So far, my blog posts have been about pregnancy, birth, or the newborn specifically. Today I want to talk to you about parenting. As a parent, you will discover that everyone wants to give you advice on how they think you should parent. Your mom may tell you one thing, while your grandmother tells you yet another. The nice old lady at church will give you her opinion as will the stranger in the grocery store. Social media is full of women telling each other how they parent better than someone else. Not to mention the play groups that you may find yourself involved in. So as a mother of two adult boys and one 10 year old, I am going to tell you how to deal with this. Some of this is aimed for those who are experiencing their first pregnancy, but if you are already a parent, stick around. I have some special tips for everyone towards the end.
#1 Research Everything
This may sound like a lot of work, but research every thing you can about pregnancy, birth, and parenting while you are pregnant and have the “free” time. Research diet, midwives, doulas, water birth, epidurals, IV pain meds. Learn about the eye ointment, the Pitocin/epidural spiral, delayed cord clamping, vitamin K. Find out more about placenta encapsulation, breastfeeding, lactation consultants, gut flora in babies, skin to skin contact. Study up on Cesareans, VBACs, circumcision, and vaccination. Investigate car seat safety and the best car seats. Research the different natural childbirth methods and different parenting methods. Learn about the different methods of schooling.
Why am I giving you such a big task? Because you should know not just what you to do as a parent, but why you want to do it. You should never do something because “everyone does it this way”, because your mom did it this way, because your best friend did it that way. There are so many choices out there on everything that you want to be comfortable with what you decide. People will try to talk you out of your decisions. They might tell you that you are a bad mom, question the safety of your child. But once you have done your research, you can know that you are doing what you feel is best for your family.
#2 Go with your gut.
Know that it is ok to change your mind. Parenting is an ever evolving process. You will make bad decisions. It is ok. Learn from your mistakes.
I had my oldest son when I was 18. I felt very insecure about my parenting, so I let people bully me into trying to parent him the way that they thought I should. The more I learned to accept him as he was and learn who he was as a person, not only did I become a better parent, but he became a better kid. By the time my third kid came around, I parented with a much more intuitive approach. We have had a lot less discipline problems as a result.
#3 Don’t let anyone shame you.
They will try. But if you have done your research, you can be confident in your choices. It is nobody’s business how you birth, parent, etc if you are doing what you know to be what is best for you and your child. On the reverse, don’t shame others for trying to make the best decisions that they can for their family. Use tact when trying to share information that you think others will benefit from.
I had a pretty unsatisfactory birthing experience with my oldest. My first doula experience was pretty horrific as well. You can read more about those in Why I Became a Midwife. Once I took Bradley classes and learned more about natural childbirth and started studying to be a midwife, I was amazed at how wonderful birth could actually be. It became my own little mission field. I wanted everyone to have a beautiful home birth. Or at least a natural one. I went around telling everyone why they should do it “my’ way. I told them what was wrong with their birth stories, what could have been better, what the doctor did wrong, how they could have it better next time.
Breastfeeding was similar. I had been given horrible breastfeeding advice from nurses and doctors. We struggled some because of the drugs in his system after the birth. We didn’t nurse for the first time until the following day. My son and I struggled for 6 months before he decided that he was done trying to nurse. I learned a lot more about breastfeeding and my next experience was cake in comparison. That labor was drug free and he latched easily right away. I practiced a more intuitive approach to breastfeeding and it went so much better. So I started recommending better breastfeeding books to women struggling, told them that doctors don’t know as much about it as they should, tried to convince women that if they learned more, tried harder, they could have a beautiful breastfeeding relationship as well.
I was so gung ho about my beliefs that I invalidated other women’s experiences. I didn’t listen to them, but was frequently trying to tell them what they could do better. (If I ever did this to anyone reading this, I deeply apologize.). Don’t be like me. No one wants to be told that they are doing “it” wrong. I have since learned to keep my mouth shut. People know that I am a midwife. If they want my help, if they want to know what they can do different, they can come ask me for help. I don’t need to force my opinions on them.
#4 Don’t be overly sensitive.
Keep in mind that while some people will try to shame you, some are just idiots like me. They are really passionate about their topic and they really just want everyone to have a great experience like I did. Give them some grace, but also feel free to tell them to back off.
#5 For Parents of 2 or more boys
Don’t listen to parenting advice from people with less than 2 boys. Little girls play and interact differently than boys. Families that have one boy and one or more girls don’t get that same experience that two boys have. Even parents with just one boy do not have the wisdom needed from raising a bunch of boys. I learned very quickly that other family dynamics do not understand the relationship that brothers have. They were quick to judge and give impractical advice. When I was a midwifery student, I met a client of my preceptor’s that had 6 boys. I instantly felt like she was a woman that I could take advice from because she understood what I was experiencing.
Raising boys has taught me how different they are from me. It has also helped teach me that my brothers were normal after all and not as dysfunctional as I had thought growing up. Boys are great fun though and I have the best ones. I have learned to not try to play with them the way that I would have played with my sisters.
I hope that this note did not overwhelm you. I am hoping that you take this in the spirit that it is intended. After seeing some things on social media lately, I just wanted to reach out and say, “Hey, you are a good mom. I see you and know that you are trying your best. That is all that any of us can do.” Good luck on your journey and be kind to yourself as you parent.
What advice helped you as a new parent? Did you like what you read? Please subscribe at the top to hear more on my thoughts about pregnancy, birth, and parenting. Having a rough day parenting and need support? Feel free to reach out to me. I don’t always know what to say, but I will try to send some positive or helpful thoughts your way. Want to know more about birthing with Comforts of Home Midwifery? Contact me for more info.