Caring for tiny humans means you give a lot emotionally and physically to your kids. Because of this, we start to lose the time or energy to care what people think about us. In fact, having kids can make us question why we ever cared what others think about us or our choices. Learning to stop caring completely changes your everyday life.
I learned a lot from my first child. Parenting her has taught me how to care less about what society thinks I should do and be, how friends and family think I should act, and even what I thought I’d be like as a parent.
Like how I thought I would be working in a full-time office job, but I chose part-time freelance work instead. And how I felt like I wasn’t living up to my friends’ or society’s expectations.
Society has a lot of thoughts on what parents — especially mothers — should be. We aren’t supposed to be the stereotypical 1950’s housewife, high on valium, sexually suppressed and overall depressed.
But we shouldn’t be the cold, controlling, career-obsessed woman either. And, we certainly aren’t to be anxious helicopter parents who are too invested and involved in our kids’ lives. So what do we do?
Stop caring what society thinks.
Who cares about society and their stereotypes? You determine your reality. You can be a full-time caregiver, a parent working in an income-producing job, or a bit of both. Maybe you’re a step parent, a foster parent, an adoptive parent, or a guardian.
Whatever type of parent you are, let it be the best version of you. Perhaps it makes you happy to be with your kids full-time or part-time, or a blend. Maybe you don’t have the luxury of choosing it.
Being a good parent is challenging, but it can feel even harder when we care too much about what others think. As author Jill Churchill put it:
“There’s no way to be a perfect mother [or parent] and a million ways to be a good one.”
People love to give their unsolicited opinion. It begins when you’re pregnant and people unload all of their advice, comments, tips, and tricks on you. They tell you how you “should” feel and what you “should” do to prepare.
But you don’t have to care about what you “should ” be feeling while pregnant. Maybe you’re so excited to have a baby and want to tell the world. Perhaps you love having people touch your bump and ask you all the personal questions about your body and baby. Or the thought of being asked a personal question makes you embarrassed or angry — that’s okay.
You don’t have to be what people think you should be.
I’m a private person who doesn’t post much on social media and I definitely wasn’t about to change that just because I was pregnant. So, no, I didn’t take monthly bump pictures or post what fruit my baby was comparable to that week.
I was uncomfortable in my own skin, and that’s okay. But, I felt like I should, and it drove me crazy until I learned one of the best lessons in parenting.
Stop caring about what people think.
Yes, this applies to friends and family. I shared some decisions about my pregnancy, like my spouse wasn’t going to be in the delivery room, no one was touching my stomach, I would be exclusively bottle feeding, etc., with people and I regretted it.
Friends and family reacted with unsupportive comments and sharp jabs at my role as mother and parent. I internalized their opinions because I cared too much what they thought. And this made me feel so stressed during my pregnancy.
Fast forward to pregnancy number two. I didn’t care a drop what people thought. Unsupportive OBGYN? I switched. Inappropriate comment about my unborn baby, body, or pregnancy? I called it out or completely ignored it; I let it bounce right off me. And you know what? I was much happier as a person and a parent.
Vaginal birth or cesarean, baby-led weaning or spoon-fed, bottles or breasts, private school or public — parenting comes with a lot of choices. But let’s be clear: birth is about you, your baby, your medical team and your partner.
And your parenting choices are between you, your partner, and your child(ren). The thoughts, feelings and opinions of others are not yours to carry. Your choices are just that — yours.
If my kids choose to become parents someday, I hope they aren’t afraid of what others think of them and their parenting choices. I hope they learn what I’m trying to learn: be loving, be kind, and show up for your kids and yourself. Which brings us to the final point.
Stop caring about your own expectations.
From the moment you find out you’re growing a human, you start imagining what life will be like with them — who they will be, what they will look like, what you’ll be like as a parent, etc. And it’s okay to have expectations. That’s normal.
But if we try to live up to our own expectations, we’ll constantly be disappointed. Parenting as a job and a journey is never going to be what we pictured. That’s okay!
Care less about your original expectations. Instead, adjust them. Learn to love your kids and yourself for who you are right now.