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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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
Photo Credits: Author
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 Beings — Erika 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.
- How to deal with unwanted parenting advice — Tat at Mum in Search thought that dealing with unwanted parenting advice would be a breeze. It turned out to be one of her biggest challenges as a new mum.
- How I trained my 43 month old in 89 days! — Becky at Old New Legacy used to mock sticker charts, until they became her best friend in the process of potty training.
- My Double Life: Scheduling with Twins — Mercedes at Project Procrastinot was banging her head against the wall trying to keep up with the plan she made during pregnancy, until she let her babies lead the way.
- Parenting in the land of compromise — As a holistic health geek trying to take care of her health issues naturally, Jessica at Crunchy-Chewy Mama regrets that her needs sometimes get in the way of her children's needs.
- Practice Makes Good, Not Perfect — Rachael at The Variegated Life comes to see that through practice, she just might already be the parent she wants to be.
- 3 Dangerous Myths about Parenting and Partnering: How to Free Yourself and Your Family — Sheila Pai at A Living Family shares in theory (blog) and reality (video) how she frees herself from 3 Dangerous Myths about Parenting and Partnering that can damage the connection, peace and love she seeks to nurture in her relationships with family and others.
- 5 Things I Thought MY Children Would Never Do — Luschka at Diary of a First Child largely laughs at herself and her previous misconceptions about things her children would or wouldn't do, or be allowed to do.
- Policing politeness — Lauren at Hobo Mama rethinks a conviction she had about modeling vs. teaching her children about courtesy.
- The Before and The After: Learning about Parenting — Amy at Me, Mothering, and Making it All Work reminisces about the perspective she held as a young adult working with children (and parents) . . . before she became a mother.
- Parenting Beliefs: Becoming the Parent You Want to Be — Mandy at Living Peacefully with Children discusses how we can make a mindful decision to become the parent we want to be. Decisions we make affect who we will become.
- The Great Breastfeeding Debacle — In Lisa at The Squishable Baby's mind, breastfeeding would be easy.
- What my daughter taught me about being a parent — Mrs Green asks, "Is it ever ok to lock your child in their bedroom?"
- Sensory Box Fail! — Megan at The Boho Mama discovers that thoughtful sensory activities can sometimes lead to pasta in your bra and beans up your nose.
- Montessori and My Children – Theory vs. Reality — Deb Chitwood at Living Montessori Now shares her experiences with Montessori parenting and describes the results she sees in her now-adult children.
- I Like The Mother I Am Now More Than The Mother I Intended To Be — Darcel at The Mahogany Way thought she would just give her kids the look and they would immediately fall in line.
- How I Ended Up Like My Tiger Mom With Peaceful Parenting — Theek at The Laotian Commotion somehow ended up like her Tiger Mom, even though she purposely tried for the complete opposite as a peaceful parent.