A few years back, perusing the internet, I stumbled onto ‘enzo truth’.
I was reading their page about attachment parenting, or rather their justification of babywise in the face of critics who are mostly AP advocates. They made mention of their book for older children, which advocates spanking (in a controlled way, of course) and challenged the importance of the mother-child bond, favouring instead the father as leader of the household.
At this point I thought “steady on!”, this is the 21st Century…aren’t we about equality? Assuming that the family is a mother-father-child family, isn’t it more important that the parents are loving towards each other and towards their children? Shouldn’t the parents make decisions together? and shouldn’t those decisions be based on what is best for their situation?
In these information-rich times, shouldn’t decisions be informed?
What frightens me about the myriad of advice books is the ones that say “baby should” and “you should” and “your baby will”. This kind of dictation undermines a mothers instinct.
I like the books that say “research shows..” and “some babies…” and “you can try….” and “alternative are…”. These kind of books provide evidence based options, more easily adapted to different situations.
Unfortunately for many first-borns, the trial and error nature of modern parenting means that their siblings benefit from lessons learned through mistakes and fumbles. When parents are surrounded by a culture of mis-information, myth and mis-guided advice that goes against their instinct they face criticism and challenge that without proper backing leads to doubt and sadness.
The power of mainstream culture, largely shaped by media influence (in the westernised countries) and schooling, means that parenting is devalued and children are to be endured rather than enjoyed. Mainstream culture in Australia normalises intervention in birth and stigmatises natural birth (especially at home). From there, breastfeeding whilst considered ‘best’ is by no means the norm, and it is quite acceptable to use alternatives. It is also, these days, quite normal for children to be institutionalised in day care from a very young age to allow both parents to work. By 5, most children are beginning their formal schooling. The processes of day care and school segregates firstly children from their primary carers, and secondly children by age.
Let’s follow the life of a mainstream Australian woman, and I am being very general here:
She is born, is breastfeed for a few months, and perhaps combination fed for a few more. Her mother returns to work, and from 12 months she is in day care. She spends her time with age-mates, in an apparently stimulating environment, and seems happy and adjusted. With each year she progresses from the ‘baby room’ to the ‘toddler room’, to the ‘preschool room’, and from there to ‘big school’. For the next 13 years she spends her time primarily with the same group of children, the same age, learning according to the schedule. On finishing high school she is encouraged to go to university. With a degree, she then finds (hopefully enjoyable) work and progresses up the ranks. She socialises in pubs and clubs, takes a contiki tour, and meets Mr Right. They settle down, and start a family. It is at this point that the woman realises she has never held a baby, has had very little to do with children and her own mother is clueless to how things are done now. The process of pregnancy is very much monitored and guided, she trusts her carers to inform her, and fumbles along. Much of her expectations are based on horror stories and television. Her partner, likely to be equally clueless, does his best to support her. In the sleepless haze that follows the birth of their child, they are bombarded with advice. At some point sleep training is mentioned, and it sounds good. Breastfeeding is problematic, so a bottle is introduced. She feels isolated from her previous life, disconnected from her intelligence and now belongs to a different segregation. That of the Mother.
This culture of segregation, means that most women are not prepared for the transition into motherhood. Our culture does not honour or recognise this valuable role of the mother, and increasingly also of the father.
So cue the self-help books.
Here you will find the answers. Here the gaps are filled, you don’t need to have experienced it, you can read all about it.
Pick two books at random and they probably contradict each other.
So now information overload sets in, and we become increasingly vulnerable to bad (if well meaning) advice.
There is no easy solution to this cultural problem. You try a few mothers groups, or not; you return to work, or not; you breastfeed, or not… There is no road map, you have to create that yourself.
But there are resources worth knowing about:
During pregnancy you can empower yourself about breastfeeding by getting in touch with the Australian Breastfeeding Association. They run prenatal breastfeeding education classes, based on current and evidence-based information. The only agenda ABA has is to ensure you understand breastfeeding. You take it from there. https://www.breastfeeding.asn.au/classes
You can also find yourself a doula to help you navigate the information overload (or fill the gaps), help you create a birth plan, and prepare for parenthood. A doula is a guide, not a teacher. Your doula will adapt the information to suit you, listen to your needs and support them, and will help your partner support you. Find out more at http://www.bellabirth.org
From here, you will be able to place yourself on your map, and know where your main supports are in advance. You can fill in the rest as you go.