Remember growing up, when we had our Easy-Bake Ovens? If we followed those recipes to a tee, we would put those little trays in the oven and come out with a perfect cake.
After the birth of our first child, Jolie, Mike and I thought, “Wow, wouldn’t it be great if there were a recipe for the perfect kid?” So that, 18 years later, we could look back knowing we did it all right? Well, I am here to break the news to y’all…it doesn’t exist. And lately, I’ve started to think: Do I even want it to?
Like many moms, when I learned I was having a baby, I went out and did some research. It’s only logical; we learn that, if we want to do something well in life, we need to prepare. Before shows, I sound check, I rehearse and I ensure I have done all I can to control the outcome. Wouldn’t I do that with what might be the most important job of my life.
Along with that research comes advice. Some you ask for, some you don’t. Regardless, there is never a shortage of advice for parents. Home birth, hospital birth, natural or drugs? And then when the baby comes: To swaddle or not to swaddle? These are really nagging questions that, when asked, lend themselves to hundreds of thousands of opinions. Let me say that, when advice is solicited, receiving it can be comforting, helpful and sometimes life-changing. But what happens when we receive advice we didn’t ask for?
Recently, I posted a photo on my social media pages. I, like many moms, famous or not, enjoy sharing my life. It makes me feel like I am a part of a community. It allows me, when on the road, to update my close friends and family in one quick exchange, rather than making multiple calls and sending several texts. It’s 2016, and it’s simply how we communicate at times. I posted an image of my husband and I purchasing baby food with a simple caption: “And it begins #babyfood.” Simple, right? Well, perhaps not so simple.
In response, people posted comments like, “Make your own. It’s cheaper and way healthier ;)” and “You can always make your own. … To do what’s right for your baby don’t listen to anybody else’s opinion.”
There is so much tension around what we feed our children these days. Breast milk or formula? Well, like so many moms I didn’t have that option. Shame on me #1: I could only offer Jolie a bottle. She is now 4 months, and I am happy to say she’s doing just fine, despite the lack of breast milk.
Now that it’s time to move on to food, like many parents, I went to the grocery store. So many choices, so many flavors and so many prices. I picked what I felt was right for me and my daughter. Shame on me #2: Did you know that we are now expected to birth our children, nurse our children and then make their baby food from scratch?
Hmmm, maybe I should also farm the fruits and vegetables? I should wake early, tend to the garden, get on the tour bus, go to sound check, pick my produce, puree the food, freeze it and then feed Jolie, hit the stage—and do it all over again after only a few hours’ sleep. Oh, and while we are at it, lets be pretty and sexy, as well.
I understand that the example I’ve given above is extreme—yes, I am trying to make a point here. The point is do what’s best for you. Do what you can with what you have. At the end of the day, I hope for one thing and one thing only: That my child can grow to be healthy and happy. That when she turns 18, she is kind. That she has values, that she knows right from wrong and that never in her adult life does she shame someone for trying to do their best with what they have.
A recipe for the perfect child can never exist, and that’s because being human means we are all different. There will never be the same parent doing the same things for the same child. Every parent and child differs, and in those differences are those beautiful, unique traits that make us who we are—and that makes us all so special. And I hope when Jolie is 18 and looks back, she knows that.
I do want to end by addressing not only the shamers but also my brave and amazing fans who stood up to them. It’s easy to throw stones behind a computer, but it’s not so easy to stand up to the bullying. I love you all. Let’s continue to share our journeys together. Us moms, we need all the help we can get.
Jana Kramer is country singer, songwriter and actress who lives in Nashville with her husband and daughter.