Guilt in parenting: IBTP

One of my pet peeves is books (and people) that make new mothers feel guilty.  I don’t care if they’re the sleep training books or the natural parenting books.  They all have one motive:  selling books to unsure new mothers. I Blame The Patriarchy.

Seriously.  There are a zillion ways to raise a child.  The different ways of raising may turn out different children, but different is not bad.

You’re not going to fail your child if you don’t follow some stupid book to the letter.  Most of these books are steeped in Western cultural influence from only the last 200 years or so.  Babies were brought up differently (and are brought up differently all over the world) before many of these ideas were invented.

I am hardcore AP.  That does not mean I follow Dr. Sears to the letter or don’t roll my eyes when he admonishes working mothers for not being attached to their babies.  That means I trust my instincts.  I take what I want from the parenting techniques I see, and, on occasion read about, and I don’t try to force something if it isn’t working.  It amazed me how my newborn’s cry sent me into a tizzy, but my toddler’s cry was just mildly annoying.  There’s an evolutionary reason for that.  My child no longer needed to be picked up right away when I didn’t feel the need to pick him up right away.  The mother-child dyad really does exist.

A related pet peeve is when people insist the the most difficult route is the one that must be taken at any point in time.  That CIO is hard, but if you fail to plug your ears and do it you’re failing your child and (s)he’ll never sleep on his or her own.  Or if you cosleep, (s)he’ll be in your bed until high school (or conversely, if you’re not attached to your baby 24-7 (s)he’ll develop an attachment disorder).  We were the laziest parents on the face of the planet.  We ALWAYS took the easiest route for us with every parenting decision, from sleeping to eating to discipline to potty training and whatever else we were doing.  And our sweet well-behaved child puts himself to sleep, eats reasonably well (we’re still working on a large category of green foods, but Hungry Monkey has convinced me that these will come with time) and is generally practically perfect in every way.  So are many of his classmates whose parents chose different paths.

Book recommendation:  Our Babies, Ourselves: How Biology and Culture Shape the Way We Parent.  After reading this one, I got rid of all the other ones (well, not the Sears Baby Book— we still needed that for middle of the night fevers so we’d know if we needed to call a doctor).  It’s a fantastically well-researched book that explains the anthropology, history, and other science behind baby rearing through time.  It was wonderfully comforting– scientific proof for me to trust my instincts and do what was right for our family at this point of time in our cultural setting.  Since there were many ways to do something, chances are I wasn’t screwing up too badly.

And looking at our child, I think we did ok.

17 Responses to “Guilt in parenting: IBTP”

  1. Money Reasons Says:

    One of my largest fears is that I will fail my raising my children as optimally as possible.

    But compared to most, I’m sure we are in the top 15% of parents. Books like ” I Blame The Patriarchy.” I dislike too. Being guilted into anything is a form of trickery. I dislike books that like to use trickery to get ideas across.

    Typically books that use trickery are not based on fact, just how the author mandates that it should be because s/he think they know best.

    As a society, we need to realize just because someone says something is true or the best way, doesn’t necessarily mean that it is true or the best way.

  2. nicoleandmaggie Says:

    I don’t think there is an optimal way to raise children. There are so many measures across which a child grows… do you want them to be independent or follow rules or somewhere in between? Which is better? It depends on context and what is true in one situation isn’t necessarily true in another. Just like so many things, maybe satisficing is best. What does it even mean to be in the top 15% of parents? Is parenting a competition? We have different goals for our children and when they grow up they will have different goals for themselves that may or may not be related to what we have taught them.

    So I guess, adding on to what you wrote, as a society my thought is that maybe there isn’t always a best way. There’s just a way that we choose out of many ways available. There may be bad ways and good ways, but among those, it is difficult to rank which is best or better… they’re just different.

    • Money Reasons Says:

      Agreed, it’s tricky, that’s for sure!

      And lets say you do know the most optimal way, it won’t necessarily be valid when your kids have kids… When what is optimal is based on mores and trends, nothing is static… Life is complex that way.

      I just hope I can show or teach my kids what was best when I was growing up, and wing the rest :)

  3. Sandy L Says:

    I think using one technique may actually be bad for families.

    Having 2 children now (both polar opposites from each other), I’m starting to see that the method that worked for kid #1 doesn’t necessarily work for my #2 wild child.

    One size does not fit all, in life, in relationships, and especially in child rearing.

    My husband was particularly annoyed by all the nurses in our hospital that were pushing their beliefs on the new moms. One actually had a fight with my doctor in front of me after my doctor suggested a c-section. She told him that a midwife would have tried harder to deliver naturally. Of course in the middle of labor and having them debate this only made things more confusing. I did try to deliver naturally, but my baby was over 10 pounds so it ended up going the doctor’s route anyway. By the second one I knew better and went straight for C for my second turkey sized child. People do push their beliefs on you in even some of the most inappropriate places.

    I agree 100%.

  4. nicoleandmaggie Says:

    Sandy L. — That’s a really good point. I think there are a lot of reasons that parents with more than one kid are less evangelical about most of these things… one of them is definitely that they’ve seen first hand that different things work for different people at different times.

    One of our nurses at the hospital gave us a big lecture about not cosleeping or we’d have a teenager in our bed. Turns out not to be true… ours struck out on hir own sometime in the 2s and has not come back. Ze loves hir own bed.

  5. SonyaAnn Says:

    I think just loving your kid is #1. Everything else will work its self out!
    Great article!

  6. nicoleandmaggie Says:

    SonyaAnn– Absolutely! That’s really all it comes down to in the end. Thanks!

  7. Everyday Tips Says:

    I was just talking about this the other day. When I used to pick up my crying newborn, everyone told me how I was spoiling my child. Yes, my fresh from the womb child already knows how to manipulate me, even though he can’t lift up his head.

    I had to tune out all those ‘wise’ people and do what my instincts told me to do. I think a lot of people have strong opinions because they are subconsciously (or consciously) trying to justify their own decisions.

    You need thick skin to be a parent, that is for sure.

    • nicoleandmaggie Says:

      Definitely with the thick skin.

      We got a lot of that around here too, especially with the spoiling and manipulation. By local standards we did everything “wrong.” But our little person is incredibly well-behaved and curious and polite and independent… so we must not have done too much damage. From what they tell me, if we have a #2 he or she will be a demon to balance things out. We’ll see.

  8. frugalscholar Says:

    Two life-changing books: Penelope Leach’s (can’t remember title) and “Whole child, Whole Parent.” Both basically say: the baby knows what you need to do. Leach is British, so very far from the American way. The other book is kinda zen (I’m NOT), but wonderful nonetheless.

    Get rid of all other books.

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