Becoming a parent has brought many new experiences: childbirth, early mornings, unconditional love and singing the same song 12 times in a row without the aid of alcohol. One of these new experiences is the previously hidden (and overwhelming) community of people who have opinions about how you raise your kid. I’m slowly growing a thick skin to it, but boy did it blindside me when I was starting out. I’ve written before about pre-baby Steph and how naïve she was. But this is different. It’s all very personal.
When you’re mum to a newborn, being awake most of the time and at anti-social hours can be very isolating. Reading/writing blogs like these is a way to reach out and not to feel so alone. There are also many online groups you can join – full of like minded people. It’s such a blessing when you find ones that are a good fit with your own philosophy. But beware if you don’t quite fit. It can be very confronting to read what somebody really thinks of someone who’s parenting style doesn’t align with theirs.
What am I talking about? You’ve probably already come up with your own examples. I don’t seek to alienate anyone. As Emily Writes once said: “I’m not parenting at you”. Becoming a mum has taught me more open mindedness and compassion than anything else in my life that’s gone before. Even things that cause me to have an initial reaction. I stop and think to myself “I don’t know what it’s like to be that child’s parent”.
I still get hurt when I read the thoughts of people who think that I’ve harmed my child or “didn’t try hard enough” by choosing to formula feed (Breast/Bottle) Feeding or to sleep train Re-learning Self Settling. I was almost apologetic in writing those two pieces and shy to share them too. But by having that attitude, I do a huge disservice to myself, Jessica and other parents who make the best decision for their child (and themselves).
I’ve spent a lot of time pondering why my decision to formula feed for example impacts someone who is happily breastfeeding their child. Well, for a start it’s the messaging we receive around the benefits of breastfeeding and the damage done by choosing formula (implied or not). Secondly, probably because breastfeeding is either incredibly easy for them or more likely, it’s been really difficult for them but they’ve managed to persevere. So my “giving up” or “not trying harder” is an affront to the sacrifice they have made – why wouldn’t I do that for my child? I mean no offense either way. I’m at a point where I’m genuinely seeking to understand. Maybe I’m still too scared to ask.
I showed someone a picture of my little girl on her pillow watching TV because in classic mum style I thought it was cute. She commented: “watching TV at 14 months, that’s a bit weird isn’t it?” 6 months ago I might’ve taken that personally and gotten upset about it. It didn’t really bother me (however I choose to write about it). And I saw fit to explain to her that Jessica’s vocabulary has really blossomed thanks to Dora the Explorer, Bubble Guppies and Jeopardy. It’s similar to how I felt I needed to explain why my daughter was being fed formula. I always had to jump in and explain my supply couldn’t keep up. But how is that anyone else’s business?
So remember – you’re not going to agree with everyone.
Not everyone is going to agree with you.
We are all trying our best.
And opinions are like bums: everyone has one.