Mom, You’re the ExpertSharing Your Decision with the World
by Alexandra Kuykendall
The Mommy Handbook was not handed to me with my baby on the day she was born. You know the one. It tells you whether giving your baby a pacifier right away will really cause nipple confusion. If sleeping with your baby in your bed is really a bad thing. And if using cloth diapers will really leave the smallest carbon footprint in your baby’s world. It’s the one that gives you the right answer for every potential mothering scenario.
With all of the books and websites on parenting — and just as many differing expert approaches to go along with them — how is a mom to know who to listen to? To discern who the real expert is in all of the white noise of opinions? To glean what’s right for her unique family and child?
These were the questions still crowding my brain when that first baby, Gabi, turned 4. My stress level started rising as kindergarten deadlines approached. Although Gabi would make the birth date cut-off to attend, something in my gut just didn’t sit right with the thought. She was quite vocal at home, but painfully shy almost everywhere else. The thought of another year to get her ready for big-girl school sounded smart, but I didn’t feel qualified to make this decision on my own.
My husband, Derek, and I began researching our options by asking around. We talked to her preschool teacher. “She’s absolutely ready!” she responded. The pediatrician: “Too many parents hold their children back” with a less than reassuring, “She’d probably be fine.” Other comments from everyone-and-their-brother included, “But she’s so smart!” “She’s so tall!” And the ever ambiguous, “I’m sure you’ll do what’s best.” No pressure!
For the most part, people didn’t push their opinions on me. I wanted to hear their personal and professional takes. I was desperately searching for someone to give me something … anything … that would ring true as the right answer. I felt overwhelmed with the fear that I would make a mistake on this issue and my daughter would forever suffer the consequences.
Derek and I spent hours discussing the various opinions offered and the credibility of those giving them — narrowing down the pros and cons of each option and praying for God’s wisdom. I dissected my fears to the “nth degree” to make sure this wasn’t just the normal anxiety of letting my firstborn go. I concluded that my apprehension stemmed from Gabi’s distinct situation. My leg was the one she clung to daily. And I knew better than anyone else that she was not ready for this change.
During that process a few voices stood out from the crowd. They reminded me that my gut counted for something. My MOPS Mentor and my mother-in-law both reassured me there was no mistake made when God placed this child in my care. He trusted I would do my due diligence, research what I needed to and ultimately, regardless of all of my insecurities and questions, make a sound decision in Gabi’s best interest.
It was time for Derek and me to move ahead and make a decision. Once this was done, I felt relieved the process was behind us and a little more confident in my mothering expertise. Now we had to share our decision with the world, and hold onto our choice even if others questioned it.
Everyone from the T-ball coach to your next door neighbor will give both solicited and not-so-much-solicited advice on your tough parenting choices. Once you, Mom, have made a decision, it’s time to share it with those around you. This can create anxiety, especially if you’re going against expert opinions. Two elements might help these potentially difficult conversations go a little more smoothly.
Respect: Like you, other people usually have their opinions for good reasons. Their experiences, education and professions have shaped their understanding of the topic at hand. Honor the investment they have in your child, whether professional or personal. Set a tone for both the conversation and overall relationship by acknowledging their expertise and opinions with respect.
Confidence: This is the time to remember your position of influence and authority in your child’s life. God made you the mother of this child and you can speak with confidence from the Mom title. You’ve weighed your options and considered the information from different vantage points. Stand by your decision, knowing others have helped you in the process.
Alexandra Kuykendall is Mom Expert to three daughters ages 8, 5 and 1. She works part-time for MOPS International and is still on the lookout for that Mommy Handbook.