As the world welcomes the new royal baby, I feel tremendous empathy for Princess Kate. I was in the hospital delivering my second baby two weeks ago, and I’m still in throes of newborn parenthood. If you’ve never been a newborn parent, or if it’s been a few years, you may not know (or you may have forgotten) all of the self-doubt that new parents feel as they enter the world of parenthood. It all comes down to a seemingly simple question: would you like to screw up your kid?
I say that this is a seemingly simple question, because although the answer is obviously ‘no’, there is vigorous disagreement among parents and parenting experts (and who isn’t an expert these days?) about how a parent can screw up their child—on everything from childbirth to diapering to sleeping to feeding. Natural childbirth or pain medicine? Cloth diapers or disposable? Cry it out or co-sleep? Feed on demand or feed on schedule? No matter what choice you make, the more you read and research you’ll learn that parents and experts on each side of the debate are sure that their way is the only right way and that anyone who makes different choices will cause irreparable harm to their children, possibly verging on child abuse.
If these opinions were about TV shows, or fashion, or travel, that would be one thing, But instead, we’re talking about a small, helpless human being who depends completely on you. It’s a tremendous responsibility. And, as the parent of a newborn, you’re given this responsibility while exhausted, hormonal, and in pain from the trauma of childbirth.
So the next time you see the parent of a new baby, or think about Princess Kate, please be kind and don’t rush to judgment. We’re fighting to keep our eyes open, our sanity intact, and our children from being screwed up, and none of that is easy.