Think for yourself, or others will think for you without thinking of you.”– Henry David Thoreau
Let me preface this post by saying that when I entered the wet and wild world of parenting, I knew nothing about children and child-reading. Scratch that: I knew less than nothing. The learning curve was steep, dear reader, from diaper changes to naptimes to maddeningly inconsistent baby clothes sizes.
But one thing I know (mostly) is how to think for myself. To be fair, I have my own bouts of self-doubt, self-recrimination, and negative self-talk. But overall, I know my own mind, my strengths and limitations, and what feels right.
Which is why the most surprising thing about new parenting is not Le Bébé but the messaging about it from the outside world. It’s a real scene out there.
How Big Maternity Makes Parenting Complicated
I’d been happily insulated during my twenties and better part of my thirties from what Big Maternity has to say about what’s necessary and right when it comes to parenting. Suddenly, I was inundated with new expectations and learning a new vocabulary, from “baby-led weaning” to “sleep training.” Le sigh.
What is baby-led weaning, you ask? A fancy phrase for letting babies learn how to experience and eat different foods. Which is what babies do naturally, with parental attention and guidance.
The same goes for “sleep training” – more jargon for babies learning how to sleep. Also what babies do naturally, with parental attention and guidance (though not always on our preferred schedule, le wink).
The internet positively heaves with articles about these and other “milestones” and “ages and stages.” Most of this messaging is a needless distraction and a waste of time, designed to do what Big Maternity does best: undermine our self-confidence and/or convince us to buy expensive, trendy products we don’t need.
I Am the Decider
I’m not saying I did not struggle with adjusting to parenting, because I did. Big time. (And still do.) The first eight months were a whirlwind with plenty of moments of panic and self-doubt.
I read articles about soothing and swaddling and stimulation. I asked mom friends hitherto unconsidered questions about poop and preschool and pediatricians. I obsessed over getting Le Bébé to sleep through the night. I felt a range of new and weird and unexpected emotions, from not being pregnant anymore to postpartum anxiety. I started therapy.
All with an endless stream of new worries: Is the baby eating enough? Too much? Are the car seat straps right? The stroller straps? The high-chair straps? Why are there so many snaps on everything? I ask again: Why are there so many snaps on everything? The litany is ongoing.
But there were plenty of moments of empowerment and confidence too. As I recently told my therapist, I am now The Decider – c’est moi qui décide.
I must take hold, choose, and commit – to the baby formula brand, the nap routine, the toy, the medicine dose.
I must think for myself. If not now, when?
Sifting Through the Dross to Make Parenting Less Complicated
Let’s remember that so-called parenting experts with online platforms aren’t perfect or infallible. For example, Emily Oster, economist and author of the popular and influential ParentData blog, wrote about returning work in the first paragraph of an article on sleep training: “I love my family very much but am not sorry to get back to the office.”
Le woof. I don’t believe in, “I love you, but …” Thank you, next.
This is where Big Maternity really fails new parents: it assumes we are a monolith and sells us a one-size-fits all lifestyle and attitude. That’s why books like How to Keep House While Drowning: A Gentle Approach to Cleaning and Organizing (2022) exist – to make us think we are failing, struggling, “drowning,” so we buy a book. Le sigh encore.
Sifting through the dross is no mean feat. Again, so much messaging is a confidence trap and a time suck that centers on doing things right or else! (But there are truly some very helpful resources out there.)
Parenting just shouldn’t be this complicated. Or, rather, shouldn’t be more complicated than it already is. Because parenting is hard, joyous, exhausting, exhilarating, scary, humbling – for newcomers and veterans alike.
Above All, Think for Yourself
Remember, the parenting space is not immune from advertisements and clickbait. So why not, rather than make things more complicated, keep things as simple as possible? What about being natural, authentic, intuitive instead?
As time passes, I read less. I observe the baby more. I ask my pediatrician about diet, sleep, and child development. I don’t bother with viral articles and social media posts. I trust my gut, my partner, my baby – myself.
What positive changes can you make for your time and energy today?
Merci for reading and please subscribe and share!
À votre santé,