It's very easy to attach labels to different parenting 'styles' - crunchy mom, hockey mom, green mom, tiger mom and so on... These terms are used casually, especially in online conversations, but do we ever stop to think whether those parents intended to be labelled so in the first place? (I've written about the social pressures of parenting earlier.) Nobody really starts off thinking, "I'm going to be that kind of parent". Every baby is different and all parents are distinct individuals after all. Circumstances determine what we really end of becoming.Nine months of pregnancy gives ample time to think about how we are going to be as parents, and everyone wants to be perfect. But things rarely work out as envisioned.
There were many things I was determined to do 20 months ago, but today, mom to a 16-month old, I am a very different person. I don't know how I got here, but I just went with the flow without clumsily hanging on to my idea of 'the perfect parent'.
What really happened: This resolution barely lasted two days. Apart from the fact that I was recovering from a c-section, the baby would wake every hour, sometimes sooner. I threw all caution to the wind and just took him to bed with me. I didn't sleep great, but I slept at least! And Little Dude slept much more comfortably. And that's the way it has been since. It was only later that I learned that co-sleeping is actually considered safer, especially with newborns.
What I thought: I won't need a lactation consultant.
What really happened: There is nothing as 'simple' I thought, as nursing a baby. After all, that's the natural order of things, right? Turns out, I should have had a LC on speed dial. We did manage to work things out after a week, but even that would have been easier had I looked up breastfeeding support groups in advance. I eventually did find a lot of support online, but being prepared for it would have been better.
What I thought: There should be a fixed bedtime for the baby.
What really happened: This one is making me snigger! From the beginning, I've always followed my baby's lead for sleep. So, even though he won't sleep at a fixed time everyday, he always gets enough sleep by napping as often and long as he wants to. Now, there are ways to schedule a baby's sleep, but I never got around to doing it. I used to scoff at children who stayed up late and believed in an early bedtime, but that just hasn't worked out for us. Maybe once Little Dude starts school, we'll work it out (fingers crossed).
What I thought: I'll get a babysitter after the baby is a year old.
What really happened: There were many reasons why I didn't go out much in the beginning. But I had decided to start going out without the baby after a year, probably by hiring a babysitter. I used to wonder why couples with kids didn't spend more time by themselves. Turns out, it's harder than I thought. For one, we stay away from our extended family and I am just not ready to leave the little one with a babysitter. Secondly, I just can't leave him behind! I guess I have more separation anxiety than he does! It's great that parents do manage to spend time away from their kids once in a while, but I'm not ready for it...yet.
What I thought: I'll only feed home made, wholesome baby food.
What really happened: I did manage to make my own baby food for a year. But now that Little Dude is a toddler and more picky about what he eats, my aim is to just get some food in his tummy. I still make food at home, but I don't deny him Cheerios or a sugary biscuit, when he won't eat anything else.
What I thought: Parents should instill discipline early on.
What really happened: Little Dude has started resisting all that I want him to do, but I can't bring myself to 'discipline' him. Like many ignorant people without kids (some, with!), I used to frown at that toddler having a meltdown at a public place. Not so now. I totally understand that children should not be expected to behave perfectly. I believe in guiding, not disciplining.
People would probably say that I am an 'attachment parenting' or 'natural parenting' kind of mom, but I am not really worried about the label. Being a parent should not be about a set philosophy or set of rules. It should be about realising the dreams you have for your child and yourself.
(Pics: Petr Kratochvil; Curtis Newton at de.wikipedia [CC-BY-SA-3.0-de (http://creativecommons.org/licenses/by-sa/3.0/de/deed.en)], from Wikimedia Commons; Ilya Haykinson (Flickr: hopscotch) [CC-BY-SA-2.0 (http://creativecommons.org/licenses/by-sa/2.0)], via Wikimedia Commons)