Why I don’t read parenting books.

PSA

As always the opinions are my own and I’m not telling you NOT to read parenting books… just that I didn’t for my own little reasons.  I’m just opinionated as I’m sure you’ve figured out by now.  I’m happy to be your friend no matter what books you use as your guide.  Now on with the show.

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When I was 4 years old I was sat on the couch looking at a book.  My Mother asked me what I was doing and I told her:

“I’m reading”

“You can’t read!” my Mother joked

“Yes I can!” said 4 year old me

“Go on then” my Mother urged.  So I did.

I read her the book I was looking at.  She assumed I had memorized it so she got another book and I read that one too.  Don’t get me wrong, I wasn’t reading with intonation or speed but I had learned to read.  My Mother couldn’t believe it!

And there began my love of books.  I started with Dr Seuss then Enid Blyton.  I went on to Judy Blume, Nancy Drew, Anne Rice and more.  I devoured books.  I was frequently at the library (particularly as an early teen) and was always the one who my friends came to with their puberty questions.  (Silly in hindsight because I was a late bloomer in that department and most of my knowledge came from teen magazines.)

adult-1867751_1920As I grew older I had less time to read.  However, whenever I went on vacation  I’d buy 2 books to take with me and come home with 6.  I found it hard to part with a loved book when I had someone else in mind who might enjoy it.  I resented the weight of my backpack but still couldn’t part with the books.  Nobody was happier than me when the Kindle was invented.  Finally I could travel as heavy as I liked and add no extra weight to my luggage!

You’d think with this love of reading, I would have been devouring parenting books since the day I decided to have a child on my own.  That has not been the case.

For some reason I’ve always thought parenting books were patronizing.  I don’t believe that one size fits all and I don’t think anyone knows my child better than me.  I have spent enough time on forums to see how much added stress women put on themselves by worrying what their babies should or shouldn’t be doing based upon some book they have read. The one bug bear topic is of course infant sleep.  If you read enough parenting books on this they will eventually all contradict themselves.  Read this article if you want a laugh and you’ll see my point.

Most parenting books are not even slightly scientifically researched.  They are the product of one person or small group of peoples combined observations of children.  And lets face it, they’re going to be using their methods in order to prove them without much care for the personalities of the babies involved.  I would much rather be reading a new Moms blog. 🙂

So I decided that other than a quick glance at the Wonder Weeks app every now and then, I would just wing it.

Instead of reading parenting books I joined a group run by a doula for new Mothers.  There were only 6 of us in the group and if you hadn’t shown up by the second class then the doors were closed and nobody else was allowed to join.  I remember thinking this seemed very strict but then I saw her wisdom.  In keeping this group small and recognizable, trust was built very quickly.  Our group couldn’t have been more different but we had strange similarities too (for instance, we are all dorky crafters!)  By the third session we had set up a private Facebook group and became each others go to for conversations and advice at 3am.  20 months later and our group is still active.  We check in on one another with questions, concerns, funny kid videos and milestones.  There is no greater source of support than women who are going through the same stage of parenting at the same time.  Some of us devour the parenting books and some of us – not so much!

I really feel that having no expectations of my sons behavior was a huge plus.  His sleep has never followed what babies ‘should’ do and nor have his eating habits.  So long as he’s growing and thriving and meeting his milestones and I’m getting enough rest, I’m happy.

Becoming a parent is a huge change and all these books just add pressure to make us feel that there is a normal when it comes to infants/babies/kids.   You just do your best and follow the cues of your baby.  You read a book if you need some suggestions but bear in mind that they might not work.   Some things they tell you to do are just plain mean.

I am sure that as my son becomes more of a toddler and has tantrums about what he wears and which color cup he drinks out of I may well be googling the kindest way to handle his overabundance of emotion but until then we are happy flying by the seat of our pants and embracing the moments – no matter what they bring.

 

For all the Mothers

Let’s get this straight.  I am not a Hallmark Holiday kind of girl.  I’m the girl who tells her boyfriend not to buy her anything for Valentines day and actually means it.  I believe that you should be kind to the people in your lives on a consistent basis and therefore not need a national holiday to remind you to do this.

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Poppies – my Mothers favorite flower

Mothers day…  as it has never been a holiday about me, it’s not one that I have spent my life completely ignoring.  I traditionally bought my Mother a card and a little something to mark the day as I’m sure most of you did also.

I was raised in the UK and they celebrate Mothers day in March.  When I moved to the USA and my Mum was still in England I could never remember the day and the May date just seemed silly to us and thus the expectation dropped and we agreed to stop bothering with it altogether.  That said I feel that there is a twinge of disappointment when I fail to deliver.  I don’t think that she realized that my being allowed to forget it for her enabled me to move past the pain I felt of it not being a celebration for me too.  Selfish I know but infertility can make you feel this way.

Of all the Hallmark Holidays I feel that this can be the most painful for so many people for so many reasons.  Maybe you’ve lost your Mother, never had a Mother or long to be a Mother.  It’s so much easier to let the day slip past without commemoration than to wade through the aisles of cards with their sentimental messages.  I get it.

Now I am on the other side.  I am a Mother (finally!) and I still don’t feel the urge to dash out and purchase the most gigantic floral arrangement that money can buy.  I do however have a huge appreciation for my own Mum and the things that she has done that have allowed me to fulfill my dream of being a Mother.

As a Single Mother by Choice I had to do a lot of planning before taking the leap and having a child on my own.  I work an atypical schedule.  Daycare isn’t an option as I don’t start work until 4pm.  Paying a babysitter would have been more of a strain on my finances than I could have handled.  My Mother said she would gladly watch the baby whilst I worked.  Godsend!

I had done 2 rounds of IVF and experienced a miscarriage when we put my Mothers house on the market and started looking for suitable properties.  My Mother also cares for her elderly Father which added another dimension into our house hunting process.

 

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Finally we found the perfect house.  A place with a separate in-law apartment that could be converted into a 2 bedroom house.  We purchased it, did a huge renovation and 3 months later I was at last pregnant with my son.

 

It had been a huge leap of faith.  I knew that the living arrangement wouldn’t suit me if I were to remain childless.  I was at a point where I didn’t believe I would ever have a child of my own. Before we bought the house, I was maxxed out on loans.  Luckily for me, my debts were all rolled into the new mortgage. This enabled me to take out another loan to pay for that last, final treatment (the one that worked!)

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My Mother with her father and my son. Can you say sandwich generation?

If it weren’t for my Mothers own sacrifices to care for her elderly Father and to offer to care for my (at the time) future child, I don’t know that I would have ever been able to do this on my own.  I say that I would have found a way – but would I?  I guess I’ll never know.

Mothers day has a different meaning now and I’ve started buying cards again, I’m even going to buy flowers and a little gift from my son so my Mum feels truly appreciated.  Without her, there would be no us.

As for me?  I have everything I need.  Smiles and giggles are the perfect gift from my little guy this Mothers day.

So to all of you, especially those of you who are struggling, I send you light and hope and wish you a Happy day.