Like most moms, I worry if I am doing a good job. I wonder if I yell too much, or not enough. I worry that I say things I don’t mean and will damage their fragile egos. I question myself for not giving my kids more attention during the day, while being concerned about how they still don’t sleep on their own. I wonder if I should make them eat better and watch less television. I worry my actions will have a lasting impact on their lives.
My biggest fear as a parent is that I will screw up my children. This thought doesn’t dominate my thoughts, but sits in the back of my consciousness, quietly lurking, waiting to make me feel like I am doing it all wrong.
I often share my concerns with my mom, something I am so grateful to be able to do. I tell her how I question my parenting choices, and whether I am raising my kids right. My mom doesn’t share my obsessive worry over child rearing, and often reminds me that I am doing a good job, and that my kids are fine.
Recently, she told me something so simple, yet so profound. She said, as long as children feel loved they will be OK.
She shared examples of all types of families, and pointed out that no matter what struggles they faced, whether they be monetary stress, divorce or illness, when the love for the children involved was strong enough, it could overcome most other difficulties.
It doesn’t matter if you feed your kids fast food or organic.
It doesn’t matter if they watch TV all day or not at all.
It doesn’t matter if you breastfed, bottle-fed or both.
It doesn’t matter if you buy them 10 gifts each birthday or one.
It doesn’t matter if they do five activities a week or none.
It doesn’t matter if you are a single mom, single dad, grandparent, adoptive family, a house with lots of kids or just one child.
It doesn’t matter if you are a free range, helicopter, or attachment parent.
It doesn’t matter if you send them to public school, private school, home school or if you unschool.
It doesn’t matter if your work in an office, out of your home or focus solely on caring for your kids.
What matters most is that our children feel truly loved.
I know “love” can be a loaded word. The word is subject to much interpretation, and my version might not look like yours. For me, love—at least when it comes to my children—means being able to answer “yes” to these questions.
Do my children feel like someone is always in their corner, fighting for them when needed?
Do my children feel safe? Not just physically safe, but emotionally safe? Safe enough to comfortably express their anger, sadness and fear?
Do my children feel worthy? Do they know their presence is a gift to the world?
And, if at any point, my children do not feel that way, I have to ask myself what I can do to let them know how much they truly matter, how much they are validated, how much they are loved.
Now, I’m not naive. I know love alone won’t put food on the table, but love will drive a mother to work that extra shift to feed her family.
I know love alone won’t stop kids from being bullied, but love will give parents the strength to fight for them.
I know love alone can’t change a diagnosis, but love motivates parents to advocate for their children.
I know love alone won’t fix a broken marriage, but love can help children feel secure even in an uncertain time.
I know some damage can not be healed. I know the effects of emotional, physical, and sexual abuse are so severe that love may not be enough. But, I do know in many cases, those souls who have suffered the most heinous of abuse were able to find their way toward healing because someone in their lives was in their corner, reminding them that they are loved and are worthy of love.
Parenting is one of the hardest gigs we can sign up for, and chances are we will screw up from time to time. Our children don’t need us to be perfect. They just need us to love them.
Because love matters most of all.
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