How to Be a Good Parent . . . And a Good Person

June 14th, 2013

Okay, that’s a big claim, but, trust me: this is the parenting advice to end all parenting advice. It’s something I’ve touched on before, but I felt like talking about it again. Because it matters.

Ready?

Whatever gender you are, decide what you want to do–stay at home with the kids, go back to work part time, go back to work full time, have one kid, five kids, no kids, etc–and do it wholeheartedly, without worrying about what other people think of the choices you’ve made and without–this is the biggie–feeling like if your choice is right, other people’s choices are wrong.

I mean, seriously, what’s up with all the criticism? We’re all in this together. The choices aren’t easy. We want to be with our kids and we want to succeed in our careers. We want to be the best parents we can be and we want to earn a living and be intellectually stimulated. Sometimes these desires conflict with each other and we have to make difficult decisions. You know what helps? The advice and support of other people who’ve also faced those difficult decisions. You know what doesn’t help? The derision and condemnation of those who’ve made decisions that were different from yours.

Make the choice that’s right for you. I have friends who work full time, friends who work part time, friends who are home with their kids full time, and friends who (like me) manage to work at home. Different choices for different people. Not better or worse choices. Different ones. And I promise you, you can’t tell the good mothers from the bad ones by the choices they make.

Of course, you need to be thoughtful and active as a parent, no matter what path you take. If you’re going to hire a nanny, search for the best one.  Same goes for daycare or preschool or anything like that: make sure you’re choosing the best you possibly can, and I don’t mean spending the most money you can. That’s not what determines who or what is best. Put the time and effort into research and interview and compare . . . oh, and not just you. Your partner should be just as active in making these decisions.

And whether you spend all day every day with your kids or only a few hours on weekdays and a bunch more hours on the weekend–or whatever your schedule is–make those good hours. Be present, be loving, be involved, be interested. Let your kids show you what their interests are and let those guide your time together. Love them but set clear rules and limits. Be their wonderful, loving parent. And then go to the office and kick ass if you want to. Or don’t go, if you don’t want to. Your life, your call. Just make the choice that feels best to you.

If we all just agree that the important thing is to be good, caring parents, and all the other choices are private and individual, then we can support each other wholeheartedly, admire each other’s successes–at the office and at home–and stop feeling like we have to tear each other down to feel good about ourselves. It’s insecurity about our own decisions that makes us so quick to attack other people’s. With security comes confidence, and with confidence comes acceptance. But it’s hard to be secure if anyone’s attacking you.

So if your friend decides to leave her job, tell her she’s amazing and wonderful and brave and–if she has kids–a terrific mother. And if your friend decides to go out and get a job, tell her she’s amazing and wonderful and brave and–if she has kids–a terrific mother.  Tell a stranger the same things.

Because if all of us  start celebrating our different choices and supporting each other in them as much as possible and stop looking for reasons to criticize, then we’ll be able to to unite to fight our real enemies: anyone who would deny women equal pay for doing equal work or who wants to take away our reproductive freedoms or deny us the right to love whom we please. Those villains probably sit back and chuckle when people criticize each other’s parenting, because they know that once we stop bickering and unite, we are so going to kick their asses.

Now go off and be fabulous. And kind.

Two of the best mothers I ever met. One worked outside the home; the other didn't.

Two of the best mothers I’ve ever known. One worked outside the home; the other didn’t.

On a completely different note, please check out the article I wrote for the Wall Street Journal, which was published today.

And on a different different note, the Kindle edition of THE TROUBLE WITH FLIRTING is currently on sale for $1.99.  I believe the sale only lasts for about one more week, so buy it while it’s cheap. Or wait and pay more–I’m good with that too!

Love you all . . .

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