Parenthood is like swimming in the ocean.
It can be a very liberating, even exhilarating, experience, perhaps touched with some fear or uncertainty.
Are you swimming confidently, close to shore or on long distance challenge?
Are you swimming between the flags?
Or are you caught in a rip, and being carried away?
To swim between the flags, is like parenting with guidelines (perhaps those of your health professionals, or family). They give us parameters, like a netted in swimming area, to ‘protect’ us from the unknown dangers that we are incapable of recognising or understanding.
At the beach, these flags do help to protect many, who are very unfamiliar with ocean swimming, but they do nothing to help them learn to understand the currents and tides, or to reach out beyond the boundaries and wonder at the beauty and adventure that might be beyond. The flags, or nets, actually help the lifeguard control the crowd. They can not give individual attention, lessons or assistance, so they need the boundary to help keep an eye on everyone as a group. A controlled situation, best for everyone. They pick the safest place, based on their knowledge and skills to set up. If it is too dangerous, a sign will say ‘swim at your own risk’
If you do venture beyond the flags, or swim unsupervised, you may find yourself caught in a current, a rip, that carries you along.
Perhaps the only clue you have that you are caught in a rip is your increasing feeling of isolation or lack of control. Perhaps you are alone in this rip, and you find you have nowhere to turn for help.
Do you try to fight the current?
Furiously swimming against the tide until, exhausted, you sink and get carried along with the current anyway. Unless you know you can calmly swim across the current, to find calmer water and freedom, you are powerless in this current.
Getting caught in a current is like trying to parent following strict rules. Perhaps you are using a baby-guide that says “baby should” or “you must” or you have ‘support’ from people who feel very strongly about how babies need to be treated. This current goes against your instinct, against your wishes, it doesn’t feel right, but you are being carried along. The pressure leaves you frightened and dis-empowered, you are not happy, not safe, not enjoying parenthood. If you are lucky, perhaps a ‘lifeguard’ notices your distress and can help you back to a safe zone. Even better, in the process, you are shown how to get out of a rip, you are given the tools to empower your parenting and take control. Then you are free to choose your own safe zone, where you can come and go as it suits you, seeking help if you need it, from trusted supporters.
As parents we can stay in the safe zone – unadventurous, perhaps controlled by others, but safe. Here you might find guidelines that you can work with while still having fun. You can feel reassured that you have a place to turn when in need and the company of like-minded people. You might try a few beaches to find the one that suits you, and you can parent happily within those boundaries, having made an informed choice of where you wish to swim and knowing you can change beaches any time. Swimming between the flags may be best for everyone except maybe those who are confident in ocean swimming and feel restricted and controlled in the ‘safe zone’. Those who have learned about tides and currents and know to keep their eyes open and not turn their back on the sea.
Your instinct is your most powerful tool. Once you tune into your instinct and trust your own ability, parenting can be a joyous and rewarding experience.
The journey begins with pregnancy – if you want to go with the flow, be sure to choose the right current.
I hope you enjoy your swim.