Wednesday, August 24, 2011

A follow-up to my Unpopular Parenting post

Wouldn't it be fun to have a blog named "Unpopular Mommy"?  You know, I was never really popular in school -- too much of a nerd and too snobbish(?) to want to compete for my spot in the sun -- and it seems I'm going to hold steady on this course throughout life.  Oh well!

I received lots of comments, both public and private, about this post and I knew I would; discussions about parenting never fail to hit nerves or strike chords, and it seems I did both.  That's okay -- it was something I had to get off my chest and I don't mind that others know where I'm coming from as a mom, even if it lands me in the minority (or the mud, so to speak).  However, it seems I may have miscommunicated something and I do want to clarify that:  When I talked about choosing to mother by instinct, I never meant to imply that I choose to mother by instinct *alone*.  I didn't mean to say that we should all eschew parenting advice in written form -- I'm an English major for crying out loud, I live "by the book!"  What I meant to say was a couple of things:  a) I want my instincts to win out, when confronted with competing/conflicting information, and b) that I wanted my initial days and weeks as a mother to be free from all voices other than my own, as I took those first faltering steps into motherhood.  I should probably add that I'm fortunate enough to have identified a particular weakness in myself early on in life, and that is this:  being inundated with too much information about how to do something only serves to paralyze me with fear of failure.  Going into birthing and mothering my son, I especially wanted to be able to trust my abilities and instincts and listen to my own voice.  And that meant drowning out and shutting out all other voices -- and their expectations.  And that meant I didn't read a library of books, or look around to everyone else to see what they were doing.

I recently read an anecdote that really illustrates where I'm coming from on this...  A young mother shared how she had been awake the night before, listening to her newborn son cry it out in his crib while she sat in another room, feeling a bit tortured by his cries and fighting her instincts to retrieve him, but also wanting a particular method to work on him, so he would adapt to a schedule and sleep through the night, just like she'd read about and watched her friends do with their babies.  With no offense to her, this is *exactly* what I don't want to do as a mom.  I don't want to read about a parenting method, or see a method that seemingly works for other people, and then try it on my family and work and stretch to make it fit us, even if it doesn't feel right to me in implementation, even if my instincts are on red alert while I do so, even if it's undoubtedly a square peg and round hole-type situation.  I don't want to be a slave to a book or method or piece of advice, just to fit in with my friends or the loudest crowd, or just to measure up to some arbitrary expectation. 

And I knew all this going in.  So I protected myself accordingly, and I'm so glad I did.  I had confidence in my choices (as much as a first-time mom *can* have) and looking back, I'm still just as proud of those choices and decisions.  Now, this doesn't mean I haven't sought advice -- I'll get my pediatrician to write a guest post on mothers of patients who come to appointments with written-out lists of questions if you don't believe me, ha! -- or haven't bought or read a parenting book.  It just means that with me, instinct rules the day.

However, as I talked about in this post, I have recently let that barrier of self-protection slip a bit.  I've had a particular private issue going on that has prevented me from seeing things as clearly as I have in the past, and it really compounded the sense of anger that I talked about in my post.  And while I processed that anger and felt it fade, I have been left with a bit of residual -- I guess "floundering" would be the right word -- as I completed my second year of parenting and stepped back to assess where I've been and where I want to go as a mom.  And in reading various blogs, I not only disagreed with certain approaches to mothering toddlers, I also saw that my approach to mothering my infants was (quite) unpopular and even a bit frowned upon by certain bloggers.  And oh, the frustration! 

So in the last few days and weeks, I've been asking questions of my girlfriends and mothers who I deeply respect.  And one of the main questions has been, I need some information and advice and want to seek it in books and on the Web, but how do I filter all that I encounter?  How do I get away from the blogs that frustrate me and find voices that echo or add to my own?  How do I continue to work out who I want to be as a mom and glean from the world what works for me and discard the rest?

I've been told by a couple of wise women that first and foremost, it's a process and there's a learning curve, figuring out what type of mother you want to be.  For example, I have found that I'm neither "granola" nor "modern" (thanks Elisabeth, for the terminology!).  And hey, that's a step, right?  And secondly, I've been pointed in new directions for information and advice -- new blogs and books and voices that encourage more "me"-, more "in the doing"-type parenting.  I spent a couple hours yesterday just drinking these in, and it was a refreshing draft, let me tell you!

Right now I'm still busy researching these blogs and books (and enjoying the process) but I hope to soon share a collection of resources compiled from friends and my own wanderings.  Let me please ask and encourage you to share your own, too!  Please pipe up in the comments.  One note, though:  I am not interested in "method" parenting whatsoever.  I'm seeking wisdom, humor, and honesty above all else (and a little bit of humility never hurts) from these resources, not a magical formula or a step-by-step system.  Also, the resources don't have to be "perfect" per se; you can still suggest them even if you've only found some of the information to be useful, or only partially in line with these criteria.  Sometimes we have to dig a bit for those nuggets of gold!

I just want to reiterate that I'm on this particular journey for my own sake, but I am all too aware that there are other moms like me, who find popular methods to be jarring and distressing and incompatible with their family's lifestyle and worldview.  I'm aware of this because some of you sweet moms have shared as much with me, and I'm hoping that, along with me, you'll find some new voices that are actually in harmony with your own and encourage you to be the mom that you want to be!

1 comment:

Kristen said...

I couldn't agree with you more! I think I spend the majority of my mommy energies second-guessing myself - is this "right"? am I screwing up my kids by doing (or NOT doing) this or that?

The truth is, I have to do what's best for me and my family. No one and I mean NO ONE knows what exactly it is like to be ME, to be married to MY husband, to work full-time outside the home at MY job, to raise MY three kids at their scattered ages and stages.

Maybe it's "parenting by instinct" or maybe it's just listening to that "still small voice" of Godly wisdom that comes with those miracles He's blessed us with.