Here’s an understatement: first-time parenting can be daunting. The overwhelming responsibility many of us feel to “get it right” motivates us to seek child care information and advice. The good news is that we’ve already proven we have the basic requirement for good parenting – we care enough to ask questions.
Then we discover the work of child care experts or methodologies like Attachment Parenting and the RIE approach that intrigue and inspire us. Or, maybe we’re influenced by friends and family who convince us that certain child care practices are “the way”. Regardless, the advice we receive should support our instincts and intuition, while also being practical. It has to work for us and our baby, make our lives easier or at least less complicated. Never is child-rearing advice meant to be adhered to so rigidly that it binds and blinds us, causes self-judgment and guilt (as if parents needed more reasons to feel those things). Nor should it interfere with the most valuable child care practice of all – tuning in to and understanding our babies in order to provide the individualized care they need.
I recently received a note from a mom who feels like a failure. Yet all I saw when I read this was that she is doing the most important thing — listening to her baby. I share her story because it illustrates some affirming lessons, primarily: ditch the guilt!
I came across your blog today, and I just wanted to say that I love it! As a new mom (my baby is now 1) there hasn’t been a day where I did not experience guilt at least once each day. I am one of those parents that attempted to follow the Attachment Parenting theories, but have pretty much failed miserably. I really appreciate what you have said about parents not feeling guilty.
I suppose my first failure was in babywearing. I tried to babywear with my daughter, but she just wasn’t interested in being confined like that. She liked me to hold her a lot, but she wanted to be able to get down and move at the drop of a hat. I’ve since given up on babywearing, but not without feeling like a failure.
Though I breastfeed, I also don’t immediately pick her up when she falls or bumps her head and let her nurse. I generally don’t help her up either, because she gets it! And when she gets it, she looks so proud! She’s very independent. She’s so curious. And she doesn’t mind being put in the playpen for awhile. She’ll stay in there and play by herself for a good hour at a time. I am able to get lots done during that time. But I still feel so guilty. Don’t the good Attachment parents entertain and play with their babies all the time? I just don’t see how that can be done. She seems to like to explore and do things by herself.
As for “crying it out” (I read a few articles that mentioned that) — I really hate that. I tried out those “no cry” sleep books. But I have allowed my baby to cry at bedtime a few times and feel like a failure as an Attachment parent. Every day that goes by, I just realize that I am not that kind of parent at all. Yet, I am not mainstream, either. (And why does “mainstream” have to be a dirty word?) Every day I just wish, “Why can’t I just be? Why can’t I just be….a parent?”
I have noticed that crying hasn’t really bothered her, and she generally doesn’t do it for very long. In the past few months, we’ve tried the wait and see approach. I’ll admit, it’s so hard and drives me bonkers most of the time. But we’ve been doing it.
I really just appreciate how you talk about parenting without guilt. I really wish I could do that! I don’t want to try to be an Attachment parent anymore. I don’t want to be mainstream. I don’t want to be instinctual, crunchy or (insert word here.) I just want to be a mom to my baby.
Thank you for your words. And if you take the time to read this, thank you for listening to me vent!
Best wishes in all of your future endeavors.
Here’s my advice to you, dear Kristi: Shake these trees of child care advice, research and wisdom. Gather what works and happily leave the rest. Be your authentic self — the unique, evolving, imperfect human being your child needs to know, learn from, grow with, and may have even chosen (if you believe in those things as I do). And keep following your excellent instincts to pay attention, to observe, wait, listen, and honor your daughter’s abilities. The one label none of us can lose is “instinctual,” and that’s a good thing.
Please share your impressions and experiences…
Photo by Perfecto Insecto on Flickr.