YOU are the Parenting Expert

Tonight on Facebook, a friend of mine sent out a desperate plea for someone to help her figure out how to manage bedtime for her two young kids when her husband isn’t there to assist. I wrote a long, rambling comment about how I know where she’s coming from because my husband is also often away, and when the kids were small their bedtimes were often filled with me running frantically back and forth between the rooms, while the children cried their angry cries, and I felt overcome with frustration over not being able to conduct a sweet and quiet bedtime.

My comment was probably not as helpful as I had hoped it would be since I solved nothing, but I wanted her to know that someone knew the pain of her situation.

She responded that she felt like a failure as a mom and I instantly responded that she is NOT a failure as a mom and to please try and avoid the mom guilt trap because it is never-ending and if you fall in you may never get out again. Also? I’m pretty sure that bedtimes just kind of suck for a lot of parents in the same situation.


Bedtimes Get Easier As Kids Get Older

In the same way that I have a feeling that bedtimes are hard for many parents, I also have a feeling that the pressure to be a perfect parent (a perfect mother especially) is increasing exponentially with each passing decade. The number of parenting articles and books and blogs (uh-hem) dedicated to ensuring that WE ALL KNOW THE RIGHT WAY TO PARENT is overwhelming. We are drowning in this stuff and I don’t think that it’s for our benefit.

Too much of anything is too much.

Too much parenting expertise blather makes parents feel as though there really are experts out there. What is a parenting expert? Is it someone who made it through the parenting gauntlet unscathed and now has a series of perfect children all lined up in a row to show for it? I call poppycock.

I say that most parents stumble here and there and do the best they can and have some falls but still manage to make it through anyway. And I bet their kids do okay as well.

I’m not saying we shouldn’t attempt to do our best, but I am saying that being chattered at non-stop by experts from every corner is drowning out our willingness to think for ourselves. We are all becoming drones. And if we fall short of what we perceive others to be achieving, we feel like failures as parents and are apt to fall into that bottomless well of mom guilt.


Younger Kids Grow to be Older Kids and Parenting Gets Easier (and Harder) Over Time

Do not buy into that. I heard a self-described parenting expert on the radio the other day spouting off some nonsense about something-or-other and this guy sounded so old that if he had children, they had probably moved out of the house thirty years prior. Call me sexist, but I have trouble believing that this elderly man had a hands-on experience in rearing his kids. It certainly wasn’t the norm back then. My point is, that this man declared himself an expert and because we all live in the age where we are told we need experts to guide us or OUR CHILDREN ARE DOOMED, we let him go on the radio and “educate” the masses.

Stop the insanity!

We need to stop letting ourselves follow these so-called experts blindly and start trusting our common sense. Consider if the expert educating you has an alternative agenda (money, perhaps?). It is within us to know the way, we just have to trust ourselves when it comes to parenting.

If we pause for a moment when the parenting gets tough, trust that we know the best way to proceed, think rationally, and move forward, we will stop falling into the mom guilt trap because we know that we did our best. No one else can do it better than us so there’s no reason to feel guilty, even when the bedtimes kind of suck. Because they will sometimes.


  1. Tarable says

    I am going through something really, really difficult right now and I feel like this post was written just for me. It is EXACTLY what I needed to read right now and it gives me some comfort that I’m good enough and smart enough and intuitive enough to do what’s right for my kids without needing other people’s advice or “guidance”.

    This post should be read by ALL parents, we can all benefit from this little pep talk.

    Thank you so much, Marilyn. You’ve given me a little shot in the arm.
    Tarable´s last blog post ..Granny

  2. Lisa says

    When my kids were young, I belonged to an online community and people (myself included) were forever asking for advice and tips to help with sleep, feeding, potty training etc. After awhile I stopped going there not only because people loved to fight about all the controversial parenting topics, but also because I am not sure how helpful all that advice is coming from strangers. Every kids is so different, every parent is so different and what works for one doesn’t work for another. It’s one thing if a friend knows your kids or you or your situation, to offer some advice. I guess what I am trying to say is that all of those parenting expert books are not that helpful either. I feel like we need to spend more time trusting our instincts and what we know about ourselves and kids when working through these things.

    I also deal with bedtime on my own several nights a week and have been doing so since Jack was a newborn. You are right, some nights it sucks and I don’t think anyone’s expert advice will help because kids get tired and parents get tired. Some nights I used to be in tears about the whole, but now I do the best that I can and move on. Great post.
    Lisa´s last blog post ..Inspiration

  3. Loukia says

    Every mom know what is best for their children. I still sleep in my bed with my four year old and that works out great for us. Others may think that is wrong, etc. I know I’m doing the best I can as a mom, you know? We all parent differently, and that’s okay, in fact, that is normal. As long as our children are loved, cherished, taught, and played with… who cares if one child goes to bed at 8, another at 9, or 10? Great post, Marilyn.
    Loukia´s last blog post ..A little bit of something

  4. Rebecca B says

    Interesting post! I’ve been reading more about parenting, so this applies to me. I think that my intuition hasn’t failed me yet with my daughter. However, I do agree with some bloggers/authors that we do tend fall back on our own childhoods and that hard-wiring, which is sometimes thought to be the “right way”, doesn’t always bring up the correct answers. So educating yourself on child development is beneficial, but I don’t think the “experts” always have the right solution for our situations since they don’t personally know our family dynamic and background.

