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Posts Tagged ‘routine’

The ‘How-To’ of Parenting

In It's My Year, It's Only Words on 07/01/2012 at 16:57

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It’s funny, since learning I was pregnant and then, nine months later, becoming a parent, my social circle has evolved to largely include fellow mothers, my conversation rotates around issues of nappy contents, which supermarkets are having sales on said nappies, weaning, sleep patterns, buggy model… Believe me, I could go on for days! And my sense of self-judgement has been questioned.

Mothers, and especially new mothers, are an interesting breed – we doubt ourselves constantly, look for reassurance on an almost daily basis and feel guilty over every action we have a hand in …and yet, ultimately we believe we are the only ones who know what is best for our child. Like lionesses fiercely protecting our cubs, occasionally we may look to the rest of the pride for help, but mainly we alone are the ones we rely on to make the right decisions.

We all do things differently. Some mothers are convinced that rigid routine is the way forward while others fly by the seat of their elasticated pants; some mothers feed their babies by bottle while others are staunch advocates of ‘breast is best’; some mothers know every nursery rhyme that was ever written while others rely on the musical numbers from their own childhoods – in the end, the differences are irrelevant because that is what makes us human but the most important thing and the one thing we have in common is the mere fact that we are all mothers.

Every mother I meet has her own way, her own neuroses and methods and while a handful choose to judge the practice of their parental peers – shooting loaded looks when they discover that Rudy goes to bed whenever he chooses to go to sleep while their little one is safely tucked away at 7pm sharp every night – the rest of us acknowledge that there is no right way to parent, there is just the way we each know how.

Motherhood, and indeed parenthood, is a remarkable adventure and one I am honoured to be taking. Being entrusted with the welfare of another person and the opportunity to enable them to realise their potential, their dreams and their own happiness – it is a huge responsibility but one that is hugely rewarding and exciting. Every step is paved with scary moments and moments that are wonderful and we want to share every single one.

Though we are all different, and may agree to disagree on a number of points, the truth is that my best references for ‘mothering’ are my fellow mums. They are the ones I call on for support, advice and reassurance. Because it is their experience, whether 30 years worth or just 3 weeks, that is so invaluable as I learn from how they have handled everything from labour to teething to potty training and beyond.

There is no ‘how-to’ for being a parent but you can always ask for directions along the way.

26 and Pregnant: Week 36 and Counting

In It's My Year on 01/17/2012 at 13:30
What a cry baby!!

Completing my course of NCT antenatal sessions last night, it was rounded off with an opportunity to meet two new sets of parents who brought their one month old and two and a half week old complete with Maxi-Cosi car seats. Following a caesarean, the one month old had been giving her mother trouble over breastfeeding initially and though that had been solved the parents had been unable to instil any kind of routine. Having been observing my neighbour with her fortnight old baby boy who so far has been playing by the rules of a three-hourly sleep, feed and change pattern with minimal howlage, I found it hard to empathise with a mother who seemed to be allowing herself to be dictated by the whims of her newborn. 

However, the extent of my maternal experience over the period of the course had been to hold a doll – assigned by the course leader to each couple to provide a glimpse of how tricky daily activities become when your child won’t go down – and to cuddle my friend’s baby on a few occasions before handing him back to her.

What was interesting, and what I felt to be one of the more significant takeaways from these sessions was that witnessing different parenting approaches and different babies gave me the opportunity to ask questions that I may have just taken for granted. While I was sitting there judging this new mother, having not even given birth to my baby as yet, I wasn’t considering the individual requirements and temperaments of every individual baby. As the course leader pointed out, when I challenged the lack of routine in this family’s life, would I make myself wait for 3-4 hourly periods before allowing myself to eat or drink? No, I suppose I would not. 

It’s easy to assume righteousness in the matters of “appropriate” parenting but until that precious bundle of joy arrives, it is quite impossible to determine how we will cope and what their demands will be.

Having the opportunity to meet a wonderful crowd of fellow impending parents I know already that I will be grateful for the support and friendship of these women, and likewise for my husband he will have a support network of his own as he enters the unfamiliar territory of ‘Daddy-ville’.

Understanding and patience are but two of the qualities we as a group brainstormed at our very first session, as being important for parenting, but I believe these should apply to all areas of life. The wonderful thing is that we are all entitled to live our lives and parent in our own unique ways, using the advice we are given as and when it comes in useful; but the last thing we should be doing is passing judgement on those who do things differently. 

Parenting is one job that we should not be graded on – unless there are extenuating circumstances that call for severe intervention – but indulging our newborns in the first few weeks of their lives is not one of them. I remember running into that heavily pregnant woman at the elevators all those months back, the morning I had taken the contraceptive pill, and asking whether she was excited. ‘Nervous,’ she had replied and now that it is my turn and people are searching for my excitement, although I am beyond overjoyed to be welcoming my little one into the world, the reality of being a new mother is inescapable. So my answer is this: ‘It goes without saying that I am so excited to meet my baby, but I am remaining realistic that it will be a lot harder than the time I unwrapped my first doll from Hamleys. But though it may be harder it will undoubtedly be the greatest gift I will ever receive.’