Modern Parenting Is Defined By Fear

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Woman FearThere are times after I put my daughter to bed, when I’m sitting around for an hour of quiet time and a good book, that I am honestly terrified about my parenting decisions. I sit there, thinking about discipline, schooling or religion and am legitimately scared that I’m making the wrong choices.

When it comes to parenting, I look for advice and insight everywhere, not just because it’s my job to talk about it. I consult writers that I respect, family members that I admire and friends that I trust. With all of them, I hope to gain more knowledge that will help me raise a strong, confident and intelligent child.

During one of these conversations with my mother, where I was asking her advice about learning aids and developmental markers, I had another thought. Suddenly, I blindsided my mother by asking, “Were you ever afraid of making the wrong decision?”

My mom, who I respect more than any woman I’ve ever met, thought for only a few seconds before she said, “No. When you were teenagers, I was afraid of what trouble you would get into. But definitely not when you were little. I was never worried.”

To me, this is a fundamental difference between the previous generation and mothers today. Today, I feel like we parent in the age of fear.

Modern parenting choices seem constantly up for debate. We have parenting theories that depend on being mildly over-the-top to get attention and press. Whether it’s attachment parenting, Tiger Mothering, bringing up a “bebe,” or a combination of the three, we try to find a dogma that fits our personalities and then cling to it, hoping to give our choices structure and support.

I think that this fear is part of the reason that parenting discussions today contain so much vitriol and personal attacks. We’re all so insecure about our decisions that we feel the need to defend them loudly in the public arena. We want to amass support for our choices so that we feel justified in our actions. We aren’t convincing others for the sake of helping other moms, we’re convincing ourselves that we made the right call.

I’m not excluding myself from this. I discuss discipline with other parents because I worry about teaching my child manners and human decency. I write about co-parenting after divorce because it helps me to know that other people share my struggles and empathize with my position. And I know that we all get defensive about our own choices because we don’t want to consider that we might have made the wrong one, and inadvertently harmed our children.

Motherhood today is full of fear. From what you should eat during pregnancy to how long you have to breastfeed, we all want instruction. We want to know how it’s done. But all of these tips and discussions have led to parents that inherently question their own natural instincts. We don’t trust ourselves anymore.

I’m not advocating that mothers should be discussing parenthood less. I don’t think that the key to regaining our confidence is less knowledge. But I do hope that moms learn how to listen to their own opinions. I hope that we recognize each family’s differences and agree that different parenting styles work for different families.

Personally, I hope to learn another important lesson from my own mom. I want to grow to trust my mom voice. I want to remember that I’ve always done what I thought was best for my little girl. As long as I continue to do so, she’ll grow up to be the person that she’s meant to be, the person she wants to be.

There are a million ways to raise a child, but the only one that matters is the one that works for you. And there’s nothing to fear as long as you’re doing what’s best for your family. Hopefully, when moms get more confident in their own choices, they’ll be less likely to attack others for making different ones.


  1. Taz

    March 19, 2012 at 1:55 pm

    The funny thing is that everyone wants to raise confident kids who are free to explore and do things their own way and try their best and make mistakes and try again…we should all want the same for ourselves! I have a 2 month old and have been noticing a lot of attempts to undermine my confidence and judge my decisions (and attempts to get me to discuss my personal decisions and details about my birth, how I feed my baby, ect). and I just won’t have any part of it and refuse to hold on to feelings of guilt about things that don’t matter in the long run at all. My parenting mantra whenever my mom or in-laws or mom-friends comment on a minor parenting decision (for example how boiling hot or freezing cold my baby must be in any given outfit) is…”Why don’t you call CPS about it” if that seems silly you’re doing a pretty good job.

  2. Annie

    March 19, 2012 at 7:27 pm

    I loved this. In this age of information, it’s easy to lose sight of parenting by your own instincts. But maybe there’s fear in that as well, because if the kids don’t turn out well, there’s no one to blame but ourselves? I do find that my husband and I tend to use our parents’ methods that we agree with, and change the things we didn’t like after talking with friends/family and reading.

  3. The Mommy Psychologist

    March 19, 2012 at 7:52 pm

    Here’s the deal: you will make mistakes. You will make lots of them over and over again. I’ve accepted this and it makes parenting much easier. There’s not a perfect way to parent and I will screw my child up. I might be too attached or not attached enough, too lenient or too strict, show too much affection or not enough affection, spend too much time away or spend too much time with them….blah, blah, blah. Are you getting my point? There is absolutely no way to get through parenting without giving our child some type of “issue.” But, it’s alright. The only reason we are so hyper aware of this is because of amount of power we have given our own parents over who we have become. All we can do for our kids is love them and do the best we can. We can’t do better than our best.

    “The child psychologist who thought she had all the answers to parenting until she became one herself.”

  4. LiteBrite

    March 20, 2012 at 1:26 pm

    Unfortunately, we live in a fear-based culture, so there isn’t much we can do except what we think is right. I try to let my instincts guide me when parenting, but it’s still hard not to question what I’m doing. Am I yelling at my kid too much? Not enough? Am I allowing him to explore his creative, free-spirited side or stifling it? Is he ready for more independence? Will he burn the house down if I let him operate the toaster?

    There is a book I want to read called “I was a Great Mom Until I had Kids.” The title alone describes my feeling on parenting sometimes.

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