Being a Mother – Or, Everything You Do Is Wrong, So You May As Well Do What Suits You { Guest Post }

{ This guest post was written by my lovely friend Emma }

When my son was born, I spent many hours sitting in one place feeding him, pinned to the bed or the couch. It was in these moments that I reached for my smartphone. I remember thinking how did my mother and women of that generation cope with the lack of mobility when they were feeding? What did they do to occupy themselves while they were stuck in a seated position for hours? I felt lucky to have my phone. I could read books on my Kindle app, I could watch videos, take pictures of my son and browse the internet.

Being a new mother, I browsed for hours about everything I had questions about. What I learned really quickly was to be picky about legitimate sources for answers, such as medical studies, accredited journals etc. vs. questions answered in a forum or other mothers’ opinions. While the latter answers had their place, they came from people whose children differed from mine, whose family situations differed from mine and some featured second hand medical or psychological opinions.

The Pitfalls of Online Forums

During what I read online both during my pregnancy and afterwards, I realised that parenting forums were making me extremely frustrated. I remember telling my husband that I had seen a post on a parenting forum asking what stairgate worked for a particular wall. The answers the poster received varied from actual specific answers to her question to comments like she shouldn’t restrict children with a gate. I kept saying, “she just wanted to know about the type of gate. She doesn’t care what you think about using the gate. That wasn’t her question.” Unfortunately, those type of comments to most questions asked tended to follow that direction and so forums were a no-go for me. If a specific answer in a specific forum came up during my general internet search, I would look at it, but not keep reading down the thread.

Contradictions Galore

So I focused on sources I was mostly happy with (not asking for a critique of the ones I’m posting in reference FYI) and looked for the answers to the questions I had. I realised then, that there was a lot of conflicting information out there from respectable sources about the benefits of one action or another.  Co-sleeping is bad, Co-sleeping is not bad. Crying it out is awful, Crying it out is fine. Your kid is smarter if they are breastfed, There is very little difference in intelligence between breastfed and bottlefed children.

Taking a Stand—For My Own Sanity

I decided then that when it came to making a decision about my child, I would decide what course of action I wished to take and then find the evidence to back me up. I laughed with a scientist friend of mine that when it came to any action you wanted to perform, you could find some kind of study to say it was fine.

I guess I have that type of personality that I want to know what I am doing is ‘right’ – but jeez, what is ‘right’ when it comes to parenting – so once I found a study confirming what I was doing, I was happy. And I realised that in the end there are a lot of respectable studies out there confirming one opinion, and a lot either disproving the original opinion or offering a differing version. As a parent, in my unique situation with my unique child I need to do what suits me and my child. And while a study may say X is correct and you need to do X for so many months, it just may not be practical for me, in my situation to put it into practise.

Final Thoughts

When I get advice from someone about parenting (which happens a lot, most of the time when I don’t ask for it or want it) I think to myself, who are they to give the advice? I know how that sounds, I didn’t mean, WHO are THEY to GIVE advice!! What I meant is, is the person giving advice on breastfeeding staying at home fulltime and not returning to work after six months?  Is the person giving advice on potty training 20 or 30 years removed from the process? Is the person giving advice on bedtimes getting home at 5 o’clock every day on the button? If they are, then their situation is different from mine, their family circumstances and children are different from mine. Their advice may not be useful practically to me. I’m not saying don’t ever get advice from people whose circumstances differ from yours. I am saying be aware of who is giving the advice and where they are coming from. Thinking about this makes me feel so much better. And I smile and resist the urge to punch the unwanted or unasked for advice giver. And I’m sure no matter how hard I looked for a study to back up that course of action it would be too hard to find!