Doing It Right: What I Knew Before I Had Kids

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Welcome to the June 2013 Carnival of Natural Parenting:

Parenting in Theory vs. in Reality

This post was written for inclusion in the monthly Carnival of Natural Parenting hosted by Code Name: Mama and Hobo Mama. This month our participants are sharing how their ideas and methods of parenting have changed.

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Doing It Right: What I Knew Before I Had Kids at Natural Parents Network

Before I had children I knew, to the marrow of my bones, that I would do it right.

I was born to be a good mother.
A mother who was available, devoted and loving.
A mother who was always there, without question.
I would know how to soothe a crying baby. Though of course my babies would not cry very much.
And my babies would sleep.
Because I would do it right.

And my children would be kind, loving and well-behaved.
Interesting, popular and creative.
And they would get on – no sibling rivalry here.
Because I would do it right.

There was so much I would teach them.
I would pour every ounce of my hard-won wisdom and knowledge into them so that they could take the high road to enlightenment.

I had a lot of confidence in myself. And my power to make everything right.

This is the (unspoken) core belief of most yet-to-be parents: if I am a good person – which I am – then it will all be fine. Because I will be in control of it all. I WILL DO IT RIGHT.

And then pregnancy came.
And there were so many choices.
And so many variables outside of my control.
And it wasn’t just my opinions to consider but my husband’s . . .
And my parents’.
And his parents’.
And my university’s.
And his boss.
And the doctor.
And the three different midwives’.
And they all thought we should be sure to do it right.
But each of their “rights” looked very, very different.
For one it was multiple scans. For another the bare minimum.
For one it was home birth, for many others it was hospital birth or sure death . . .

And then my son was born.
And for a moment it was perfect.

Until he couldn’t latch on properly.
And my preconceived plan of doing it right was shot through.
I always knew I would breastfeed.
Exclusively.
And we tried and we tried.
And I cried and cried.
But on the second night I sent my husband out for formula.
Because “right” was keeping our child alive. Not values.
I nearly lost my doula friend forever over that.
I didn’t use the formula that night.
Or the next.

But already I had been humbled.
I now knew that I did not know. That I wasn’t in control.
That doing it right was not an easy path. Or a clear one.

I realised that in someone’s eyes I’d always be doing it wrong . . .
Even sometimes in my own.

Doing It Right: What I Knew Before I Had Kids at Natural Parents Network

My children were born with their own unique personalities.
For some reason they did not (always!) think I was the font of all wisdom.
Actually they wanted to do it their way.
And make mistakes.
And fall . . . even out of windows.
Even if I wanted to make sure they were always safe. I couldn’t.
They came in with their own unique anxieties that I couldn’t reason away.
And their own visions about what constituted a “good night’s sleep.”
And just how attached they felt they needed to be.
And the storm winds of post-natal depression rocked my boughs and threatened to unroot me.
I wasn’t the happy, doting perfect stay-at-home mother I was supposed to be.
I was impatient, bored and frustrated . . .

During the early years of motherhood I learned so much, so fast . . .
I learned that I’m not in control of many of the things I wished I was.
And that I’m responsible for lots of things I wish I wasn’t.
I learned that books do not have all the answers. Nobody does.
And that the important work goes on unnoticed, unheralded, in the midst of boring Sunday afternoons, and the early hours of Tuesday mornings or trips to the hospital. This is when my wisdom, my influence is imparted. When it is stripped of any sort of mama-propaganda and carefully-constructed wise lessons.
They learn from the fullness of me – my strengths (often ones I never thought were very important) and my weaknesses (things that I was previously able to whitewash out of my self image.)

I learned that society expects me to be perfect – but will be damned if it’s going to help or support me, even by widening doorways so my pram can fit in.

And I realised that the only game in town is the game of judging other parents and believing we could do it better.

Experts do it.
The government and health and education authorities do it.
The older generations do it.
Other parents do it.
Childless people do it.
The media whips up frenzies about it.

Sometimes we laugh at the stupidity of parents who should know better.
And sometimes we are outraged.
As though there were some perfect way. And the irresponsible individual just needs to learn better to do it right.

I still catch myself doing it sometimes. (Though I have gotten better.)
And I’m sure you do it too. Sometimes. (Maybe?)

But at least it is now tempered with the knowledge of just how hard a job it is.
And how many variables there are.
And how little we are really in control.
And just how different each family, each individual child is.
And that there really is no one “right way.”

So when a childless friend lets drop that I should do this or that.
Or that they would NEVER do it that way. I give the patient look, and laugh quietly inside, knowing, that one day too, they will taste their own judgement, will sense their own powerless in the midst of the most important work of their life. And they will remember their certainty with bashfulness.
And then they, too, will judge a little less.
And I will love them twice as much when they are struggling.
Because now they know, too.
There is no “right way.”
And none of us, not even our children, are perfect.
We are all doing what we can, with what we have, where we are.

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About the Author:

Lucy H. Pearce is author of Moon Time: A Guide to Celebrating Your Menstrual Cycle, a book that hundreds of women around the world have labelled “life-changing.” Her girls’ version, Reaching for the Moon, has just been published and is a soulful guide to the menstrual cycle for girls aged 9-14. Her second book, Moods of Motherhood, is a journey through the diverse emotional weather of motherhood, and according to one reader, “This book puts the mother, back in motherhood”. Her fourth book, The Rainbow Way: Cultivating Creativity in the Midst of Motherhood, will be published in November 2013 by SoulRock, featuring the voices of over 50 creative mothers including : Jennifer Louden, Julie Dalie, Pam England and Leonie Dawson. Get an abridged version when you sign up to the Dreaming Aloud mailing list. They are all available as paperbacks or ebooks from Amazon and other internet retailers. Signed copies are available from her at The Happy Womb.

