Raising a Happy Baby Is Not That Important

Sasha Brown-Worsham

When I first had my babies and brought them home, the overwhelming sense I had the first two days was "I have not messed up yet." I was obsessed with not having them ever see a television, never letting anything non-organic touch their lips, and generally being a perfect parent and raising perfectly happy children.

Within two weeks, I knew I wanted the impossible. And almost five years later, I am a mom who strives for the best, but falls short an awful lot, too. I love them, but they get boo-boos and I don't always get there in time to stop them. I have given up hovering at the playground and become more comfortable with my kids dealing with discomfort. It turns out, I was wrong in the first place. Obsessively keeping our kids from unhappiness is actually harming them.

Writer Lori Gottlieb addresses this issue in The Atlantic and her ideas are nothing short of revolutionary. Maybe our obsession with our kids' constant happiness and perfection and "uniqueness" is hurting them.

College professors say they receive calls from irate parents, bosses in the work world are getting calls from recent grads' parents, and every child at the playground comes with a hovering parent who is trying to negotiate their social situations and make sure little Timmy gets HIS turn with the fire truck. We aren't letting our kids grow up and they, in turn, aren't becoming self-sufficient, independent, and yes, HAPPY people.

I know all this because it's my tendency, too. I get sick with worry over all that my children will face as they grow. I worry about bullying, sadness, and fear. I worry about all the things that any new mom dreads as she holds her perfect little baby in her arms. When they're so small, they cry when they're hungry because in that moment, it's the most discomfort they've ever felt.

When you're holding your new baby, all those things feel so far away, but the sad truth is these babies grow up before our eyes. You may not need to worry right this second, but in a few months, you may also start to think your child is "gifted" or that she has some kind of learning disability. According to Gottlieb, "average" has become a dirty word. Parents would rather attribute their child's performance in school to "learning differences" than to just being normal and average. 

Parents of babies, I would implore you: Stop this now. You will save yourself enormous heartache if you just do what feels right with your babe. If she cries, pick her up. If she is hungry, feed her. If breastfeeding is working out, awesome. If not, don't stress yourself to death the way I've seen so many moms do.

We all want happy kids, but sometimes in our effort to protect them from any harm, we take away the experiences that actually make that happen. Life hurts sometimes. Kids get bullied, knees get skinned. It happened to all of us and we (most of us, anyway) grew into intelligent, HAPPY adults, right? So let's not take that away from our kids. Sometimes it's the bad stuff that makes the good stuff better.

Do you freak out over your baby's happiness?


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