Parenting Under a Microscope

The microscope will make you anxious. It will make you question every decision you make and do things that you wouldn't ordinarily do. It will add significant stress to your parenting experience, if you let it.
02/22/2013 11:56 am ET Updated Apr 24, 2013
Mother Sitting With Son Reading Story Indoors
Mother Sitting With Son Reading Story Indoors

Once upon a time, in a land that no longer seems to exist, parenting was just parenting. Diapers were changed (cloth because disposables weren't available), babies were given solid foods at (gasp!) three months and people just went about their business.

Parenting was just parenting.

Parents today are under a microscope. Every time you turn around, someone has advice or a very strong opinion about the best way to parent. Other parents, parenting experts, teachers and even helpful grandparents have the latest and greatest parenting information at their fingertips.

And I dare you to try to relax with a latte and your favorite magazine without finding either some tidbit of parenting know-how that you might have missed along the way or the latest celebrity mom sharing her secrets to happy parenting.

But it's not just about the advice. t's the feeling of being watched. Every parenting move you make is subject to evaluation by someone in your circle.

The question is, was it always like this? Did parents always feel watched? Did they always feel a need to do their very best parenting every minute of the day?

This parenting microscope that follows us around has created a generation of neurotic parents. Kids are over-scheduled, in need of sleep and severely lacking in unstructured playtime because parents are consumed with getting them enrolled in the very best of everything. The kid who has the best of the best, it seems, must also have the best parent.

Since when are parents not allowed mistakes?

The truth is that the stress that parents experience from being under the microscope trickles down to the kids. Unless we want to raise a generation of completely neurotic individuals who fear judgment around every corner and don't know how to slow down, it's time to step out from under that microscope.

Find your instinct: Somewhere along the way, parents stopped relying on instinct. This generation of instant gratification parents seems to double-check every decision before moving forward. Can my baby have pears? Google it. Does my toddler have ADD because he throws tantrums five times a day? Better check the latest and greatest parenting manual. The checking and overthinking is endless.

Reconnect with that inner voice that actually knows when to start solid foods and how to handle a sibling squabble. You don't need a book or an expert on speed dial to get through each day; you simply need to do what's right for your family.

Get to know your kids: If parents spent as much time actively engaging with their kids as they do worrying about what other people think of their parenting skills, they would have a much easier time parenting.

When you take the time to get to know each of your kids as individuals, you figure out what they need. They are all different. There is no single parenting manual that can solve all of your problems and address the unique needs of your children. ure, information is useful. Just make sure that you take that information and tailor it to the individual needs of each child.

Filter the advice: Some advice is helpful, particularly if you asked for it. Some advice, on the other hand, clutters your brain.

I recently received a text message from a family member who read an article in Time about bedtime math. She thought it sounded like a great idea for my kids. Is she worried that my kids are falling behind in math at ages 4 and 6? I laughed when I saw the text. I laughed harder when I read the article. While I'm sure there are kids out there who might benefit from shifting the focus from reading to math before bedtime, I'm certain that my kids are doing just fine at the moment.

Use the advice that comes in handy and let the rest escape your mind. The advice won't stop coming, but that doesn't mean you have to listen to it.

The microscope will make you anxious. It will make you question every decision you make and do things that you wouldn't ordinarily do. It will add significant stress to your parenting experience, if you let it.

Step out from under that microscope. Rely on instinct and be the best parent that you can be at any given time. Your kids will thank you for it.