I have come to an epiphany as a mother.
An epiphany that has caused me to leave every advice giving Facebook group. One that has caused me to give up on the parenting books. One that has allowed me to unsubscribe from the parenting e-mails.
The epiphany is this: I know what I'm doing.
I have learned a lot from other mothers since having children. I've learned that an all natural birth is the best way to have a baby, and also that a cesarean section is the best way to have a baby. I have learned about baby led weaning, as well as how to make my own baby food. I've learned about attachment parenting, and I've learned about sleep training. I've learned why I should vaccinate, I've learned why I shouldn't vaccinate. I've learned that organic, raw coconut oil and breast milk are the keys to surviving the apocalypse, and that sometimes Advil and Tylenol are the keys to surviving cutting two teeth. I've learned why letting my baby cry is the best thing I can do. I've learned why letting my baby cry is the worst thing I can do. I've learned how to be a peaceful parent, and how to appropriately discipline children of varying ages. And I've learned how to wean a baby from breast feeding, and also that I should let my babies wean themselves.
I am over here like a freaking Encyclopedia Britannica of baby carrying, birthing, and raising.
And I am exhausted.
I am exhausted from questioning others and then questioning myself. I am tired of defending choices I have made as a mother for my children. I am tired of wondering what people will think about anything that goes on in my life at all. Because at the end of the day, as long as my children are healthy and happy and cared for and safe and loved, it's really nobody's business how I raise them.
One of my friends called me the other day extremely stressed out because she is doing baby led weaning with her child and the child (as well as the mother) is having difficulty with it. Her baby is older now and all of the mothers in her circle are doing baby led weaning and not having any issues, and she felt guilty because she wanted to feed her child with a spoon but didn't think she should.
I'm serious. This happened.
Why should any mother ever feel guilt over how she gets food into her child's mouth? Maybe for the same reason that I felt guilty for weaning Avery from the breast at nine months, and why I feel like I have to justify why I had a cesarean every time I tell someone about it; because other moms can be really effing judgy.
I have mom friends who feel guilty for supplementing with formula or for giving up breast feeding all together when they had so much difficulty with nursing that they were actually becoming depressed, for losing their patience and having to walk away while their child throws the fourth tantrum of the day or their baby is crying for the third straight hour. I feel guilty on a regular basis because I'm worried my kids aren't spending enough time outside, because I give Avery the iPad so I can fold the laundry, because I picked up McDonald's for lunch instead of feeding them a homemade organic vegan raw dish, and because my house is always up to my eyeballs with clutter.
One side of the fence is telling us all that we should birth our babies out in a field, strap them to us and wear them and breastfeed for the next several years, the other is telling us that we should be drugged out of our minds for the birth and then lay the child in the crib, don't pick them up when they cry, and don't allow them to become "too attached".
But you know what? Neither of these theories is gospel. You aren't obligated by law to be on one side or the other. If there is one thing I'm sure of, it's that part of being a good mother is responding to the needs of your child. And no two children are alike, trust me.
What worked for one mom may never work for you because you are raising a different human being than she is. Don't waste your time comparing yourself, it's like wondering why your pet duck won't do the same tricks as someone else's pet freaking zebra.
Avery was a fantastic sleeper from the beginning but absolutely hated to co-sleep. She has always wanted her own space and still does. We would lay her in the crib wide awake, and she would babble and play until she fell asleep. She does not wake in the middle of the night and want to come in our bed, she wants to know we are there, and then for us to leave her alone again. I had wanted to co-sleep, but my child let me know that this wasn't for her. We all slept better that way. How is this wrong?
Liam, on the other hand, would still be in my womb if he was not surgically removed. He wants nothing more than to be carried all day long. He wants to sleep with us, frequent cuddles, and still wakes and needs to be rocked at least once every night. So that's what we do. We cuddle him to sleep, we comfort him when he wakes, we wear him around the house and when we go out. We are all happy. How is this wrong?
Avery loved baby led weaning. She loved the independence of it, liked to feed herself, and never got frustrated. Liam acts like he is starving all of the time. We attempted baby led weaning, but his frustration let us know that it's not so much his style. So now we give him some food to feed himself, and we also spoon feed him some food.
See how we did that there? We responded to their individual needs.
One of my favorite titles that I see in parenting magazines where they interview people is "Dr. So and So, Parenting Expert". Oh really? What a prestigious title to have. I'll be sure to pass along to Liam at 3am when he's losing his shit what the parenting expert says.
All of these parenting experts have never met your child. They can say what they like, but when it comes down to it, your child is going to take you over that "expert" 100% of the time.
You are the parenting expert in your house.
I am very blessed to be surrounded by such a fantastic group of mom friends that are extremely knowledgeable in so many areas and who I can go to when I need advice and know that I won't be judged on my ultimate decision. Not everybody has this. To the moms that don't, you know what you're doing. To the moms who do, you also know what you're doing. Once upon a time there wasn't facebook and there weren't fifty million parenting books, and moms just did what their babies demanded of them, and we are all still here, aren't we?
Obviously now we know a lot more and so we can do better, but the bottom line still stands: You know how to care for your baby. You are the only one they want at any point in their life. If you child is healthy, happy, fed, cared for, and loved, you are doing better than fine, you are doing amazing.
Parenting styles aren't religious cults. Pick and choose what you want from each one. Whatever tactics you use that leave you with a happy child and a happy parent at the end of the day is the best parenting style. Hands down.