As always the opinions are my own and I’m not telling you NOT to read parenting books… just that I didn’t for my own little reasons. I’m just opinionated as I’m sure you’ve figured out by now. I’m happy to be your friend no matter what books you use as your guide. Now on with the show.
When I was 4 years old I was sat on the couch looking at a book. My Mother asked me what I was doing and I told her:
“You can’t read!” my Mother joked
“Yes I can!” said 4 year old me
“Go on then” my Mother urged. So I did.
I read her the book I was looking at. She assumed I had memorized it so she got another book and I read that one too. Don’t get me wrong, I wasn’t reading with intonation or speed but I had learned to read. My Mother couldn’t believe it!
And there began my love of books. I started with Dr Seuss then Enid Blyton. I went on to Judy Blume, Nancy Drew, Anne Rice and more. I devoured books. I was frequently at the library (particularly as an early teen) and was always the one who my friends came to with their puberty questions. (Silly in hindsight because I was a late bloomer in that department and most of my knowledge came from teen magazines.)
As I grew older I had less time to read. However, whenever I went on vacation I’d buy 2 books to take with me and come home with 6. I found it hard to part with a loved book when I had someone else in mind who might enjoy it. I resented the weight of my backpack but still couldn’t part with the books. Nobody was happier than me when the Kindle was invented. Finally I could travel as heavy as I liked and add no extra weight to my luggage!
You’d think with this love of reading, I would have been devouring parenting books since the day I decided to have a child on my own. That has not been the case.
For some reason I’ve always thought parenting books were patronizing. I don’t believe that one size fits all and I don’t think anyone knows my child better than me. I have spent enough time on forums to see how much added stress women put on themselves by worrying what their babies should or shouldn’t be doing based upon some book they have read. The one bug bear topic is of course infant sleep. If you read enough parenting books on this they will eventually all contradict themselves. Read this article if you want a laugh and you’ll see my point.
Most parenting books are not even slightly scientifically researched. They are the product of one person or small group of peoples combined observations of children. And lets face it, they’re going to be using their methods in order to prove them without much care for the personalities of the babies involved. I would much rather be reading a new Moms blog. 🙂
So I decided that other than a quick glance at the Wonder Weeks app every now and then, I would just wing it.
Instead of reading parenting books I joined a group run by a doula for new Mothers. There were only 6 of us in the group and if you hadn’t shown up by the second class then the doors were closed and nobody else was allowed to join. I remember thinking this seemed very strict but then I saw her wisdom. In keeping this group small and recognizable, trust was built very quickly. Our group couldn’t have been more different but we had strange similarities too (for instance, we are all dorky crafters!) By the third session we had set up a private Facebook group and became each others go to for conversations and advice at 3am. 20 months later and our group is still active. We check in on one another with questions, concerns, funny kid videos and milestones. There is no greater source of support than women who are going through the same stage of parenting at the same time. Some of us devour the parenting books and some of us – not so much!
I really feel that having no expectations of my sons behavior was a huge plus. His sleep has never followed what babies ‘should’ do and nor have his eating habits. So long as he’s growing and thriving and meeting his milestones and I’m getting enough rest, I’m happy.
Becoming a parent is a huge change and all these books just add pressure to make us feel that there is a normal when it comes to infants/babies/kids. You just do your best and follow the cues of your baby. You read a book if you need some suggestions but bear in mind that they might not work. Some things they tell you to do are just plain mean.
I am sure that as my son becomes more of a toddler and has tantrums about what he wears and which color cup he drinks out of I may well be googling the kindest way to handle his overabundance of emotion but until then we are happy flying by the seat of our pants and embracing the moments – no matter what they bring.