We are deep in the throes of a an 18-month sleep regression with our toddler, which happens to coincide nicely with the absolute crazy sleep deprivation chaos that is going to descend on this house in a matter of weeks with baby #5 arriving. Funny how those things work out timing wise, right?
With my first two kids I did the cry it out method. Here's your crib, you're safe and warm and secure, if you get up and cry, you are going to learn how to self soothe. I was firm. Really firm. I stuck to it. I did not go in that room for anything. And they turned out to be pretty good sleepers. Let's face it though, it's just one way of doing things.
This time around, I am pretty much doing the opposite. When the baby cries, I go get her. I wipe away her little tears and she wraps her chubby arms around my neck. I bring her into bed with us and put on Frozen and let her calm down for a little bit (okay I majorly snuggle her too). Sometimes she winds up sleeping with us, sometimes she goes back into her crib and all is well. It is helping? Um, I'm not so sure. But for right now, it's what works for us.
And with that, I hit on the best phrase to shut down all the well-intentioned but unwanted parenting advice: "This is what works for us". You can even add in the little extra "for right now". Because you know what? I'm just trying to do what works for everyone for right now. And isn't that really the essence of parenting? You're just trying to figure out the best for the time being? Because it all changes. It changes between kids, it changes as you get older, as they get older, as you add in siblings and they grow up and new things pop up and challenge you and your family. Maybe what works for you means picking up the baby at 2 a.m. so the other kids don't get disturbed, maybe that means hitting the drive-thru after ballet at 7:45 p.m., maybe that means giving up breastfeeding if it isn't working, you do what works for you and your family, and leave it at that.
The thing is, we are all just using this parenting judgment as a yardstick to measure our own success as parents, and in that way, I actually do have sympathy for the judgers. When people judge they are usually just trying to make themselves feel better for what they see are their own shortcomings. Someone wants to judge you for going back to work? Maybe they're struggling as a stay at home mom and wish they could go back to the office. Someone wants to judge you for having a nanny? Maybe someone needs a little break themselves? It's all a big melting pot of jealousy and self-doubt, and when you add in the accessibility we have into each others' lives via social media (even the moms with the so-called "perfect" Instagram accounts get judged for being "too perfect"), what comes out ain't pretty sometimes. But sometimes, for some people, it's because we take our jobs as parents so seriously that we feel like we should be held up to this level of judgment and therefore should hold others up to that level as well.
What you perceive to be a failure in someone else's parenting style can make you feel like your own choices are somehow more validated, because hey, at least you're not like them. And it's true, you're not like them, and your family is not like theirs. We all have our own set of circumstances to work with. In our era of information overload, it's easy to do a couple google searches and feel like a parenting expert on something new. And as it turns out everyone IS a parenting expert, but only for their own family. And in that way you can use that phrase as a way to bolster up your own self confidence as a parent as well. You know what works best for you and your family.
Keep it in mind the next time you have one of those judgmental thoughts, too. Or when you want to maybe gab with the fellow mom at the playground about the one mom who is making a transgression you think is worthy of a little gossip. We are all guilty of it on some level. The judgment. It has become a motherhood habit and we need to break it. Just tell yourself, whatever it is, that is what works for them. And shut it down. Shut down the judgment that you are making, and you might find that you will wind up giving yourself a break the next time as well.