ Emily: Yes! That is it. People do assume that information = judgment.

March 24, 2009 | Unregistered Commenterphdinparenting

Emily said exactly what I was going to say. That information = judgement in some people's eyes, and that really sucks when you're not trying to offend anyone - you just want to share information. I fully belive that knowledge is power, and we do with our knowledge what we choose.
I'm a nice, pleasing kind of person and I try to exude that in my blog. So far I think I am doing pretty good but I have already noticed when my niceness has gotten in the way of saying something I really wanted to say, because I was afraid it might offend some readers. But you know I am also starting to realize that the type of blog I write is going to attract some women and repel others regardless of what I say just because what it's about (breastfeeding).
Anyway, fantastic post as always!

March 24, 2009 | Unregistered CommenterMelodie

Great thought provoking post.

I've found that some people are not able to discuss without passing judgement. It is amazing to me to see how quickly discussions can degenerate into nasty sessions. I guess people feel that somehow they give their viewpoints more validity by ridiculing the viewpoints of others? My thoughts are my thoughts and yours are yours...(I always think anyway) it's ok to disagree.

That is one thing I hope to teach my kiddos--that people have all different sorts of viewpoints and that ours is not to judge. It's ok to be insecure(and aren't we all) but it's not ok to be nasty because of our insecurities.

I think it's cool that your child is happy being himself! Awesome!

March 25, 2009 | Unregistered Commentermichelle@babiesonline

Thank you for your insight into this very troubling problem. Being still a somewhat new mother (ds is 13 months), I find myself trying to being perfect some of the time.

I have also learnt not to take offense when it is recommended that I leave my son to CIO, or suplement with formula, or put him in a playpen.... whatever it is that I am not doing.

If I ask the concerned person why they are recommending whatever it is that is being recommended, I can usually decide for myself whether this is something that is in line with how I am aspiring to raise my family.

For me it really has come down to being confident in my choices and not becoming an emotional wreck when someone calls my choices into question.
Being sure of ** I am doign what I am, even if it is not always the optimal choice, really helps me build my confidence.

That is so awesome that your son likes himself. :)

March 26, 2009 | Unregistered CommenterMegan

One of the major things that changed for me as a second time mom is that now I'm totally confident that I don't know what I'm doing. :)

March 28, 2009 | Unregistered CommenterAlison

[...] pretend that formula feeding is just as healthy. It isn’t. That has been proven.  I know that no one is a perfect parent. We shouldn’t expect people to be. So if a mom ends up using formula, I don’t judge [...]

>>But why can’t we talk about what is better when there is science to back it up? Why can’t we talk about what works for us and why in case the same thing might work for someone else? <<

This is where it gets tricky.

The word 'better' and 'best' are used by parents too often, imho. Not in, it is best for OUR family, but rather, that X is best full stop/period.

Is that a problem? No, I believe in free speech and advocating for what you feel is better in this world.

But fact is, mommy wars are happening every day because there are many people who feel better about themselves by using their choices as badges of superiority. There are a few forums where this is incredibly prevalent. You can't ask a question that deviates from the 'best' choices without being put down, ridiculed or patronised. It's an amazing experiment in human behaviour, lol.

Words are powerful, and 'best' and 'better' are often interchanged by our psyches for 'perfect'. I almost never use them. And if I do, I always say it's better for me.

I'm less interested in what is considered 'best' and even less so in science, than I am in individuals and their personal stories.

