Wednesday, June 11, 2014

the kids are alright...

I read an article in the Australian the other week in defence of "attachment parenting". And I just kind of wanted to go hide under a rock for a while.

Whilst I could only admire the author's account of her daughter's early days and upbringing, as her love and affection shone through in every word - I baulked at the ominous overtones of the latter half of the article.

Here is yet another piece telling us how to parent - warning us of the risk that our children will grow up aggressive, depressed, dysfunctional - perhaps even turn into psychopaths - if we fail to parent in a certain way (I swear I'm not making this up).

Wonderful. Isn't this just what every new parent needs to hear? It's bad enough that we feel out of our depth, often emotional, perhaps sleep deprived - now you can throw shit scared into the mix.

Why are we so obsessed with labels? Why can't we just be parents? Must we ascribe to a specific philosophical school of thought in order to raise our little rugrats? Do you follow Pinky or Tizzy? Perhaps the scientific Sears method, or Gina Ford's schedules? Are your kids free-range, or Ferber-ized?

My issue with all these experts is always the same - their pressure and insistence that their way is the Best Way, the Only Way, is incredibly alienating and stress-inducing. What if I can't breastfeed? Don't feel comfortable co-sleeping? Let my baby grizzle on occasion? Am I not truly "attached" to my baby? Am I risking her mental and emotional well-being? OH GOD, AM I FAILING AS A PARENT?!

My personal parenting philosophy? If it works for you, and it's not harming anyone, then it's good. Amen.

There is no magic secret that is going to ensure our kids have the perfect childhood, and grow up into happy, successful adults. There isn't a school of parenting ideology that can guarantee the perfect outcome. Just love your kids, care for them, the best you can, and in the way that works best for you and your family.

And when it goes a bit pear-shaped (which of course it frequently does), I turn to my "village" - my mum, my sister, my girlfriends, my mothers group - my husband! My ultimate partner in crime and baby-rearing! Even parents I don't know - there is a bond that ties you to complete strangers simply by virtue of that common experience you share.

I think the temptation is to lock ourselves in our houses armed with piles of reference material, and the dreaded Interwebs, and scare the holy hell out of ourselves. When we should be reaching out, asking for help, looking for that shared experience of parenthood - trust me, it's there!

And forget the labels - it's not possible to condense the parenting experience into ten words or less


  1. Very well said. My sister had her first baby a few weeks ago and is largely blocking out all the 'a dice' she's been given and doing her own thing, however I think she's felt a lot of pressure to persist with breastfeeding because it's 'right' even though it's taken several weeks to have mild success. The strength you must need as a new mother is enough without having to consider needing extra strength to fight off unwanted or unnecessary criticism - because that is what the 'advice' often is, disguised as something good for you.

  2. I have a 13 day old and I really relate to this. My baby cries, screams, doesn't latch properly, is always hungry and colicky. Everyone has an opinion on what is wrong with him. I thought I would be a calm, peaceful parent but I am losing my s**t. Right now I would try anything to get him to sleep. My saving grave has been reading 'how Eskimos keep their babies warm'. Basically stories of parenting in different cultures. It reminds me no one is doing it right and no one us doing it wrong.

  3. Nicely put. My little girl is almost one (less than three weeks away) and while I had very firm ideas of how everything would work before her arrival, they quickly went out the window!
    The one thing that's hit me more than anything else - well, other than potential for parent guilt with every turn - is that these little babies of ours are their own people. How on earth do we think there is 'a' book or 'a' method that is best for each and every one of them? And why do we need to judge or put down what others do for their baby to make ourselves feel better?

  4. Love this!

    I'm not a parent so unfortunately I dont know exactly what it's like but the thing closest to me is my sister (and we're quite close) She pays no attention to labels and when I ask her if she knows about the methods (attachment etc) that other mothers speak she says "what the F is that" LOL. BUT what I can see, is that she is honestly the most amazing Mother I have personally come accross, She cares fiercely for her children but not being overbearing whilst simultaneously having a seperate identity to her "mother" role. Guess what? Her children completely adore and love her anyway! The fact that she is just doing her own thing is the proof in the pudding that labels are exactly what you have articulated above. Another reason to make parents feel like their way isn't the right way (even if it's completely fine!)


    (Ps Evie is so adorable!)

  5. I think that is why there is sooooo many baby books. Every kid is different and there is no one size fits all. I've never read a baby book and can not tell you what parenting ethos I subscribe to, other than I love my kid whilst trying not to burn the house down haha

  6. My favourite thing about reading those kind of articles, is instead of thinking about how I raise my daughter, thinking about how I was raised.

    If those articles are anything to go by, as a child who was sleeping in a crib from day one, formula fed, smacked, left to play by myself most of the time, not allowed to leave the table until I had finished all the vegetables on my plate, TV watching, and many other evil things, I should be a murderous super villain.
    But I'm not. I'm a pretty average person, because people don't work that way, and you know what, sure there were some bumps along the way, but I had a pretty cruisy childhood. I don't resent my parents, my mother and I have a fantastic relationship, will I do everything the same way they did? No. But that's just because I'm a different person.

    I probably do bits and pieces from every parenting 'style'. Trial and error.

  7. I must admit that I read all the books when I was pregnant and then was permanently attached to my iphone googling every thing my child did every day for like the first year! Being a new parent is so scary and most of the fear is caused by all these books, blogs and parenting "methods".

    We had pretty much no support the first because we lived so far from our families and so we did whatever felt right and got us the most sleep possible. For us that meant breastfeeding on demand, co sleeping, baby wearing etc but I refuse to label it. I hate people asking me what books I followed or whatever. I always say "yeah, I read all the books but Grace wasn't in any of them..." I was parented pretty much exact opposite to the way I have parented Grace and I turned out very well adjusted (definitely not depressed or aggresive!)

    I'm with you Cate, whatever works, keeps everyone sane and no one is getting hurt. You're doing an awesome job babe!

    Ps. I wouldn't do the co sleeping again.

  8. Agree agree agree. My baby, Zoe, has zero interest in co-sleeping or being 'attached' to me. I've always followed her lead on everything - ie she showed me her sleeping patterns and she's always needed a lot of sleep. If I'd followed any of the popular sleeping guides I would have an extremely overtired cranky bubba on my hands.
    I kinda don't get parenting 'methods' because obviously every child is unique and special...aren't they?

  9. Ugh, ugh, ugh. Not a parent (yet), but I hate all the "my way is the only way to have a non-messed-up child" nonsense. Sounds like you're being very sensible. Btw attachment parenting is not actually recommended, except in cases of severe neglect/abuse (think children who grew up in orphanages) - it doesn't really foster healthy independence in children.