The mother of three home-birthed children, now aged 7, 5 and 3, Lucy lives with her husband on the south coast of Ireland. She is contributing editor at JUNO magazine, and creator of The Happy Womb.com, for empowering women’s resources. She blogs on creativity, mindfulness and motherhood at Dreaming Aloud.net. She guest posts for a number of blogs including: Rhythm of the Home, Tiny Buddha, The Big Lunch and TreeSisters. She is a painter of lost archetypes of the feminine and leads inspiring women’s workshops.

Do follow Dreaming Aloud and The Happy Womb on Facebook, Pinterest and Twitter.

Photo Credits: Author

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Carnival of Natural Parenting -- Hobo Mama and Code Name: MamaVisit Code Name: Mama and Hobo Mama to find out how you can participate in the next Carnival of Natural Parenting!

Please take time to read the submissions by the other carnival participants (posts will be live and updated no later than afternoon on June 11):

  • My little gastronomes — “I’ll never cook a separate meal for my children,” Maud at Awfully Chipper vowed before she had children; but things didn’t turn out quite as she’d imagined.
  • Know Better, Do Better. Except When I Don’t. — Jennifer from True Confessions of a Real Mommy was able to settle in her parenting choices before her children arrived, but that doesn’t mean she always lives up to them.
  • Judgments Made Before Motherhood — Jennifer at Hybrid Rasta Mama looks back on her views of parents she came in contact with before she became a mother and how much her worldview of parenting has changed!
  • A Bend in The Road — Lyndsay at ourfeministplayschool writes about how her visions of homeschooling her son during the elementary school years have changed drastically in the last year – because HE wants to go to school.
  • I Wish Children Came with Instruction Manuals — While Dionna at Code Name: Mama loves reading about parenting, she’s not found any one book that counts as an instruction manual. Every child is different, every family is different, every dynamic is different. No single parenting method or style is the be-all end-all. Still, wouldn’t it be nice if parenting were like troubleshooting?
  • The Mistakes I’ve Made — Kate at Here Now Brown Cow laments the choices she made with her first child and explains how ditching her preconceived ideas on parenting is helping her to grow a happy family.
  • I Only Expected to Love… — Kellie at Our Mindful Life went into parenting expecting to not have all the answers. It turns out, she was right!
  • They See Me Wearin’, They Hatin’ — Erin Yuki at And Now, for Something Completely Different contemplates putting her babywearing aspirations into practice, and discussed how she deals with “babywearing haters.”
  • Parenting Human BeingsErika Gebhardt lists her parenting “mistakes,” and the one concept that has revolutionized her parenting.
  • Doing it right: what I knew before I had kids… — Lucy at Dreaming Aloud, guest posting at Natural Parents Network realises that the number one game in town, when it comes to parenting, is judgement about doing it right. But “doing it right” looks different to everybody.
  • A synopsis of our reality as first time parents — Amanda at My Life in a Nut Shell summarizes the struggles she went through to get pregnant, and how her daughter’s high needs paved the way for her and her husband to become natural parents.
  • Theory to Reality? — Jorje compares her original pre-kid ideas (some from her own childhood) to her personal parenting realities on MommaJorje.com.
  • The Princess Paradigm — Laura at Pug in the Kitchen had planned to raise her daughter in a sparkly, princess-free home, but in turn has found herself embracing the glitz.
  • Healthy Eating With Kids: Ideal vs. Real — Christy at Eco Journey In The Burbs had definite ideas about what healthy eating was going to look like in her family before she had kids. Little did she realize that her kids would have something to say about it.

10 Responses to Doing It Right: What I Knew Before I Had Kids

  1. Dionna  

    Simply beautiful, thank you for writing this.

  2. Stacy

    I love this…thank you so much. It is so true. I have done so many things I thought I would “never” do. I am learning every day.

  3. Darcel {The Mahogany Way}  

    Absolutely beautiful. You took me back to those first few days and months with my first. We think we know it all until we’re smack in the middle of parenthood.

  4. Maud  

    Oh, Lucy. That’s beautiful.

  5. Erika  

    Great post. Oh, the realities of motherhood smack us all in the face, don’t they? I have to remind myself, even upon women who make the opposite choices I’ve made, that we all love our children. There are many ways to skin a cat.

  6. Deb @ Living Montessori Now  

    What a beautiful post! I love your statement “They learn from the fullness of me” … that’s so true!

  7. Rachael  

    I like how you put it, that “doing it right” is neither an easy nor a clear path. As parents, we might not be doing things as we imagined. We might not be doing things perfectly, whatever that might mean. We might not be in control. But that doesn’t mean we’re not doing it right.

  8. Luschka  

    This made me laugh and cry at the same time. Beautiful!

  9. Lauren  

    That photo with the big sweater is heart-melting. I couldn’t stop gazing at that beautiful smile.

    What a lovely, truthful post, Lucy! Thank you. The line that struck me the most was “I realised that in someone’s eyes I’d always be doing it wrong” — somehow, that seems freeing to me. Then there’s no stress about trying to convince everyone; just continue on your path.

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