WHITNEY: Parenting is hard, but you’re fine
“Tell me what to write about parenting this week,” I typed to my friend over GChat one day during Olivia’s nap.
“Parenting?” he asked. “IDK. It’s hard.”
My friend — who’s quite a bit older than me and the parent of two boys, ages 8 and 10 — parents from afar, on weekends and long school breaks when his kids can visit him from two states over. Divorce is hard, too.
“It is,” I agreed, and clicked over to the next tab where I had been skimming yet another article about some new research about childhood development. But you might have guessed that was the case, reader, if you saw last week’s column.
I do a lot of reading about children, childhood and parenting as it affects children and the parents themselves. It’s my job here (and elsewhere now) to write about what parents should know.
But some days? Oh my god. Some days I just want people to shut up about parenting.
In fact, I can quote an article from the New Yorker about such exasperation, which turns out to be much more universal and not something unique to people in my shoes. The satirical article was titled simply, “New Parenting Study Released,” and here’s the best excerpt (but you should definitely read the whole thing):
“Frieda Duntmore... recounted standing in line at a supermarket, reading a magazine article about how being a parent sucked, and then recalling that, that very morning, she’d read another article, which said that being a parent was awesome, and that anyone who didn’t have kids might as well just take their own life. ‘All of a sudden, I felt my skull start to split right down the middle. I put my hand up, and there was literally blood there.’...”
Like my friend said, parenting is hard.
You know what’s harder? Trying to keep up with all the new studies, theories and labels associated with child rearing in 2015.
I think, as parents, we tend to need a lot of affirmation that we’re doing the right things for our kids. I’ve said it before, but I’ll repeat myself: We tend to see our parenting decisions as having higher stakes than, say, our decision to grab a second donut for breakfast. We know that donut is bad, but we rationalize it by thinking we’ll work it off later. But a bad parenting decision? You don’t want your child working it off later in therapy.
So we seek validation from someone we see as having more authority than we do. For some people, that could be a lifestyle blogger who lives in a perfectly Pinnable house with a $35-a-week meal plan for her family of six. For others (ahem, me), it’s scientists and experts who can back up their claims with Big Research and Empirical Data. Although I do love a well-curated lifestyle blog…
But it’s all too much sometimes.
So if you’ve turned to this page this week for some other kind of affirmation, I’m going to give it to you straight: You’re doing fine. As usual, all the magazines and blogs pale in comparison to you, mom and dad. So back away from the advice and go have fun. Parenting is hard, but you’re going to be just fine.
Whitney Gronski-Buffa is the Pioneer’s parenting columnist. After four years reporting and editing at the paper, she’s stepped back to spend more time with her family. Read more here each week and reach her at email@example.com.