19 November 2010

The Right Way to Parent?

As any mother knows, it's fairly common to have someone (family, friend, or random stranger) criticise your parenting choices, the implication being that you're doing it wrong, and that therefore their way is correct.  In fact, this begins almost from the moment that you get your BFP and start looking at various pregnancy and parenting websites or talking to other parents.  Everyone has advice and opinions on what you should do and how, and it can be really overwhelming.  At least it was for me.  I remember trawling through all the information when I was pregnant with K and coming up with ideas on how I would or wouldn't do things, and getting rather stressed in the process.

So what is the answer?  I think the answer is to do what works for you and your family.  For me, that's Attachment Parenting.  I didn't set out to do AP, and actually didn't know much about it before having K, but it's what came naturally.  All those things I said I would or wouldn't do went right out the window the minute he was born and wouldn't sleep anywhere but on me.  That led to me hiding the fact that I was co-sleeping from others, because when they found out, the reaction was almost always one of scorn and telling me he needed to be independent, nevermind that he was a baby and thus designed to be dependent on me.  Now, nearly 3 years later, I'm to the point where I just don't worry about what others say (with rare exceptions) about my parenting choices.

I admit that I still have to bite my tongue at times to make sure I'm not the one giving advice that sounds like "my way or the highway" to others, though.  It's an easy trap to fall into.  I think part of it comes from recognising what is right for us and our families, and then trying to apply that to all situations.  With the birth of my daughter, though, I learnt that I couldn't even say that what was right for us with K is right for us with C - they're very different, and I've had to change the way I do things with her.  If that's true just for siblings, then how can any one way of parenting be right for all children everywhere?

Now, I still don't advocate an "anything goes" mentality to it, really, but I think the limits are fairly common sense.  For example, don't do something that's going to hurt the child.  I could never advocate cry-it-out because recent research shows it raises cortisol levels substantially. But I'm not going to say that everyone must co-sleep (when I say co-sleeping, I'm generally referring to bed-sharing), as that doesn't work for everyone (and should only be done if you're breastfeeding and meet the other safety criteria; Dr McKenna has a lot of good info on this).

So feel free to research different methods if you want (in fact I encourage researching), and the pros and cons of different styles, but I don't think there's a one-size-fits-all way of doing things.  I think the most important thing, though, is to do what comes naturally.  You'll find later that your way of doing things likely fits in with one parenting style or another, I'm sure, or maybe it's a combination of styles, but it's important that it's what works for you and isn't a style forced upon you.


  1. I've found a good balance. I have a facebook profile that I use to passionately share information. It's opinionated, but also backed up with references and citations. If people want to friend me, they will hear about topics uncensored.

    And in online debates where people equally come to the table with ideas and opinions, I will challenge it or post differing medical literature, etc. That's only fair to others who might come across it and not know the facts.

    But in person? Strangers? In public? I don't confront anyone unless 1) they ask me about something or 2) there's immediate danger.

    I am absolutely anti-formula. But for example I would never glare at a woman or make a comment if I see her bottle feeding. I don't see how any good comes from belittling someone or confronting them when they aren't ready to learn something new, or even in a learning mode at the time.

  2. Oh, I know what you mean, Guggie. There are some things I think are absolutely better than others (thus my mention of CIO), but other things (like co-sleeping, for example) are more flexible, IMO. I fully agree with your last paragraph there, how it doesn't do any good to belittle another, especially if we don't know the reasoning. Perhaps the woman bottle-feeding had undiagnosed D-MER and didn't have access to a milkshare programme, for example.