There seems to be a growing trend among mothers that drives me crazy. I'm not sure if it's something that has always been around, or if it's something that's progressing with all the readily available information we have at our fingertips via technology.
Mums who feel it's their duty to give advice to other mums, essentially bullying mums to do/feel/act the same way they do or make them feel like they are a bad mother.
There are a zillion and twelve ways to parent your child. What does that mean? There are a zillion and twelve opinions on what parenting your child can look like. With the newness of it all, the lack of sleep, the over-exerted hormones and the constant fret that you might be doing something wrong, the very last thing a new mum needs is advice from someone when they haven't asked for it. Granted, when we ask, we really really do want to know what you have to say.
If we don't ask, we don't want your opinion.
My philosophy: you do whatever it takes to keep your baby alive and happy while maintaining your own sanity. That's it. No matter what it looks like or what other people think is the 'right' way, you have to do what works for you. Of these zillion and twelve parenting techniques, there are 2 that seem to be what mums bully other mums the most about...
Attachment/baby-demand parenting, the philosophy that your baby can only communicate through tears/crying, that they are in the 4th trimester and therefore the parent needs to meet every need no matter what in order to bond/care for the child, including feeding whenever the baby wants it and co-sleeping, wearing the baby in a sling all day, not ever letting your baby 'cry-it-out', etc. This form of parenting works great for some mums. Their baby is healthy, they feel a special bond, that's awesome! However, if you've been bullied into attachment parenting and are finding it's just not working, then try something else without feeling bad. If you're finding your baby is snacking and not eating full meals, if your baby is sleeping in your bed (or room) and your intimacy with your husband is suffering, if your baby has colic, or if you're finding neither you nor your baby is getting enough sleep because you're awake at every beck-and-call of your child...then it's ok to try something else.
Maybe you've been bullied into strict scheduling parenting, the 'cry-it-out' method or the 'Von Trapp Family' idea. The philosophy suggests your baby is not developed enough to know what it needs and it's up to the parent to teach the baby. This is done through a strict schedule throughout the day/night in the hopes of teaching your baby when it needs to eat, when it needs to sleep and when it needs to play. This method also works amazingly well for many parents who stick to it, with their infants sleeping through the night at 6 weeks of age or sooner and the calendar is planned over the next 12 months without a hitch. That's great for many mums, but for some, it's just not working. The strict schedule often lends to the mum and baby becoming a hermit in their own homes because they're afraid to venture out and mess up the schedule/routine. They often say 'no' to all sorts of social engagements because of the schedule and their relationships can suffer because a closed-off mum can lead to a depressed mum with a screaming baby in the next room. If this is the case for you, try something else without fear.
Do what works for you and don't let anyone bully you into a parenting method.
Some recent parenting bullying I've seen has been in the media. It's very subtle and usually comes across as media controversy, with the majority of the world forming an opinion about it, but with many mums feeling bullied by the picture, the writing and the opinion.
Why, oh why, did Time magazine publish this cover with the defiant mother having her toddler suck on her bare breast? What does this accomplish? Why was that personal decision a mom chose to breastfeed her toddler something that needed to be thrown in my face and be published on millions of magazines? Why couldn't she keep her choice to herself as something that works great for her? Something she could talk to her close friends/family about if they ask.
Why in the world would anyone post a picture of themselves breastfeeding on Facebook? I about vomited seeing both the Time Magazine cover and the Facebook photo. I choose to breastfeed as well, that doesn't mean I need to shove it down the throats of those who choose not to breastfeed. I don't need to make a statement to the world by whipping out my boob in public and telling everyone I know that it's natural and they should get on board with it. I don't need to tell people that breastfeeding is the right thing to do, because some women try their very best and it doesn't work. Some women choose to use formula and it doesn't hurt their children at all and can actually benefit their children greatly. Why should they feel like bad mothers because other mothers have proactively given their opinions to the world when nobody asked for it. The idea that special 'bonding' happens by only parenting a certain way is scientifically inaccurate. It might make the mum feel special, but the bub will be just as happy, just as loved, just as cared for, just as much a part of a family no matter if the mum chooses to stay at home or go to work; breastfeed or formula feed; demand or be directed, go to daycare or have a nanny; ceasarian or natural birth...the thing that will make a difference is if the mum is completely at her wits' end and frustrated or doing what works best for her and her baby without external influence. Why the outcries around books and philosophies? Why not just educate yourself and parent your own way?
So what has worked for me?
Prayer. Lots and lots of prayer for our daughter who is on loan from God. She's not ours, we're only in charge of raising her in the way she should go so she will love God with all her heart, soul, mind and strength. She will be the beautiful person God created her to be no matter how we choose to parent her. He is in control of her safety, growth, mind, development, etc. We have absolutely nothing to worry about as long as we do our best.
I've read a bunch of articles, magazines, books, websites, etc. about parenting and the number one physical resource that helped both Ben and I in raising Bina was the book:
Insert scary music.
I have no idea why it is controversial to some people. Maybe those people haven't taken the time to fully read it? It's actually the least controversial of all the books I've read. It gives a detailed view of the two very common parenting philosophies (mentioned above), and finds a happy middle-ground with lots of flexibility. It says breastfeeding is great, but if you chose to use formula, that's ok too, it's your choice. It gives samples of a schedule to help you with varying ages of your child, but emphazizes the idea that this schedule will change based on circumstance and that's ok. It gave me room to breathe and gave very practical guidelines that we can use to assist our daily life with Bina in order to raise her up to the best of our ability. The result? Bina is feeding great, very happy, sleeps through the night and is a complete joy to be around. Does that mean it will work this way with our next baby? Who knows, I hope so, but don't know if it will. Does that mean it will work with your baby? Maybe, maybe not. I have no idea, but it is what worked for us and if anyone does ask, I will advise them to read it. Is it the only way? Of course not, the book itself says it's just an idea that has worked for many women, myself included, that has room to be tweaked based on your own child.
Overall, I guess being a new mum makes me more sensitive to what I hear, see, listen to coming from other mums. Maybe it's not a big deal, but I've had more than one friend in tears because of the bullying words of another mum, no matter the good intention. Let's be on the same team here.
Please cherish your child in a personal way that works for your family and allow for other mums to do the same.