May 7, 2009 | Unregistered CommenterMon

With each post you write, I can totally see it all coming together nicely as a parenting book that I would rush out to buy! You are very inspiring and make me want to be a better mom and writer, for that matter. I think I'll discuss this topic in an upcoming post on my blog.
There is no such thing as a perfect parent, that is for sure. I have huge issues with mommy guilt - especially since having 2 young children and not being able to spend as much one on one time with each other them. I hate when I am not able to put both my children to bed at night - for instance, if both boys are tired, I'll put baby to bed (he won't fall asleep with anyone but me!) and hubby puts 3 year old to bed. I hate this, and I even take it out on my husband, because I feel bad that I did not put both kids to sleep, even though 3 year old is totally fine and happy with either one of us putting him to bed!
This sometimes makes me feel like a bad mom. I rarely cook for kids, because during the week my children are looked after by my parents or inlaws, and that means we eat dinner at their homes most nights. Which is great, but again, makes me feel like a bad mom.
The things I'm proud of - co-sleeping and being very actively involved in their lives, and really, really playing with them, reading to them and with them, laughing with them, and teaching them things. I am overly enthusiastic about every thing they do - if my son so much as writes the letter C I display it on our walls, and I congratulate him and just show him how proud I am of him. I do hover over my kids, and I feel anxious about what's to come as they get older - how they will interact with teachers, peers, and how hard it will be on me as a mom to see them get upset if they don't make a sports team, or get a mark, or get in a fight... sorry, I'm rambling, now, but bottom line is - we all do our best to be the best parents for OUR CHILDREN. They need LOVE and hugs and kisses and they need to be taught, and read to and played with, and they need to laugh laugh laugh. And eat well. And don't sweat the small stuff - my kids eat chocolate all the time!

May 7, 2009 | Unregistered CommenterLoukia

oh, I forgot to add...

>My son recently told me “Mommy, I really like me“. <<

Pure gold!

May 7, 2009 | Unregistered CommenterMon

@ Loukia Thank you so much for the compliments!

@ Mon I tend to think of it is "best" if all other things are equal. Breastfeeding is better than formula feeding if all other things are equal. But, there are circumstances where it may be advisable for a mom to formula feed (taking certain meds, is an alcoholic, is too stressed out by breastfeeding, etc.). A homemade meal with nutritious foods is "better" than getting take-out from McDonalds if all other things are equal. But if you haven't been able to go outside and play with your kids this week because you've been slaving in the kitchen, then maybe a trip to the park combined with McDonald's take-out wouldn't be the end of the world every once in a while.

May 7, 2009 | Unregistered Commenterphdinparenting

This is such an important conversation. I hate that "mommy wars" crap--so sexist. I really like the balanced, seeking tone of this post and all the thoughtful comments, too.

Loukia, you are hard on yourself! I read the things that make you feel like a "bad mom," and I think, how wonderful that your husband and toddler have such sweet time together and such a food relationship--important for both if them (and you!). And how great that the kids get time with their grandparents and dinners in their homes, too! Our parents live so far away, they see our son only every few months! And none of them cook!

May 7, 2009 | Unregistered CommenterInanna

I seem to be focused on food: I meant how great that they have such a GOOD relationship. :)

May 7, 2009 | Unregistered CommenterInanna

[...] Annie at PhD in Parenting explains why there is no perfect parent [...]

Thanks for your link on my page www.pajamasandcoffee.com and my Mommy Wars post today. You are a much more eloquent and educated writer on the topic!

May 11, 2009 | Unregistered CommenterMary McCarthy

A great topic and a wonderful blog post. Thank you. You've struck a chord with what I'm mentally struggling with right now (obviously obsessing too much that it's interfering with simple functions like getting dressed in the morning!) - ie. what is a mum expected to be these days?
Thank you

[...] “bad”, we should offer a helping hand to those that are struggling, we should be confident in our own parenting, and we should continue to think about how we could [...]

[...] don’t think that I am a perfect parent. In fact, I don’t think that anyone is a perfect parent. I resent and reject any societal or cultural pressure for us to be perfectly good or perfectly bad [...]

[...] cannot and should not be expected to be perfect all of the time in life or in parenting. But we should remain open to becoming better people, better parents. On this blog, I will talk [...]