    You also brought up a good point about parenting experts. Do they have six or twelve perfect kids to show their work in the trenches? (Here in Utah, some really do have that many children.) My parents brought us up well. All three of us graduated with bachelor’s degrees and were never involved with drugs or wild sex. But we aren’t perfect… my sister and I have work ethic- and perfectionist issues and my brother doesn’t have a back bone and easily manipulated. You can’t raise a perfect child. I keep that in mind with my own daughter and try to focus on what skills I want her to have when she moves out. I remember when I was pregnant and I thought… I can’t be a perfect mom. If I were a perfect mom, that would mess up my daughter royally! Who can live in the shadow of a perfect mom?!
    Rebecca B´s last blog post ..Sunday Surf: March 4-10

  5. Nicole says

    YES YES YES. I love this whole post. It’s so true. We are just swamped with information these days and MY GOD WE’RE ALL DOING IT WRONG AND OUR CHILDREN WILL BE RUINED NOW I AM OFF TO PUREE SOME BABY FOOD. You are so right, we are the experts. PREACH IT SISTER!
    Nicole´s last blog post ..Math Geeks and Pi Day and Blowing Things Up

  6. allison says

    God, Marilyn, I love you so much right now I would have your babies, except that would just leave us with even MORE kids to put to bed. I was always wary of parenting “experts”, a label that gives me a visual of a lab filled with rows of children being experimented on. How the hell can you be an expert in parenting ONE kid, let alone ALL of them? There’s nothing wrong with reading to get tips and tools, but for goodness sake, take it with a grain of salt. Also, hee hee – you said poppycock.
    allison´s last blog post ..Untamed Music

  7. harriet says

    I’m pretty insensitive to advice. I have a bizarre confidence in my abilities to do what I think works based on no experience or readings whatsoever. My guiding rule is: Be the parent your child needs. And when you’re in a bind, talk to those you know and trust who have gone before (being so late to parenting, I have a ton of laid back friends whose kids all turned out fine thank you very much). That said, I frequently do get good tips from the most Awesome Twitter moms, of which you are one, but mostly they are “hang in there; this too shall pass” comments rather than straight up advice. Good ‘un.
    harriet´s last blog post ..Couch diving with loon

  8. Amber says

    Seriously. What is WITH all those parenting bloggers. Sheesh! ;)

    I actually enjoy some parenting experts. When they’re reinforcing what I want to do anyway, then I love to read what they have to say. It makes me feel all good and right and stuff. So I just choose books that I know I’m going to like. I guess it’s a way of shoring up my own parenting style. I look to people I already agree with, and then take what works for me and leave the rest. Because, honestly, no one else knows my kids like I do.
    Amber´s last blog post ..Eight Tips for Avoiding Toxins

  9. clara says

    Poppycock was a word we taught my almost-4 y/o when he was…oh let’s say 2. It was to be his response to anyone who asked “Are you tired?” because he always was, very obviously overtired, and also absolutely refused to sleep. I have fond memories of my mom or me saying, “Hey are you tired kiddo?” and his clear-as-a-bell voice, “POPPYCOCK!”

    Uh yeah. So we drove him around until he slept. Or slept with him on the couch. Whatever works.

    I shout amen to your post, and hallelujah. Agree with Harriet’s approach (and everyone else here because we are like minds) — ask around, see if you’re totally insane, if not, wait and have a glass of wine. But that would be such a short book, and some people have difficulty with such hands-off ‘advice.’ They seem to need a prescription. Everyone gets to the same place eventually, the place where they go “WHAT IS HAPPENING NOTHING IS WORKING”, whether it’s at 6 months or 16 years. The advice fails and you can only fall back on your own knowledge/instinct.

    I do go on. Great post.

  10. Kasia Rachfall says

    Great post! It’s about time someone called it like it is. I know I haven’t always been the best mom and have had those desperate times – and because of self imposed isolation, I thought I had no one to turn to. Your friend is fortunate to have so much support and I’m so glad she reached out. I agree that no one is an expert in parenting except when they listen to their own internal brilliance and intuition. That’s what makes great parenting – not trying to live up to someone else’s rules. When moms and dads feel good and love themselves then the kids benefit in so many ways! I know that I’m a better mom now that I’ve taken responsibility for my own state of mind, energy, and well being. I hope your friend feels better about herself and finds a strategy that works for her and her kids bedtime.