by Cynthia Rajchman, LMFT, Mommy & Me Instructor at The Pump Station & Nurtury®
Being a parent is wonderful, and while it is also a very personal experience it can sometimes feel like everyone has something to say about the way parents parent. In our society, there is immense pressure to be “good parents.” The pressure is such that we can start to believe that we have to live up to an ideal we haven’t created for ourselves.
While pregnant, I remember feeling that every question my husband and I were asked by family, friends, and even strangers was a measure (or a judgment?) of whether or not we were good parents-to-be. Questions such as, “What does the nursery look like?” “What stroller are you going to get?” “Have you started thinking of preschools?” would elicit quips in my head I was afraid to utter lest I be thought of as a thoughtless mom. “Hmm... nursery...? It looks like an empty room with a crib that I haven’t set up yet.” “Yes, I bought a stroller. I traded my car in for it.” “Preschool?!?!?!?!?!” Are those the wrong answers?
The list is endless. Once our daughter was born, it felt like the interrogations got even worse because unsolicited advice would often follow. If I was breastfeeding, I was told that I should complement with formula so our child gets the calories she needs to grow and develop. If I were to bottle-feed, I would be told my child wasn’t attaching to me correctly. If my husband insisted on buying organic only, he was ridiculed for wasting money on sheer marketing. Yet, if we bought conventionally grown produce we were told our child was being exposed to harmful agrotoxins. If we let our child explore and go on her own at the playground, we got nervous looks from other parents. If we stayed close, we were helicopter parents. Our inner voices-which were habitually loud and strong-became shy and cluttered with other voices that we didn’t recognize as our own.
The thing is, we also have questions. We do want advice. But more importantly, we want to be heard and understood, and know that it’s OK if we don’t have all the answers right away.
Talking to other parents going through similar processes helped my husband and me feel that we were not alone. It allowed us to release some of that pressure and to explore what it means to us to be a good parent, not through the lens of societal expectations, but through our own experiences and feelings. It gave us space to figure things out without feeling judged for not having all the answers or not knowing what to expect.
Learning to be a parent is a social endeavor, and it requires support and help from other parents who know what we’re each facing. In Mommy & Daddy & Me, we get to explore these issues in a safe, non-judgmental environment so you can discover how to be the parents you want to be. As we discuss some of the issues around being first-time parents, I will give you information that I hope you will find useful while not overwhelming you with advice and opinions. I invite you to get to know other parents who, like you and me, ultimately want the best for our children.
I promise to listen without judging, and to be a witness of your child’s development. I promise to give you the tools to listen to your inner voice, and trust it.
Cynthia Rajchman, LMFT is a Mommy & Me Leader at The Pump Station & Nurtury and is currently leading 2 Mommy, Daddy & Me Groups on Sunday at the Santa Monica location.