I want to tattoo this post on my forehead. How can I make people "get" this concept. I'm going to tell you what I do, but that does NOT mean I am judging the way you do things. I am just confidant in MY choices. Also doesn't mean I don't look for ways to do things better, faster, wiser. Grow, people, grow. Thank you for this eloquent post!

August 17, 2009 | Unregistered Commenterchasinash

I've just found this blog. I think I like it already. This is a really good topic. One thing I've noticed personally is parents seem more aggressive in their parenting stances on the internet than face-to-face. I read the back-and-forths on blogs and forums, etc and they can be just wicked. In day to day life I find that if I've discussed a parenting view that doesn't match the perspective or practice of another mother they usually change the subject quickly but politely, say nothing, or simply continue the conversation with a different take on it, or share their experience of it. I think the internet is like cars- you forget the other people on the road are in fact people and therefore you forget your manners and common courtesy. I think that is a big part of the "mommy-wars" too. I really like the discussion in the comments going on too, I agree totally with the information = judgement thing and I absolutely love that parenting insecurity is being discussed. I think it can be very hard for the majority of people (me too) to admit to any insecurity. I have no idea where this crazy cultural point of view came from that some how it is wrong to make parenting mistakes or compromises, but it truly is totally false. I think when people get really vehement they are acting out of the sense of failure to which that view point inevitably leads.

September 23, 2009 | Unregistered Commenterwrysuitor

[...] one is perfect. Not as a human being. Not as a parent. I am not perfect. I don’t expect you to be [...]

September 26, 2009 | Unregistered Commenter“Don’t Judge Me&#8

This is one of the best posts I have ever read. I hate that I have to tiptoe around what I say to other moms for fear of sounding like I think I am superior to them. For me, it's just that I found some information that sounds great, or I really like how something is working for us, or perhaps I really do believe something is really healthy for a child but I don't expect everyone to be able to do it. I just want to share what I like just in case someone else thinks it's a good idea, too, and wants to try it. Though I don't expect people to embrace my ideas, at least I can get them thinking. And really, is it so bad if I brag about my kid? I love him to bits and pieces, can't I express that? (Okay, so really the bragging is for the grandparents! They literally feed off of hearing how great their grandchild is.)

October 18, 2009 | Unregistered CommenterLisa C

[...] of having a civilized discussion without judging, perceiving judgment, and calling people names? None of us are perfect parents and that is [...]

[...] No parent is perfect. We all make mistakes. We all make decisions that are less than ideal. Some people write about those mistakes or bad decisions as a way of saying, “I’m human, we’re all human, it’s okay to not be perfect.” As long as it doesn’t go to the point of glorifying bad decisions, I think that type of writing is useful both to the writer and to others who can see that there are other parents out there who don’t get it right all of the time. [...]

This post and your related post on opinion and judgment really resonated with me. I wrote a response that is too long to put in your comments, so I blogged about it here:
http://schmoopybaby.blogspot.com/2010/01/parental-insecurity-where-does-it-come.html
It took me almost 2 weeks to press the Publish Now button because the topics are so very personal to me and I'm a little afraid to expose myself so publicly. Nonetheless, I finally took the jump and posted. I hope the fallout isn't too bad when my mother reads it!

January 4, 2010 | Unregistered CommenterShana

I am an educator and parent of three children. I breastfed the 2 youngest and formula fed the oldest because he did not latch well and it stressed the hell out of me ( currently an "A" student and teachers dream). I try to communicate to my children that " I try" and I expect them to try too. What more can we really ask of ourselves and of them? As an educator, I know that there are no guarantees as to how they will turn out.

What I find interesting is that there seems to be a push for all moms to like and support each other just because we earned the title "mom". It's really a bit silly. I have met some wonderful mommy friends and there are others who turn me off. No different then any other social situation I have been in since elementary school. We pick and choose our friends by how they make us feel. What I have found (just my experience) is that many moms that seem to have the "information" can have a tendency to come off judgmental and don't know exactly when to stop sharing. Most of the time it is because they are self righteous and socially inept and were probably that way before they became mothers. I have no problem with parents who do things differently, I just don't want to necessarily hear about all the time. As an educator, for both children and adults I work hard to keep my professional opinions to my blog and to my paid positions, unless I'm asked. I find moms that get along best are the ones who can find other things to talk about besides how they are raising their kids.

thanks for the post!

