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Kelli Catana Headshot

Have We Taken the Common Sense Out of Parenting?

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1950S MOM
Syd Greenberg via Getty Images

In the past few weeks, I've been seeing a lot of parenting posts become quite popular on my Facebook feeds. You know the type of post -- the ones that every parent in your news feed starts sharing that seem to have the end-all, be-all parenting advice contained in it. One day we're told we need to "lean in," the next day we need to ban the word bossy, then we need to stop telling our boys to "be a man" and then we need stop telling our kids that they're beautiful. Now we shouldn't tell our kids that they're smart and we definitely shouldn't help them with their homework. And every time a new article like this pops up, there's hundreds of people anxiously sharing and agreeing with the post, like it's some kind of new-fangled approach to parenting that's going to make it all so easy.

While we're taking all of this parenting advice to heart to ensure that we raise the most perfect, well-balanced, emotionally stable children ever, we're all supposed to do it while looking like Maria Kang. Or not looking like Maria Kang, because Maria Kang isn't going to tell us that we're not good enough dammit! And we're definitely not supposed to do it while we let our kids watch TV, or play video games, or let them entertain themselves with our phones. And for the love of God, they absolutely shouldn't misbehave while out in public because then some crotchety old lady will label us bad parents and we definitely can't have that! I can't keep up, so I've stopped trying. And I wish you would all stop trying to as well.

Have we taken the common sense out of parenting? I'm all for investing time in being a better parent, but it feels like lately, we're not giving ourselves enough credit, recognizing that as grown human beings, we have the ability to determine how to raise our kids. I am a bad parent. And I am a good parent. I am your typical, average parent. I had four kids in five years and I'm pretty sure that I was a bit insane for about three and a half of them. I am guilty of being bossy, I am guilty of telling my kids not to tattle-tale and I am guilty of shoving every single electronic in a 1 km radius into my children's hands if it meant that it would buy me five minutes of peace and quiet. I have told my daughter that she's beautiful and my sons that they are handsome. I have told them all to 'get over it' when they cried and whined because things didn't go their way, and I have definitely, exasperatedly, told them to shut up when I've had a bad day. I sometimes (oftentimes) practice the "do as I say and not as I do" approach to parenting, because I'm the Mom and I can do that. And every day I find some new post that someone has shared on Facebook or some other form of social media, telling me how I am doing it all wrong. But I don't care because every day there's a new article that contradicts the last. How is a parent supposed to keep up? If you hold down a job or stay home with your kids and you still manage to wake up every morning and make it through the day, then I'm fairly confident that you have enough sound judgement of your own to determine whether you should help your child with their homework of if they've watched enough television. It's time we give ourselves a bit more credit here.

I blame this constant pressure that parents (mostly mothers) feel to be perfect on Martha Stewart. Remember about a decade ago when Martha Stewart introduced us to her 'Good Things'? Her wonderful, amazing, Good Things. Mothers everywhere have since been trying to replicate the perfect birthday party with the perfect cake and the perfect crafts to keep our children entertained, sometimes as the risk of our own sanity. Because if Martha could be perfect, so could we. And then somewhere between trying to create the perfect cake for our 1-year-old's birthday party and trying to create the most absolutely perfect Thanksgiving day table presentation, we just let it all get out of hand. We let our common sense go out the window and started to think that if we couldn't make everything in our life look Pinterest-worthy -- including our kids -- that we were failing.

But we aren't failing. At all. We've just stopped listening to our own parenting instincts and instead started relying on the latest viral blog post to tell us how to parent our kids. We need to stop the insanity. You don't need a blog post to tell you how to parent. How can you keep up, after all?

In these past two weeks alone, I have seen posts urging parents to ban the word "bossy"; stop telling boys to "be a man"; stop telling our daughters that they're beautiful; start telling our daughters that we're beautiful so that they'll embrace their beautiful-ness; posts saying that I can look like Maria Kang if I wasn't so damn lazy (truth) and that I don't need to look like Maria Kang because I'm beautiful just the way I am (I'd still rather look like Maria Kang); and that my kids shouldn't be able to have their own handheld device until they're 12 (ARE YOU KIDDING ME?!?!). We're also not supposed to help our kids do their homework (this I agree on) and definitely don't tell them that they're smart. And don't even get me started on how we're killing our kids with sugar. How are we, as parents, supposed to filter through all this "information" and opinion without feeling like we're failing our kids somehow?

When I had my first child 12 years ago, I wasn't inundated with blog posts telling me how to raise my kids in this Pinterest-perfect world, and for that I am grateful. I'm almost scared for new mothers who have so much opinion to filter through when looking for real advice on how to weather the storms of parenting, because there's just so much out there. There's never been as much pressure to raise the perfect, ambitious, strong and confident, healthy girl and the most perfect, emotionally connected, emotionally supportive, confident boy. And yet, we seem to have forgotten that parents, for all of their faults (which we all have many) are just people trying to raise a happy and healthy family.

It's time that we gave all parents the benefit of the doubt that they're not morons. You are not a moron and I am not a moron and I think that if we all just use some plain old common sense when it comes to parenting, then we'll do just fine. At the end of the day, I try to raise my children to be equally confident, happy and healthy while maintaining my own confidence, health and happiness. Being a parent isn't supposed to be easy and you're definitely not supposed to find the perfect answer to your parenting question in some online blog post that has gone viral. You're supposed to make mistakes because you're a human being and we all make them -- our kids included.

Will I let my kids play video games for hours on end because it's been a long day and I just need to not hear fighting? Yes, yes I will. Will I take my kids to McDonald's because I didn't feel like making dinner? Yes, yes I will. And I'll order a Big Mac, too. Will I tell my boys to stop their whining because one of their brothers won't let them play a video game? Of course I will, and I won't in the least bit feel like I'm diminishing their capability of expressing emotion while I do it. As a parent, I will make mistakes with my children. I will make a lot of mistakes, but I also know that even through all those mistakes, I'm going to raise the best kids I can raise because I will trust my instincts and use my common sense.

Stop trying to find the magic answer online on how to raise the best kid possible and just trust yourself that you're doing a good job. Because you are. We all are. And we don't need a blog post to tell us so.