What makes parenting so scary? It seems like a question with an obvious answer considering all the responsibility linked to the tiny title of ‘parent’; however I ask this because I think this fear is a new phenomenon. When I look at my own parents or my parent’s parents and speak to them about the roles of a mother or father, they are so calm about it. They take the role seriously yet have also demonstrated ease in relation to the topic and in performing the job.
So why this new generation of fear parenting? My thoughts are that this is due to the over-saturation of parenting advice. We have books, internet sites, radio, talk shows, magazines, friends, acquaintances, and even perfect strangers telling us how to parent. “Let them cry it out!” “Let them sleep with you!” “You’re too strict, kids need to be kids!” “You’re letting them run wild which will only cause trouble when they turn into teens!” I have one daughter who is under a year and already I don’t have enough space or time to dispense all the advice I’ve received. So looking back over the time I was pregnant and this short time of motherhood I have a piece of advice for you: don’t take advice. Of course not all advice is bad and that is not what I mean by my recommendation, but let me explain where I’m coming from.
Before I had my child I remember telling so many people that I was afraid ‘this motherly instinct thing’ wouldn’t kick in. “What if I don’t feel it or have it?” I would ask. However, now that I’m a mom I realize what a ‘motherly instinct’ is. It’s the voice that told you not to walk down that path late at night when you were 10 and it’s the same voice that told you that that certain suitor wasn’t right for you when you were in your 20’s. It’s really just the little voice in your head that you’ve told to shut up a million times. I always took ‘motherly instinct’ to mean that this instinct kicked in with motherhood to allow you to better parent your child, but I found that it was an instinct I had always had that had all these years been trying to mother me. And now I let it.So instead of listening to all the advice I received, instead I listened to my instincts. So although I don’t doubt that eating almonds helped you produce more milk while nursing, and although I don’t doubt that you getting acne during your pregnancy meant that you were having a girl and that she was ‘stealing your beauty’, my instincts told me otherwise and I listened to them instead.
So next time you receive a piece of advice (like the one I’m giving you right now) see if it falls in line with your instincts. Does it make sense to you? Do you think you and your child would benefit from it? If so, then take it, try it and see how it works. If not, smile, nod, thank them for their advice and then throw it aside. Because at the end of the day we’re all individuals raising individuals so we are essentially recreating the wheel every time, and oh, is it ever a fun ride!
Lena Hassan lives in Ottowa, Canada. She is mother to one little girl.