March 23, 2010 | Unregistered CommenterSara

People get defensive about their choices, specially when someone close to them...someone they respect...makes such a different choice. No one wants to think they're doing the wrong thing when it comes to raising their child.

I lost, what I thought was, a very good friend because of this. We had babies just a couple months apart. She was the type, that on the surface seemed, very "crunchy". I just assumed we'd be on the same AP page. Boy was I ever wrong. I talked about bf'ing and co-sleeping, a little too much I'm sure, because that's what my days and nights consisted of in the first few months. She took it as a slight on her choices to formula feed and use cribs. She had twins, my god...I don't think I could have nursed twins! My issue with her is that she made lame excuses, though I never said anything to her. All I wanted her to do was own her choices, but she would only lash out at me about mine.

It's sad that new mothers often get caught up in too much child rearing talk with each other. I know that's all I thought about for a very long time (still do, and my babe is 14 months). Though, I do agree with Sara, in that moms get along better when they discuss things other than how they're raising their kids.

I guess baby care is one of those hot topics for some, it gets people just as riled up as religion and politics :-/

April 12, 2010 | Unregistered CommenterAmber

I think anytime we turn "I think" into "You should," we have a problem. People make judgments all the time. It's in our nature. Biologically, we make snap, intuitive decisions: is this animal dangerous? is this water clean? Is this plant edible? Is this human a good mate? The judgments themselves are not the problem. It's the meta-judgment. I think this and You should think it, too.

The bigger context is the debate culture of our times: what has come to be socially acceptable rules in engaging in discussion. We think in absolutes, not shades of grey. We think one thing is inherently right for everyone. We think we must shout to be heard. We think personal attacks are acceptable. We think our decision is right for us, forever, and for everyone. And for every child.

It would be great if we could have an exchange of ideas in which each person made a decision about what was good for her. Instead, we have people talking past each other, not willing to be tolerant of differences, not willing to exchange ideas, not willing to listen. We have people who say "you should" and we have people who hear "you should" when you say "I think."

This isn't just true for parenting. It's true for everything. Take Charlene at www.beamingbalance.com. When she says "I'm on a diet," "I'm getting up at 5 am to exercise," people hear "you should be dieting," "you should be exercising." We're kinda focused on ourselves a little too much if we can't listen to a friend more openly.

So what are the best things we can be doing for our kids? I THINK resilience and optimism are two very important skills and I think it's different from what we call self-esteem. My favorite books are: The Childhood Roots of Adult Happiness by Edward Hallowell, Raising Resilient Children by Brooks & Goldstein, and Playful Parenting by Lawrence Cohen. Brooks & Goldstein define resilience as the ability "to meet life’s challenges with thoughtfulness, confidence, purpose, hope and empathy." Hallowell tells us why a parent's own emotional problems don't necessarily pass to the child and how we can do the best to make sure our kids have the foundation for lifelong happiness. And Cohen tells us how we can have much more fun raising our kids and how we can meet their most essential needs through play.

Oh, and one more thing, I DO think it's helpful for the person's mental health if they feel good about themselves. I think sometimes it may unhelpful to say You need to be happier, more confident, etc., or you will damage your child. In the 50's, doctors (yes, doctors) blamed mothers of children with autism as the cause of the child's autism. We know how much guilt mothers have any way ... every single one of us want to do our very best, but we're only human.

I think I am a better parent when I take time for me and when I play lots with my child.

April 12, 2010 | Unregistered CommenterBrenda

I just strive to be my best me. You stop judging after life throws enough lemons at you.

