In the beginning of Genesis, G‑d creates man and woman, placing them in paradise. G‑d tells them that they can eat from all the trees they see, except for two: the tree of knowledge and the tree of life. As you probably know, woman and then man both eat from the forbidden tree of knowledge, and their utopian world comes to an end. Both are “cursed” with mortality, and there are several other repercussions as well.

I put “cursed” in quotes, because G‑d Utopian world comes to an enddoesn’t just mete out random punishments in reaction to our bad deeds. He simply allows us to suffer our own consequences. It’s just like if a baby were to touch a hot stove as his mother exclaims, “No!”—and then he burns his hand. The baby might feel that he was punished, because he doesn’t understand the connection between cause and effect. All he knows is he was yelled at and then he got hurt. But any older child or adult understands that the yell was a warning, and the pain just a natural consequence of his actions.

There’s a lot to say about all of the consequences and how they were related to man and woman’s actions. But I specifically want to talk about woman’s “curses,” most of which had to do with her children. Whereas prior to this point the process of creating and raising a child was meant to be painless, after eating from the tree of knowledge, woman was “cursed” with pain throughout the entire process—from pregnancy through seeing that baby into adulthood, and perhaps even after that, as well.

The first step toward understanding this is to figure out what the woman’s motive was in eating from the tree of knowledge. Sure, the snake convinced her—but why did the snake succeed? What made the fruit the least bit tempting to her? It obviously wasn’t hunger, as there were plenty of other trees to eat from. And while it’s true that “forbidden fruit always tastes sweeter,” why was she enticed by the tree of knowledge as opposed to the equally forbidden tree of life? And then there’s another question: Why did the snake choose to go after woman instead of man? What made her a particularly good target?

At this point in time, the roles of man and woman were almost the same. Neither had to earn a living or run a household. All their needs were provided for, and they were free to roam around and generally enjoy themselves. The single difference was that the woman knew that she was made to be a mother. She would be the one to bring the future generations to life. And if you have ever been in the position of getting ready for parenthood, you can imagine the single thought going through her mind: “But I have no clue what I’m doing.”

So along comes the snake, while woman is pondering the matter. He starts arguing that the woman should eat from the forbidden fruit. The woman resists, until the snake comes up with the brilliant argument, “When you eat of this tree . . . you will know what’s right and what’s wrong.”The woman knew that she was made to be a mother

How tempting. After all, if she’s to be the mother of all mankind, surely G‑d wants her to know what she’s doing. No mother wants to feel like she’s messing up her children. Can you imagine the pressure on the mother of every child that would ever exist? So she eats from the tree.

But after she eats, G‑d has some news for her. He says, “Because you ate . . . I will increase your sorrow . . . in pain you shall bear children.” G‑d was telling the woman, “You don’t understand. I gave you the ability to create and raise children. You are capable, and it is not a matter of right and wrong. If you think there is a right and wrong way to conceive, birth, and raise your children, you will suffer every step of the way.”

As helpful as it may be to research successful methods other parents have used—from deciding when to have a baby to launching your kids from the nest—it is a tragic and painful mistake when you believe there is an absolute right and wrong way of doing things. If you are trying your best, you’re doing great.

Not only does the idea of the “perfect parenting method” cause unnecessary pain and pressure for the parent who can’t live up to those “ideals,” the fact is that there is no such thing. Every child is different and every parent is different. Children change throughout their childhood, and so do parents. Life changes, circumstances change, and it’s ridiculous to say, “These are the rules. This is right—do this often. This is wrong—if you do this, you’ll handicap your children for life. Follow these steps and everything will be perfect.” On the contrary, the Torah tells us, “Chanoch la-naar al pi darko”—educate each child according to his way, his unique needs.1

Again, not all information is bad. Certainly, it’s necessary to find out what could actually be dangerous for your child, and it can be helpful to learn from other parents when you’re not sure what to do. But you cannot let other people’s rules and ideas of raising children completely override your intuition and your own sense of what your child needs. Even if something is objectively ideal, that doesn’t mean it’s ideal for you and your child.

Does it matter if your child’s IQ is a few points higher later in life, if during his first year or two you were too exhausted from breastfeeding to care for any of his other needs? Is it really ideal to be with your kids all day, if you personally feel bored and irritable when you don’t have alone time or a professional life? And the opposite is also true, of course. It can be helpful to learn from other parentsNot everyone feels negatively affected by nursing, and not everyone wants a career. To say that one thing is “right” and the rest “wrong” doesn’t make sense. Every situation is unique, and a parent usually knows, once all the static of what everyone else says is put aside, what is right for his or her child.

But you know what? Maybe you don’t always know. And that’s okay too. Messing up is part of life. You don’t always get everything right in any realm of life, and certainly not in something so complex and delicate as raising a child. But put this idea of “right” and “wrong” out of your head. Do your best, do a little research or ask advice when you’re completely clueless, but generally trust yourself and do what you know you need to do. Hopefully, if we can learn to do this, we can free ourselves a little from the confusion and subsequent suffering that comes along with parenthood, and actually loosen up enough to enjoy the ride.


Note: The sentiments expressed in this article are in reference to parents who are truly concerned about their children’s wellbeing and are not, G‑d forbid, doing anything to harm or abuse them. Someone with abusive tendencies, or someone with a history of unhealthy relationships that have led him or her to develop skewed views of how people, and specifically children, should be treated should definitely seek help and advice in order to learn what is safe and acceptable behavior toward children.