Being a mom is hard. I know this. I know it 5 kids in 8 years, homeschooling, ridiculous special diets, mountains of laundry and raisin smears on my toes if I dare walk barefoot in the kitchen. I spent the last month getting less sleep than a Marine in Boot Camp because we’ve had virus after virus and my poor 7 month old was so sick for so long she forgot how to suck her fingers (read forgot how to sleep). Motherhood is freaking hard so why the big push to make it harder?

Today I saw a review of a book by Jared Diamond. It’s called, The World Until Yesterday, and deals with Diamond’s experience in 3rd world countries, or what he calls, “small scale societies.” The book focuses mainly on childcare practices in these communities and he talks a lot about extended breast feeding, co-sleeping and immediate response to a child’s crying. While I agree that all of these techniques are great child rearing tools, and I use them myself, this looking to the experts thing is getting a little ludicrous. No one needed to tell me that my first infant should sleep with me. I wanted to feel her breathe, and I needed to sleep, so she slept on my chest. I breastfed her because she was hungry and I had milk and there was no reason to complicate my life or hers with a bottle. I picked her up when she cried because I couldn’t bear the wailing (that kid had a set of lungs, let me tell you), and my arms got tired, so I found a pack she liked so she would be happy and I could finish the dishes.

Why do we need experts to tell us how to hold our kids, how to feed them, how to teach them to crawl and walk and talk? What happened to asking your mom or your sister or your neighbor or some woman you know personally and respect? Is it not at least slightly hilarious that women are now looking to a male expert on the 3rd World to figure out how to relax, trust our instincts and do what works? Since when are men experts on child-rearing, anyway? Show of hands – how many of your husbands have put a diaper on your kid backwards? Oh, don’t pretend. You know he would be lost without you. You have instinctive knowledge he just doesn’t have. If you don’t think you have it, it’s because you don’t trust yourself enough to listen to it. It’s there. Put down the magazine – no one who actually has kids also has a house that looks like that, unless she has domestic staff. Quit asking the pediatrician if your six-month-old is ready for solids. You’ll know he’s ready when you can no longer stand his attempts to steal your food at dinner. And don’t even think about buying this thing. I’m serious. Step away from the credit card.

If the continuation of the human race has been dependent from its outset on the survival of these dimpled wiggling bundles of hunger and poop and vomit and tears, babies surely must be sturdy enough to roll over in their sleep without croaking. There’s no way that spending $90 to strap your kid to his mattress is all that stands between him and annihilation.

I really think it’s silly for me or anyone else to give unsolicited advice on the nitty gritty details of caring for children, because there’s no way for anyone to know the dynamics of your family, the personalities and needs of your babes, or the way you feel most comfortable taking care of them, and if you really can’t live without a velcro baby straight jacket, using one is certainly your prerogative.

But there are some basic, bonehead principles that will make your parenting both easier and more effective. The first and most important is to remember why you’re in the game at all. Why did you have kids? Did you consider a dog then remember you hate animal hair? Were you just curious to see if you could? Maybe you saw a pair of must-have baby booties and needed a good reason to buy them? If any of these are the case, it’s not too late to either contact your local adoption agency or change your outlook. If, on the other hand, you had (or are developing) a desire to create something bigger and better than yourself, to make the world a better place by adding good people to it, then you’re on the path to easy parenting, and by easy, I mean simple and worthwhile. When there’s a good reason to endure the pain in the butt that parenting is and always will be, it changes from enduring torture, to working toward a goal.

The second principle, which follows directly from the first, is that children are people; right from the start. Treat them with respect and remember their potential. They will become exactly the people you think they are.

And the third principle is to use your head and listen to your heart. No product, no book, no method and certainly no expert can substitute for the special knowledge and instincts parents have for raising their kids. Listen to the cues your kid is giving you, and pay attention to the feelings and thoughts you and your spouse have – they generally make a lot more sense than the latest child-rearing fad.

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