April 12, 2010 | Unregistered Commentermrs.notouching

[...] You can’t tell your children any lies: Sometimes it is necessary to tell children that everything is okay when it isn’t and sometimes it is important for a despondent or unhappy parent to pretend to be courageous and confident (another point that I’ve addressed in part). [...]

[...] to make changes to my life and try to share that information with others. But I also recognize that I am not perfect and cannot do it all. That said, I do feel I am better off and more in control of my own life if I [...]

The compulsion to criticize someone's different style of parenting is a reality. After 20 years (and counting) of child-rearing, including special needs, I do not have this compulsion, if I ever did.

Sadly, I've known quite a few women who do feel this compulsion. and it comes from all ends of the spectrum of parenting styles. However, I attribute a large portion of the mommy wars to the ever-lingering effects of the behavioral movement.
People still fervently believe that their every little action, emotion and THOUGHT affects their child in the most indelible way. OMG YOU HAVE JUST SCREWED UP YOUR CHILD FOR LIFE.

I reject that.

Genetics and neurology have been showing more and more of a person's potential is embedded in them from birth. We can influence it and hopefully guide it in a productive direction, but whether we Super-nanny style-it or hippy-momma AP it, the child will have the quirks and flaws and talents they are given at birth. Much more of parenting is a crap shoot than most "experts" will admit to.

Perhaps it is this lack of control that is the real culprit. I have found the quickest way to weed out the "let me tell you how its done" parents is to say something akin to "I wish MY child would...."
Critics will happily jump in and tell you what you need to change about your parenting so that your child will magically be what you want. Truly accepting parents will commiserate with your wishful thinking. Maybe even share funny war stories.

August 10, 2010 | Unregistered Commentersmibbo

I want to start off by saying, I totally understand where you're coming from. BUT it's not always innocent advice and insecurities that is causing these "mommy wars" You're putting all the fault on the mother who is upset by what she hears. Have you ever had the conversation with the mother who is full of arrogance? "OH You let your child watch tv? I don't because it's bad for them" Their statements just dripping with it.... even the most secure parent has to stop a second. In normal conversations my mommy friends and I go back and forth with the things we do with our kids without feeling insecure or our parenting styles threatened. It's "those" moms who act like they are superior because of their choices that piss me off. People with a newborn baby who question my use of discipline with my 6 year old.. "Oh I will never raise my voice at my child, negative discipline is bad. I'm always going to reason with my baby" Yea reason with a 4 year old, I dare you.

I don't need or want anyone's advice and that's where the problem lies...people injecting their thoughts where they weren't asked.

March 20, 2011 | Unregistered CommenterSSMMBB

SSMMBB:

I think it depends on context.

If you just raised your voice to your child, I'm not going to step in and tell you that it is a horrible thing to do. However, if you raise your voice and your child and then follow it with a statement saying "they never listen unless you scream and threaten", then I may offer a different viewpoint. It doesn't mean that I think you're a bad mom for raising your voice, but if you started the conversation, I'm not just going to sit there and nod my head and pretend to agree if I don't agree. If I gently offer a different viewpoint and then you then gently explain why you disagree, then we can have a civil conversation. However, if I gently offer a different viewpoint and you counter with "yea reason with a 4 year old, I dare you," then that is probably the end of our civil conversation.

I think anytime someone offers their opinion on something, that is an invitation for others to share their thoughts as well. I think there is then a responsibility on the person sharing their thoughts to be gentle and respectful in their delivery, just as there is a responsibility on the listener to take it for what it is -- just an opinion. If we let the opinions of others dominate our opinion of ourselves, then we are doomed.

March 20, 2011 | Unregistered Commenterphdinparenting

[...] You Are Not a Perfect Parent…But You Should Be A Confident One. A thoughtful little manifesto on Mommy Wars and the Myth of the Perfect Parent.  (PhD in Parenting) [...]

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