When it comes to parenting, there is no “one size fits all.” When I became a parent, I wanted to do everything the “right way.” I wanted to breastfeed up until my son was 2 years old just as the World Health Organization recommended. I made our family eat dinner at 4:30 pm so that my son would be in bed by 6pm and sleep through the night. I wanted to make my own organic baby food so my son has a healthy diet. I did this because I thought this is what being a good parent meant. Guess what?
I WAS MISERABLE!
This was the complete opposite of the lifestyle I had before I became a mom. I loved traveling, volunteering for causes I cared about, and working as an attorney. It did not make me happy being cooped up at home trying to do everything “right.” Worst of all, my son was around an unhappy mom.
Bottom line: Being an unhappy parent was affecting my ability to be a good parent.
So I decided to start parenting on my own terms. After months of stress and heartache breastfeeding because we are all told that “breast is best,” I fully embraced formula feeding and so did my son. I felt human again. It helped me feel that I was more than a food supply to my son. I was also his mom. It was also great to have the ability to go out and about without having to pump every two hours or worry that my son was starving himself because he wanted the boob. It also allowed my husband to feed and bond with his son. I felt a tremendous weight lifted off my shoulders when I stopped caring about being judged as a bad mom for not trying hard enough to breastfeed. I was able to spend time away from my son without worrying and come home a happy and recharged mom.
Second, I stopped fighting my night owl ways. My husband and I went back to eating dinner at our usual time. We also brought our son out to dinner with us on many occasions. This has been a fantastic experience because my son has been exposed to so many different kinds of food. He also had to learn how to entertain himself and behave at a restaurant. I do try to be considerate to other restaurant patrons and take my son to family-friendly restaurants or very loud restaurants. I have learned that sometimes my son is fantastic in a restaurant and sometimes he’s a terror. It is inevitable that your child will have a meltdown in public. You will get death stares but at the end of the day just remember that you will probably never see those people again.
Finally, I found a way to incorporate my son into my personal and professional interests. I decided to start my own law practice in order to give my husband and I the flexibility to spend time with our son. I do a lot of work during the evening and weekends because that’s when my husband is available. My son loves coming to the office because I keep toys and a bouncy house there for him. When I have to file documents in court, we go together and he stamps them. He is also great at mailing documents. He has already been before a judge!
Also, my son has served as my date to many fundraisers and events for organizations I love supporting. At 2 years old, he has met business owners, chefs, and politicians. We both hit the pavement together to collect signatures when we were assisting with a friend’s campaign. Lastly, I learned that like his mom, he is a great traveler. We took advantage of the fact that he can fly for free as a lap child. At 2 years old, he has been to Orlando, Miami, Las Vegas, Seattle, Hawaii, Jamaica, Cozumel, and the Cayman Islands.
What I learned through all this is that there is no “right” way to parent. Being a parent does not mean you have to lose your sense of self or stop doing the things you once enjoyed. I encourage parents struggling to find their new normal to define it for yourself. It will not happen overnight and you will have bad days. Having kids is a personal choice and raising them is a series of personal choices. Parenting is one of the hardest jobs in the world and what we all need is support rather than criticism.
When I found my parenting style, I became a happy parent. I enjoy the time I spend with my son, and I love showing him my passions. In turn, I think I have a happy child who loves spending time with me.