Today I am happy to host a guest post from Jennifer at Hybrid Rasta Mama. A volunteer at the Natural Parents Network, you may have seen her ever popular post, 80 Uses for Coconut Oil. Along with great nutritional information, she also posts about conscientous parenting and various other topics.
When I was a new mother, a first time new mother, there was one thing that happened all of the time that used to drive me batty. Well-meaning strangers (and even some friends) would strike up a conversation with me about my adorable new baby. And during this conversation, they would inevitably bring up one or more ways in which I was going to fail as a mother.
Now, I am sure that these individuals harbored no ill will towards me and my new role as mother but it certainly did nothing to lift my spirits and help give me the boost that I needed as a woman finding her groove and finding her place as mom.
Not sure what I am talking about? Here are some examples of pretty typical conversations:
Stranger: Ahhh adorable baby. How old?
Me: 12 weeks.
Stranger: Is she sleeping through the night yet?
Me: No but I really do not expect her too just yet.
Stranger: Well if you don’t train her now, she will be 10 before she sleeps well.
Friend: Pampers are the BEST diapers. Trust me.
Me: I am using cloth diapers and love them but thanks for the heads up.
Friend: Oh, that won’t last long. You’ll get sick of all the laundry. Trust me. Plus just wait until toddler poop. You will wish you never went with cloth.
Stranger: Your baby is so alert. Wow. How old is she?
Me: 8 weeks. She loves being worn close to my heart. Plus she is at eye level with the rest of the world. I credit babywearing with her interest in what is going on around us.
Stranger: Doesn’t that thing hurt your back? Better not get her used to it. You’ll get back problems from that thing. Guess it is ok for the first few months but not very practical after that.
And my favorite…
Me: Tiny hates car rides. She throws up from crying so hard.
Friend: Well that is because you didn’t have a DVD player installed to keep her focused on something else. Bad move. Go get one now.
Me: I do not believe in television for children but I am sure you are right. It is a distraction.
Friend: You’ll cave and end up sitting her in front of the t.v. It will be the only way you will ever get anything done. All good moms use the t.v. more than they admit.
Does any of this sound familiar? I’m sure you have had at least one or two of these types of conversations with friends, family, or strangers. Perhaps it never fazed you but it certainly did not escape my notice.
In addition to these types of conversations I hear a lot of “nevers” and “mistakes.” Things like “you will never get her to sleep in her own bed if you co-sleep” or “breastfeeding past 6 months is a huge mistake because she will never wean.”
Seriously? I would not consider making these sorts of statement to a new mom. Again, I am sure that these individuals are all just trying to help but why can’t they be more supportive? Perhaps rephrase their experience a little. It would be more palatable and uplifting to say “I have no experience with co-sleeping but hope it goes well for you.” Or “we co-slept but got worried about our son making the transition to a bed so we moved him to his own room at 8 months.” These statements I can handle. But the others…all they do is to serve as another worry if I am doing this mom thing right.
I like to think that parents have done a certain amount of research, are attempting to parent in a way that meets the needs of their child, and make informed decisions based on the information they have available. I do not want to be the source of a new mother second guessing a decision she confidently made when I am not a part of that family, in that home. I have no clue as to the innerworkings of their family. So why suggest that their parenting decision is wrong or will fail? That is not my place. And if their decision does not work out? Well, lesson learned in the way that it needed to be.
Mama guilt is rampant and we do not need to be reminded of all that “could” go wrong with the choices we make as we guide our children in their journey towards adulthood.
It seems like we are stuck on failure in today’s world. I am not sure if it is a function of our own egos needing to feel better by suggesting that we know whatever another person is doing is the wrong way of doing it or the wrong choice. Perhaps it is our subconscious rearing its ugly head about our own choices in life. Maybe it is jealousy. Or maybe it is simply conditioning. We have been conditioned to be less than supportive of each other.
It is vital to the mental and emotional health of new parents to be supported and uplifted. We need to help new parents feel good about their choices whether or not they are the choice we would have made. We need to assure them that yes, they are good parents and that every parent wonders if they are doing the right thing.
So next time you are engaged in a conversation with a new parent, be mindful of your word choices. Boost their confidence by complimenting their choices. If asked for advice, approach it from a “what worked for us may not work for everyone” perspective. Avoid being an expert. And above all else – never suggest that they will fail.
Peace and Love,
Jennifer, author of Hybrid Rasta Mama, is a former government recruiter turned stay-at-home mama to a precious daughter (“Tiny”) brought earthside in early 2009. She is passionate about conscious parenting, natural living, holistic health/wellness, real foods, and a Waldorf inspired approach to education. Jennifer is committed to breastfeeding (especially extended breastfeeding), bed-sharing, cloth diapering, green living, babywearing, peaceful parenting, playful parenting, and getting children outside. She is a hybrid parent, taking a little of this, throwing in a little of that, and blending it all together to create a parenting style that is centered on what her daughter needs in order to flourish as a human being. Jennifer also lives and breathes reggae music, the Rastafarian culture and way of life. Reggae music and its message touches her soul. You can also find Jennifer on Facebook, Twitter, Pinterest, Networked Blogs, StumbleUpon, and Google +.