Friday, March 1, 2013

Go with the flow parenting

I think every mother could write their own parenting book... Problem is, probably nothing in it would work for anyone else. Every family is different. Even every child is different in the same family.

That's why I've decided on my own parenting theory. It's called Go With The Flow. Otherwise known as forget-what-anyone-else-thinks-and-do-what-works theory.

In my head I've run the gamut if parenting styles and theories. One day I literally read what must have been about 50 parenting articles online from cry it out to natural parenting and attachment theory. By the end I couldn't think straight, and if I'd tried to follow them all both The Bubs and I would have had nervous break downs within the week. It's like when you mix every single paint colour together - what started off as a pretty, vibrant colours ends up a big blob of goo. That was my brain.

The thing is, I could find something to relate to in every single theory. Something about all of them made sense.

And that's where the bottom line is - the parts that made sense were down to common sense.

So I've stopped reading parenting articles. And I've stopped worrying about what other people will think if I tell them I do or don't co-sleep/sleep train/do tummy time/baby wear/use a dummy/insert highly charged issue here.

I just do what works. Especially in those early few months where it seems your baby is changing minute by minute before your eyes. Why kill yourself worrying about what your baby 'should' be doing when it's likely everything will have changed by tomorrow anyway?

It should go without saying that you and your baby should be safe and getting fundamental needs met like love, food and sleep - but with common sense applied, I don't care if your baby sleeps in a cot, bassinet, sling, your bed or a flower pot like a little Anne Geddes model. If your baby sleeps, well done.

If you give it a chance, instinct takes over. I don't know where it comes from, but somehow it's in there how to take care of my baby. You learn it subtly by just being with your baby. Osmosis or something.

I mean, I'm no parenting expert. I've only had one baby so far and she's only 3 months old. But I've got something no 'expert' has. I know MY baby. And you've got that knowledge too, of yours.

Honestly it probably helps to NOT read too much. I read everything, my husband read nothing, and somedays he's even better at reading The Bub's cues than I am.

So if you're a new mum here's what I recommend...

....put the book down. A few tips might work but almost no baby will go 'by the book'. Getting too coaught up in 'But the book says...' short circuits your own instincts. You end up feeling like you are stuck with one style. I remember liking a lot of things about attachment parenting, but then I would feel guilty if I got sick of having my baby in a sling and wanted to put her down. Until I realised - hey, I didn't sign a contract. No one is making me do this. I can pick and choose!

....close that worry inducing Internet forum. Other mothers will be opinionated. And they will exaggerate. When it seems like everyone else's babies are sleeping through the night.... trust me, they're the vocal minority.

....install a zip in well meaning relatives mouths. Ok, so it's maybe hard to do this one. But at least try and stuff your ears with imaginary cotton wool. Nod and smile. Nod and smile. And then go about your day.

And just try to enjoy this time. They really are only this little for such a short time - I already can barely remember The Bubs when she was all floppy and newborn size, and I already miss how she fit so snugly against my chest while she slept there instead of in her cot.

I do appreciate the irony of writing a parenting post to say stop reading parenting posts! But I guess what my point is, is not so much to never read anything, but to not get so caught up in going by the book or comparing yourself with others.

Surround yourself with people who encourage and affirm you, and make you feel confident in your instinct and abilities as a mother - or father - no matter what your 'style'.

Don't miss out on such a precious time out of fear and worry and guilt. There's plenty of time for those feelings when they are teenagers...

What's the best parenting advice you've been given? How do you deal with the opinions and unsolicited advice of others? I'd love to hear your stories!

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