If your child is happy and healthy and reaching their potential, then youíre doing just fine.
Iím a single mother of one with another on the way. According to the logic of every sanctimommie who ever lived, that makes me an expert with the right - no, the obligation - to tell you how to raise your child. I would know, Iím a Mummy!
The fact of the matter is that no matter which decision you make, there will be somebody who tells you itís wrong because itís not how they raised/are raising, their child/ren. ďFree rangeĒ vs ďcontrolledĒ, breastfed vs formula, co-sleeping vs rooming in, pram vs carrier/sling, pets vs no pets, screen time vs no screen time, working vs stay-at-homeÖ
Well, the confirmation of my second pregnancy means that I am now fully eligible and qualified to tell you how to raise your children the right way, so allow me to do so...
1. Find the right path for you
There is only one right path. There is only one correct path. And it is different with every child.
What is that correct path? Itís based on knowing your child. You see, there is no ďone size fits allĒ approach to raising children as each child is different and each parent is different. I find that Little C thrives on variety and adventure and being cared for and raised by a ďvillageĒ of trusted people. He has sleepovers with his grandparents, he has regular days to spend with cousins. He is happy and confident and looks forward to these breaks from Mummy (and equally enjoys coming home to Mummy). Itís very rare for him to cry when I leave because he has learned that I will always come back.
This is the perfect parenting approach for Little C and heís secure because of it, so I could hold my son up as an example of why this parenting approach works and is clearly the best. But I never will, because Little Cís nature plays a huge role in why that works. Heís easygoing and curious and outgoing and it suits his nature to enjoy variety.
Other kids are very different. There are children who will do best by being home with Mummy all day, every day, and they thrive on routine and predictability. The very thing that would leave Little C bored and restless is the very thing that another child needs.
Find the right pathÖ the path that works for you and your child.
2. Consider your lifestyle and traits
I am an opponent of co-sleeping. Itís dangerous, itís risky, and I am very much against it. I am also a solid sleeper who has nightmares and thrashes in their sleep and I toss and turn. Plus, Iím quite heavy due to my bone structure. To co-sleep with Little C would be to sign his death warrant. A mother who is a light sleeper that barely moves in the night, however, may find that co-sleeping is the solution for her because she is less likely to wake at every noise because her child is in bed with her, and her lack of movement through the night would allow her to create a safe sleeping environment for her child.
That is one example of considering your lifestyle and traits. My circumstances vary from Karenís who varies from Sueís, so none of us can accurately decide what the right choice is for the others.
A good example of how lifestyle factors will influence your decisions is the ďgreat feeding debateĒ. Okay, yeah, we all know ďbreast is bestĒ, but what if youíre a working mother who needs to be up at 6am to get to work at 8am? What if you have two other children who need your attention and you canít dedicate the required time to breastfeeding. What if your partner wants to be hands-on and help with all aspects of childrearing?
You may find that bottle or combination feeding is the solution that allows you to meet your responsibilities and also dedicate adequate time to each child. A stay-at-home mother of one, on the other hand, might opt to breastfeed since she has plenty of opportunities through the day to catch up on lost sleep or pump milk or may simply enjoy the convenience of going out and popping a boob when Bub is hungry.
Consider your lifestyle, consider the relevant factors, and weigh up the pros and cons to decide which choice is right for your family in any given situation. It doesnít matter if I approve of your choices, Iím just some random avatar on the computer. Just like that random critic in the shop is some random critic. We donít pick up the pieces if it goes wrong for you, so we have no say in how you manage things.
3. At the end of the day, who does it affect?
Your children, thatís who. Nobody else. The choices you make will directly impact them for better or worse, and itís important that you keep that as your primary consideration in any choice you make. Nobody else matters, as much as they might think they do, and what they think doesn't matter either.
4. Making the wrong choice is part of the process
When you make a decision, you weigh up the risks and benefits to your child. You may choose to involve others in your decision-making process (your parents, your doctor, your child health nurseÖ), but they cannot make the decision for you. You consider the different possibilities and likelihoods and current research and information but base your decision primarily on your child.
If you keep your child and their wellbeing at the centre of any decision and keep everyone elseís wishes - including your own - out of the equation, it is highly likely youíll make the right choice.
And if you made the wrong choice, itís okay to change your mind or adjust your path. If you find that a particular discipline method isnít working, itís okay to try something else. If you find that your carefully-planned menu doesnít work because you have a picky eater, itís okay to get creative. If you find that something doesnít work, try something else.
Getting it wrong is how we learn. As long as it was not an easily-foreseeable mistake (like leaving your children unattended in a car or refusing to use child restraints because you think itís not a big deal), itís okay. So you bought the brand of bottle you believed was best but your child refuses to take it? Try a different brand. So you tried to get your child to sit up and he fell on his face? Try again later. So you bought a basinette and your child refuses to sleep in it? Find an alternative.
Over time youíll make fewer mistakes as you gain experience and get to know your child, and youíll know if your choices were right by how your child responds.
As Iíve said before, if your child is happy and healthy and reaching their potential, then youíre doing just fine. Donít let anyone tell you that youíre wrong unless you specifically asked them.