My family recently moved back to the US after living overseas for 14 years. I grew up here and my husband grew up in France. All of my children were born in France and I have never been a mother in the US before this year. Just a few months after my husband and I were married, we moved to France to serve as missionaries. Most of my adult life to this point has been experienced in a different culture. I learned how to be a wife, mother and woman while living overseas. It’s funny how different cultures view these things and the influence that those cultures can have on parenting styles. Not to say that one culture is better than another or that there is only one right way to do things, but when we moved, I was confronted with something rather unexpected in the US culture, parent shaming.
Even while living in France, I experienced a sort of pressure from other people about different views on child rearing. Everyone has an opinion about how you should be raising your kid. I find this to especially be true of single people who have never had any children. I can say this because I was one of them. I remember watching and judging others and their children. There are countless books, seminars and blogs on how you should be dealing with your children. I think that is to somewhat be expected. Raising children is no joke. Their has been many times as a mother that I have been at a loss for what to do in a certain situation. I don’t have it all together. I don’t have all the answers. I have many times looked to others for advice and have benefitted from the wisdom of other women who have walked this road. I am not talking about that, I’m talking about something completely different.
I find that there is a culture here in the States, and I’m sure it probably exists elsewhere, that puts an unreasonable expectation on mothers and children. We are pressured to push our children to be these perfect, ultra intelligent, articulate, cultured, well-behaved, well dressed, multilingual, athletic super-humans. If for any reason your children do not meet these ridiculous expectations, you have failed somehow as a mother. Before they even enter school, they are expected to be on a 3rd grade reading level, have perfect behaviour and speak Chinese. We are expected to spend the majority of our time entertaining or educating our children. Constant stimulation is required. We must put them in every available class, sports program, academic league and school activity we can.
My 4-year-old daughter began pre-k this year. I was very excited for her to start as was she. Every morning when she enters her class, she has a routine of things she is expected to do before they begin the day. This is a good thing. It helps her get into class mode and she really likes the process. Part of this routine is she is supposed to write her name on a piece of paper everyday. Understand, until this point in her 4 years of life, my daughter has never had the occasion to sign her name to anything. I manage all her legal documents for her. Obviously, she did not know how to write her own name. I didn’t teach her. Get ready for this one, I didn’t teach her letters or how to read either. I was under the impression that’s why I send her to school. I didn’t feel the need to educate her before I sent her to be educated. Apparently, this makes me a bad mother.
My daughter doesn’t know how to tie her own shoes. I but velcro shoes. This also makes me a bad mother. She is not always well-behaved. Sometimes, she is downright bad. She pitches tantrums, breaks things, cries when she doesn’t get her own way and disobeys on a regular basis. These are all things we are working on. It seems thought, these things are not allowed from children anymore. Don’t get me wrong, I do not accept this sort of behaviour from my child. We discipline our children when they do these things. The difference is I am not shocked when my 4-year-old acts like a 4 year old.
People listen. There is nothing weird about a child acting like a child. We put so much pressure now on our kids to be these perfect little things because we believe that it reflects back that we are perfect parents. I am here to say very clearly that my children are average and that is ok. I am not a supermom. I don’t expect any of you to be supermoms or dads. I expect that your child will act like a child. Please don’t feel the need to apologize to me when your child does something childlike.
Moms listen. You are doing a great job. Don’t think that just because your child is not the star quarterback and doesn’t speak 3 languages by the time he is 2 you have somehow failed. You haven’t. We should be celebrating and encouraging one another as parents. Not shaming each other because we have unreasonable expectations about what each other should be doing. I’m not raising your kids and you are not raising mine. Being a parent is not easy. We each are incapable on our own of successfully raising these little humans. I realized very quickly that unless I look to the Lord, I will fail miserably. Being a parent is such a huge responsibility and gift. I pray that he Lord would help me to focus less on others expectations and more on His. What does the Lord expect from me as a parent? I believe that he expects me to teach these little ones to love the Lord with all their heart, soul and mind and to love others.
I love my average children.