We call my sister “The Professional.” Seeming to have really good answers to every question I’ve ever asked her about pregnancy, childbirth, and parenting, she’s been through it all with her own three kids. And when her youngest started preschool, my sister truly earned the title of “The Professional” by becoming a preschool teacher. Now that I have two boys of my own, I routinely see the wisdom in her ways, although it took becoming a parent myself to get there.
Before having my own kids, I never understood why she couldn’t spare ten minutes to put on make-up before leaving the house. Or why she insisted on wearing only slip-ons and flats. I honestly thought she was a little crazy for refusing to fly solo, worried that her plane might crash and leave her family motherless.
When invited to her home for Christmas or Easter dinner, I wondered why her table was never dressed with a tablecloth and candles (duh … those loose edges hanging down right at eye-level just begging for little hands to tug on it!). I secretly wished she would expose my nieces and nephew to a greater variety of foods – how could they refuse if that was all that was offered? Embarrassingly enough, I actually thought she was lazy for not making her bed every morning.
Oh, how things changed once I’d had the chance to walk a mile in her shoes! Thankfully, over the years I’ve kept my mouth shut when I was tempted to challenge her approaches or offer her my own advice on how to do a better job parenting. Now, I call her about once a week in semi-desperation with conversations that start: “How in the world did you manage …” or “What are you supposed to do when …”
Earlier this week, I was struggling to find a trusted babysitter for an evening event my husband and I really wanted to attend. We only have two options for bedtime babysitters (well, only two options that don’t include a plane ticket for Grandma), and both were booked already. Some of my well-meaning, child-less friends said, “Oh, I’ve heard about this service called Urban Sitter,” or “A friend of a friend might know someone you could try.” The thought of leaving my boys with a complete stranger, especially at bedtime, reminded me of how silly I must have sounded when I innocently made similar suggestions to my sister years ago.
Now, we don’t align on everything. When my second son was born, my sister advised me to let him be comfortable napping on the go because we’d need to nap on the go frequently to keep up with my older son’s schedule. While I took her suggestions to heart and truly contemplated the benefits of a flexible schedule, I stayed true to my beliefs that children’s sleep is of utmost importance; sleeping in a crib or bed is always best, and good sleep takes precedence over nearly every other activity.
Raising kids is full of challenges, to say the least, and there are an unlimited number of ways to solve each one. While none of us is perfect, anyone with more than zero kids is a professional in some aspect of parenting. My advice? Consult with the other “professionals” in your life, call on them for help, and be there to give support to the other parents around you. At the end of the day, the right choice for you might be different from the right choice for the family next door, but by being open-minded and freely giving and receiving advice, we can all benefit from the wisdom of the other professionals in our lives.