When I announced my pregnancy, I was generously gifted an entire stack of parenting books. Each one is different, all of them overwhelming.
The debates of breastfeeding, sleep training, and gentle parenting did laps in my brain while I massaged my sore hips at night, wondering what kind of parent I’d be.
I thought I was genuinely educating myself in a way that would make me feel confident in my abilities to raise a human.
That’s the point of parenting books, isn’t it?
Except, all they did was pack on the pressure.
We can’t become experts in something we have no experience in, so how much are these books doing for us?
For me, this sunk in as soon as the nurses in the maternity ward started to give me advice like:
“Breastfeed exactly every 2-3 hours. Never let them sleep on their stomach! Burp them with a firm hand, or they’ll get gassy.”
Suddenly, every word I stored in my memory of what to do was completely erased. I had no idea what I was doing, which wasn’t the problem – it was that I thought not knowing what to do made me a failure.
Indirectly, that sense of failure stemmed from the pressure I put on myself with parenting books. It was like I studied for months and failed the final.
This only snowballed once I got home and had no nurses in my ear. I’m not sure what’s worse for a new mom with the postpartum blues, too many peanuts in the peanut gallery, or none at all.
I decided to cling to the stern nurses’ instructions to keep a consistent feeding schedule.
Guess what – my baby didn’t like those rules. He wanted to feed on demand, a little bit now and later. Which stewed a little bit of insanity in me, and I was ready to call it quits.
To my dismay, all the parenting books, unsolicited advice, and the well-meaning nurses all convinced me I needed to follow some rules if I was going to be any good at this parenting thing.
What my journey showed me was the opposite – every time I tried to uphold a strict method with my son, he reminded me he doesn’t play by society’s standards.
Have you noticed how much control is instilled in the parenting materials in mainstream media?
These books and programs sell because parents are so scared of not knowing what to do, they end up over-controlling every aspect of their lives.
So, what’s the alternative if we aren’t dipping into self-help?
The answer is: Follow your gut.
That’s right; it’s that simple – you, as a mama, have hidden knowledge in you that is waiting to be tapped into, and it will always override what you find in a book.
I was only able to conquer every obstacle I faced as a mother when I kicked into my instincts and threw out everything else.
When my son had a lip and tongue tie, and my pediatrician told me it would go away, I knew deep down that wasn’t right. I needed to reach out to a specialist. It turns out the ties were severe enough for surgery, and my doctor advised that had I not gone this route, he would have needed speech therapy.
When he preferred to feed on demand because his latch was not secure, I decided to lean in to not having a feeding schedule and let him feed whenever he indicated he was hungry. He would have lost weight from not getting sufficient amounts of breastmilk if I had not done this.
Over time, I slowly let go of everything I was insisting I needed to do as a parent because holding on to the weight was breaking my hand.
Each time I decided I didn’t need to follow the rules, the easier life got. I became more present in my interactions with my son. To my surprise, I was so wound up trying to figure out the right way to parent; I wasn’t even consciously experiencing being a parent.
As a vegan for three years, it was a big decision to allow my son to eat an Omni (traditional, for the less trendy) diet. As silly as it may sound, I was sick about it – I, again, felt I was a failure at creating healthy eating habits.
This is when I could finally identify what I was doing – and that was that I was making peace a priority in my life.
In a world full of people and programs and businesses telling you how to live your life, I wasn’t encountering a lot of parents doing this.
It was no longer this or that from the melting pot; it was very simply a matter of whatever option made me feel the best. Anything that gives me more time in my day, more energy, or more peace of mind is my choice, no questions asked.
If I didn’t decide to take the beaten path and to create my lane of conscious parenting, I would still be crippled with fear, shackled in control. My son would have had been deprived of a free-thinking mom.
There is no such thing as being ready – you’re ready when you decide to be.