That might sound a bit odd, I mean, why wouldn’t I parent the way I wanted?
Here’s the thing though; when I had my first baby, 13 years ago, I didn’t have a clue what I was doing. I was heavily influenced by mainstream parenting ideas – books, magazines, TV programmes. I was scared to make a rod for my own back, I thought my baby needed a routine, I thought I should be sleep training him if he didn’t sleep all night. I didn’t trust my instincts as much as I should have done, and did what I thought was the ‘right’ or ‘expected’ thing to do.
Over the next couple of years I learnt more about other styles of parenting. I learnt about the fourth trimester, and what babies need in the early days, and what children need as they grow up. When I found out I was pregnant the second time, I knew I wanted to parent differently – both for my new baby, and for my toddler.
Second time round I trusted my instincts far more. Maybe, having done it all once before, I felt more relaxed. I took all the pressure off myself, and found a parenting style that was far more ‘me’. When it came to sleep, I didn’t stress over where my baby was sleeping – as long as he was sleeping! Contact naps were our thing, either in my arms, or in a stretchy wrap sling. At night we would flit between using the moses basket, and sharing my bed. I learned how to bed share safely, something that regularly saved my sanity, and something we would continue to do for several years (spoiler alert – said baby is now 10 and doesn’t sleep in my bed anymore!) I breastfed, and watched my baby instead of the clock. I didn’t fret over whether it had been 3 hours or 30 minutes since the last feed. I didn’t feel pressure to introduce a bottle so that others could ‘help’, and I knew that using formula wouldn’t magically make him sleep all night.
With my toddler I stopped using time outs, and started using time ins – removing ourselves from the situation, but staying with him and supporting him through his emotions. The mantra “he’s not giving you a hard time, he’s having a hard time” was regularly repeated in my head. I learnt about gentle, respectful parenting, stopped using empty threats, and started offering more choice, so he had control over certain situations. My parenting was nowhere near perfect (whose is?!) but it felt far more in tune with what he needed.
I learnt to try and work out what my children needed, rather than what society expected from me. Most importantly, I learned that you don’t have to fit in a box, or give yourself a label. Parenting is like pick ‘n’ mix – you choose the bits that work for you, and it doesn’t have to be all or nothing.
Do you parent authentically?