It may seem that the parenting pendulum has swung a bit too far out. Parenting has become incredibly sophisticated and scientific in a short amount of time, with sleep programs, sign language and baby Einstein that I wonder if we may have lost the art of parenting?
The art of parenting that comes from intuition, a place of simple nurturing and real connections.
So how have women, mothers of this generation coped? How have we juggled the needs of our newborns, our partners with our own? I went in search for some old-fashioned hand me down advice from other mothers, gleaned from years of their own experiences and reflections.
They may not be published authors of baby books but they are loving experts of their own babies. Sharing in their collective wisdom as mothers.
Here are their stories…
On trusting ourselves
Sinead at Bumbles of Rice writes about how the expectations surrounding parenting have been heightened by the books and television shows that present children as milestones to be achieved or behaviours to be corrected. Sharing her biggest regret from the early years of parenting,
“I thought he should be able to settle himself to sleep from a ridiculously early age, to sleep all night and nap regularly, to well, “behave.”
She’s learnt now that it’s more important to “Trust yourself, you know more than you think you do.”
Honest, we do.
On trusting babies ability to adapt
Continuing the theme of trust, Velle at Yummy Mummy Train shares her lessons as a first time mum and one not to ignore is trusting babies ability to adapt. Many books and many more mothers swear behind the benefits of setting up a routine but Velle raises a valid point on the missed opportunities for memories,
Routine is part of the framework that enables her to be a happy child.
But I also think we’ve been too afraid sometimes to mix things up a little. We have, perhaps, missed opportunities to build good memories because we’ve held the bedtime routine as sacrosanct.
I’m also wondering if part of our motivation hasn’t stemmed from a form of laziness.
Of avoiding the hassle of the next 36 hours that might be affected by one unorthodox evening.
My own memories of keeping to a routine meant that we were living in blocks of time;
- 1-1.5 hours of playtime,
- 2-3 hours of nap time,
- 20-40 minutes of feeding
- nap at 10am, 1pm, 4:30pm
- feed at 8am, 11:30am, 3pm
At the very beginning we stuck fastidiously to the actual times but for us, it all came to a head, when we were driving back to family who were 4 hours away. Our newborn was just 5 weeks old.
Despite the environment being different for our little one; a different cot, a different house, different faces and with the 4 hour drive itself, we became more flexible with a looser schedule. For example, noting the hours of sleep that he required and the time between naps rather than putting him down for a nap based on the time itself. In loosening the schedule, we discovered the transition wasn’t as difficult as we’d perhaps imagined it to be in our minds.
On taking care of ourselves
Sometimes it takes an event to change how we approach things, and sometimes the answer lies within ourselves.
It’s not surprising that mothers, as women often put our own needs behind others and indeed most mothers would agree that while it is a work in progress, taking care of ourselves is like putting our own oxygen mask first, as described by Nurtured Parent.
When you take a trip on an airplane, and you listen to the safety procedures before taking off the flight attendant reminds you that if for any reason the oxygen masks should deploy to place the oxygen mask on yourself first then your child.
Of course when you think about it in this situation it makes more sense, if you put the oxygen mask on your child first you may pass out in the meantime, and then you are no help to anyone.
On the surface ‘putting our oxygen mask first’ may sound selfish but the intent comes from a selfless place. Taking care of ourselves, giving ourselves the space to breathe, enjoying our interests allows us to return calm, more mindful and positive in the chaos of parenting.
That can only be beneficial and good for everyone involved, yes? Yes.
On helping kids be happy means letting go
It can be a difficult balance, physically taking care of our own needs with physically taking care of the needs of our children, but that comes with time and effort. When you’re trying to balance what your heart wants to do versus what your mind thinks you should do, then that’s a different beast altogether.
That’s why Abby at Cogito Ergo Mum tells us that helping her kids to be happy means letting them be miserable.
I want them to be equipped to decide when it is best to choose the harder route, over the more comfortable one. And I want them to be strong enough to make it to the end of some of the tougher journeys.
And when they get lost, I want them to come back stronger. If they get hurt, of course I want to ease their suffering.
But eliminate it entirely and replace it with unquestioning happiness? No.
It sounds counter-intuitive but I completely understand why we can’t let our desire for our kids to be happy, our loyalty to them, our natural need to protect them, overshadow their basic right to live their own lives.
How to learn to live with life itself.
On embracing the moments and having fun
So in our children’s journey of learning to live with life’s joys and heart breaks, we are learning to live as parents. Perhaps it’s not advice that we want or seek, deep down, perhaps it’s about getting affirmation that what we are doing is right.
Right for our kids. Right for ourselves.
So let’s be kind to ourselves and remember, at the end of it, it’s the moments that we remember. The memories we share. Manikya at Manikya Writes such a moving tribute to her kids and reminds us to embrace the moments and have fun while giving us a glimpse of what life will be like. After kids.
I have cherished every waking moment with my boys, and they have made me who I am today. They taught me patience,tolerance, and to live in the moment. I miss their sense of humor, their laugher, their fights, their silliness and maturity …
I miss our road trips and all the planning that we did for vacations. .
I miss them being little. And I’m not sure I can get over that. And also, there’s the part of womanhood as we know it has come to an end.
Parenthood. It’s the original role, the most primal, the one that nurtured us into the unique beings that we are and the one that we in turn, nurture future generations. It’s also the hardest. That’s even before the advice, Dr Google, the apps and the gadgets.
Enough people tell you what NOT to do or what to do and how to do it, it becomes so utterly confusing that I hope it’s time for a change. What kind of change?
The kind that let’s the pendulum swing back the other way. Let it rest somewhere that feels a bit more intuitive and natural.
But, it’s up to you.
All we have here is just words to consider. Words on how we can reconnect with the art of parenting;
- trust ourselves,
- put our own oxygen mask first and take care of ourselves so that we are able to take care of others
- trust in our babies ability to adapt
- let our children experience all possibilities, including unhappiness and heartbreak
- embrace the moments and have fun.
Yes, and have fun.