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Monday, November 21, 2011

Parenting: Journeys & Destinations - No Mompetition, please

"Life is a journey, not a destination."

Agreed, but when it comes to parenting, maybe it's the other way around. As in - the goal is a happy, healthy child with happy, healthy parents. How you get there is what works for your family.

I guess that's what I meant with my previous post about Babywise. I didn't so much mean it as an attack on the authors. More just an affirmation to myself & a suggestion to new parents. ---  Take the advice of books & friends; have a plan, but be flexible & confident ... Trust yourself a little.

In my early early days, I totally lacked flexibility & confidence. I didn't trust myself enough. I leaned on the books, whined on Facebook, and probably drove my husband nuts. A very wise friend & mom of two posted on one of my Facebook whines -- "She doesn't need a perfect mom, just a happy one." YES! Do what makes you happy, within reason, and it'll all work out. I didn't quite get it though till much later.

I finally internalized a better attitude when a workpal shared a little piece of wisdom, and it finally clicked. She said, and I paraphrase here - "You know what? She's not going to be sleeping with you when she's 12. She's not going to kindergarten in diapers. Kids do things in their own time. Enjoy it while it lasts." This from the mother of 8 and 12 year old boys. She rocked them each to sleep & soothed them through the night as needed. (Exactly what I wanted to do!) And they've both turned into well-adjusted little tweens.

What was funny about this exchange was that her response was to my reflexive apology for my daughter's ceasing to sleep through the night. She had asked how I was. I said "tired" and went on to say why. It seemed like conversations with co-workers too often went something like this:

  • "How are you?" 
  • "I'm fine how are you?"
  • "Great. How's your baby? Is she sleeping through the night?"
Then, the well-intentioned conversant would respond to my negatory with advice. Another book to read; another method to try. I always felt supported but also inadequate. It was likely a function more of my lack of confidence than judgement on their part. But I wonder --- Does mompetition start so early? Like - they don't have grades yet, so we measure them by whatever means available? I'm not entirely innocent of this myself. I have been known to unnecessarily drop little brags about my daughter into conversation.

Maybe we each have to take our journey at our own pace, and the wise words only work when we're ready to hear them. I actually DO think life IS a journey! I count mine as a success if I learn something from every experience & encounter.

Do you think there's anyway we can help each other out on our journeys? (As parents or otherwise?) Looking back on my life, there have been plenty of times that someone wonderful & loving (yes, my mom) has tried to help me not make a mistake. But I had to go ahead & make it myself!

Regardless, here's what I'm going to start trying, when I'm talking to newer parents ---
  • MORE simply telling my own experience.
  • LESS assuming it will be what works for someone else.
  • MORE listening.
  • LESS talking.


    1. Honestly, I wish someone had spoken to me about sleep issues. To think my biggest parenting worry was would I be able to change my baby's diaper without gagging. THAT was easy. Leaving her to cry it out? Not in my system...hence we paid for it.

      Love your tips. Wish I had had some parents to share advice with me, even though as a rule I hate being told what to do. Sharing parenting experiences has been a great help. I have about a 10-15 mom network now that is my go-to-group for advice and encouragement.

    2. And my biggest worry was that I wouldn't manage my dream natural birth! ... which ended up coming - well - naturally!
      It's so funny (maybe not ha-ha), because we started out with everything going so by the book. Now she's really not the best sleeper, but I think we're all so much happier!