I have been completing a lot of research into early parenting and as a trained professional, I am confused by the conflicting information that is available to parents. I can only imagine how new first time parents must be feeling. By the end of the first month you are sleep deprived, you have sore nipples and everyone is telling you what to do. Your partner has no idea how to help you and you are feeling like a failure as a mother. Some women have given up high paid jobs to change nappies and not be able to get dressed some days because there just isn't the time or the energy to function in what you percieve as normal capacity. This can have a very big toll on your parenting capabilities.
I have 2 children and have never used a book or online information to help me raise my children. There are a lot of books out there that talk about routines for 2 -4 week old babies, there is conflicting information about co sleeping, a lack of understanding of different cultural values in raising children and I think the biggest issue is that women are not encouraged to use their own natural instincts when things are not going to plan.
I spent 28 years working in the early childhood field and have seen many parenting styles and many different family makeups. All families have different ideas on parenting depending on their own back ground or upbringing. I have found in my many years of working with families and children that parents and women in particular are there own worst enemy. They believe that they have to compete with other women or parents and that they have to have the best of everything and be the perfect mother. You need to throw that idea out of the window along with any books that talk about routines in the first 3-6 months of your child's life.
The other big issue I have with parenting these days is the issue of choice. I am a firm believer in that parents have many choices in child rearing, birth and parenting in general. For example we all know that breast feeding is the best thing for your child, but breastfeeding is not everyone's cup of tea nor can everyone breastfeed. I worked with a woman who did not like the idea of breasdfeeding but was happy to express her milk every 3 hours and then feed this milk to her baby in a bottle. I think that this is an amazing feat! Whether you breastfeed or bottle feed does not automatically make you a good or bad parent. There is also the debate about whether you should work or when should you go back to work. Some women love to stay home and care for their children fulltime and thats great but other women need the stimualtion and conversation of a work environment. I firmly believe that parenting is about quality not quantity. I have worked with many working & stay at home mothers over the years and have learned that working or not working does not make you a good parent!
Parenting is about choice and trusting your instincts and not following books that talk about routines. Parenting particularly in the early days should be a joyful experience not creating a feeling of failure because you can't get the 'routine' to follow the one in the book. Take the time in the first few months to get to know your baby and build that relationship that will last for the rest of your lives. Babies need to know that if they cry that someone will attend to their need and this builds a sense of security.
A few final tips to remember:
- New born babies can't tell the difference between night and day
- The only way for babies to communicate is by crying
- Spend the time to get to know your baby
- It is ok for you to still be in your pyjamas when your partner gets home from work!
- Dont underestimate the support of your partner
- If somoeone offers to cook and clean, you say YES!
- IT IS OK TO ASK FOR HELP EITHER PAID OR UNPAID