I read all the books while I was pregnant. Before I was pregnant, too. I wrapped myself in a haze of “If I only do this perfectly and differently from how I was raised, then my baby will be perfect. She will never suffer and will never, ever go through any pain or discomfort , and all will be right in her world.”
(I think that’s what all parents hope and want and are afraid of not giving).
I thought if I securely pushed myself into one tribe, one dichotomy of parenting, then I Would Be Right. That I’d score myself the A+ in the parenting scorecard. I read somewhere that everyone is the perfect parent before they have a baby. It made me howl with laughter — how true that was for me.
Because I judged. Oh god, how I judged.
I judged the slightest hint of wavering, of humanity in a mother. I judged any attempt by a mother to make it easy on herself. I judged prams like they were little baskets of disconnection.
I judged until my insides were pretzelled. I clamoured for safety in my judgements. I judged because I thought it made my world safer and more easy to understand. I judged because then I could know the right answer. I judged because then I could say “If only they ______, their baby would be okay.” I judged as though my judgements would save me, and would save my baby.
Then mamahood came at me like a freight train.
I became a mama, and I tussled and struggled with perfection — with who I was supposed to be and how parenthood was supposed to look. When babywearing did not work for my infant daughter, I swallowed a large lump of judgement, and bought a pram. And I would walk around with it, wrapped in a cloak of shame and anxiety. I judged myself for every moment she slept in there quite happily, oblivious to the fact that her mama was pushing not only the pram but a trainload of guilt, too.
I would often go through the list of Dr Sear’s Seven B’s, ticking them off, trying to get each one right. If parenting was a report card, I was scoring myself according to someone else’s ideals, not my own.
Can I tell you now that it didn’t work? That it hurt to push myself (and my family) so forcefully into someone else’s box? I thought if I sacrificed myself for my daughter every single moment, it would make her life good. It didn’t make my life good however — it made me anxious and tight and fighting for breath and sanity and any sense of myself. I forgot the one big lesson of my life: trusting myself.
All my life, I’ve known that I didn’t need to adhere to one faith, one book, one way of being. That all I needed to do was trust myself — trust my intuition — and give myself what I needed. I could survey the spiritual buffet of options, and only take in those things that sang to me, that nourished me, that made me whole.
I forgot I could apply this to parenting.
I am less convinced that one style of parenting will heal all the wrongs in the world.
I am less convinced that one style of parenting will heal all the wrongs in the world. I am less convinced that The Other styles of parenting will result in adults who are irretrievably damaged. It’s all just merging into a blur for me. All it truly means — parenting or religion or anything else in life for that matter — is LOVE.
Can I tell you that I know mamas who bottle-feed, breastfeed, co-sleep, have lovely nurseries, are slung, are prammed, have bums in disposables or cotton… and on and on. The sameness, the differences, the boring details (because that is truly all they are). Every single one of them are wonderful, perfect mamas. They have found their own groove. They love their children with all they can — and they love themselves, too.
Just as I know souls who were raised in a rainbow kaleidoscope of ways… and each of them have their own joys, gladness, and lessons. Every single person on this planet can be happy, healed, and dancing — however their bum was wrapped. However their heart was held. Whatever parenting books their parents read (or not).
I keep remembering that one of my deepest faiths is this:
- Healing miracles can happen in one instant. Healing and joy is a choice, and it is up to each of us.
- My child will grow. I will love her. I will give her what I can. I will be the mama I am.
- I will not give myself away in the battle. More importantly, I will not battle. I will make mistakes. I will feel resentful sometimes. I will open myself to the possibility that love is enough, that healing will part the way — for me, for her, for my love. We aren’t expected to have it all together every moment.
I used to think that I shouldn’t have children before I Had It All Together. And I thought I did when I fell pregnant. Then I became a mama. And everything I had together fell apart. And slowly, slowly, I put it back together again.
My daughter will be who she is. That is the most exquisite thing I could ever want for her. Any push from me to be the perfect mama is all fallow work. What if I just gave into it? What if I gave up pushing so hard, started resting more, throwing out every book, every judgment, every ideal that I clung to? Where would that leave me? With a tremendous amount of freedom to feel the way according to my own soul.
I’m not interested in judgment anymore.
I am less interested in ideals. Less interested in deciding what is right in parenting. I am more interested in finding my own groove, my own style, my own way of dancing this dance of mine. After all — it truly is my own dance.