Motherhood Smotherhood by JJ Keith

“Motherhood Smotherhood” by JJ Keith

This article originally appeared in the Jewish Journal. View Original.

Granted, some of it is plain envy — my bewilderment at parents who don’t have a scrap of doubt about what’s good for their children. The certainty starts at conception and carries on through the mother’s pregnancy and the child’s infancy, through preschool and elementary and high school, into the choice of college and career and even marriage.

So what if these parents can’t necessarily get the child to follow their advice? At least they have the luxury of knowing they’re right. They may prove to be wrong once or twice, but probably no more than any other parent. And anyway, people like that hardly ever recognize their own part in creating a debacle. With them, it’s usually someone else’s fault that things didn’t work out as they should. I bet that beats all the second-guessing that’s the plight of people like me.

So, yes, some of it is envy. I never knew what I was doing as a parent and still don’t. The few “facts” I was certain of in the beginning — that I stuck by and enforced despite the advice of my parents and at the insistence of our first pediatrician — proved to be entirely false. That pediatrician has since passed, and his “facts” have been debunked by subsequent generations of parenting experts, but my husband and I are still here, holding the bag full of guilt that only becomes heavier with time. The longer you’re a parent, the more chances you have to get it wrong.

And this thing they tell you in therapy, about being a good-enough parent, is rubbish, unless good enough means making sure the kid doesn’t starve or die of exposure. Even that — preventing sudden or slow death — isn’t as simple as you might think. I used to put my kids face-down in their cribs because the pediatrician and nurses at the hospital said it was the only way to prevent death by asphyxiation; nowadays, they insist that laying babies face-down causes death by asphyxiation. I took my kids outdoors to the park and the beach all the time; got them vaccinated; gave them water on hot days. Then I was told that daylight causes cancer, vaccines may cause autism, and water …

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