I just came across a fantastic post on a blog called Baby Rabies. In the post, the author speaks about the pressures of being boxed in as a parent and the pressures to conform to one particular doctrine (formula or breastfeeding, co-sleeping or crib sleeping, cloth diapers or disposables, baby wearing or not baby wearing). From what I have heard, felt, understood already, so many of these parenting decisions come with tremendous guilt…if you’re not doing it this way, you’re doing it wrong. The believers of each doctrine, whether they’re for or against, seem so adamant in their opinons that if you dare oppose their preaching, you’ll be burning in the depths of bad parenting hell and your little one might be forever scarred – and who knows what the long term implications might be (he definitely won’t be the Prime Minister, or on full scholarship to some Ivy League school, and forget about him being a superstar athlete…if you’re lucky he might just graduate kindergarten).
As much as we are led to believe that there is only one “right” way to do something, there isn’t. And when I am feeling guilty for doing something “wrong”, this is what I need to remember. A friend told me “its not the labour I’m afraid of, its what comes next”. Just think of the enormous responsibility that we as parents are suddenly thrown into and the pressure we put on ourselves to be perfect. Not only do we need to meet the most basic needs of our babies (nourish, love, clothes, shelter), but we need to teach them all about life when we haven’t even come close to mastering it ourselves.
When we brought Max home, he was completely unhappy sleeping on his back. He would scream and squirm night after night. We noticed that when he was on his tummy, he was happy as could be, and would drift off to sleep – We tried putting him on his tummy one night. He slept. It was wonderful.
But then, I started thinking about the potential consequences of this tummy sleeping, and I began to feel tremendous guilt. SIDS of course, has been associated with tummy sleepers, co-sleepers, drinkers, poverty, etc, etc. A lot of these correlations are loose, but they are enough to strike complete fear and guilt into every parent.
When I met with my mid-wife I told her quite seriously that I had a confession to make. She actually looked relieved when all it turned out to be was that Max was sleeping like most of us did when we were babies, on our stomachs. She simply said if that is how he wants to sleep, let him sleep like that. It was such an amazing breath of fresh air for me, and it washed away so much of the guilt I was feeling.
Max’s stomach sleeping will likely be one of many many many parenting “rules” that I don’t follow, because, quite frankly, sometimes its just impossible. My biggest challenge though, will not be being consumed by guilt when I don’t do what everyone else is doing. All I can do is love him to pieces and try my best…and hope that my best is good enough.