My kids are definitely my biggest teachers right now. The type of parent I am and the type of parent I want to be, regularly changes. Both because my kids are constantly changing the goalposts and I like to think I'm growing as a person too.
The truth is, I am not a perfect parent, nowhere close. But I do try my very best and I am becoming gentler both with myself and my children. Amen, to that.
I am becoming more patient, more accepting & more confident in my choices as a mother. For way too long I allowed myself to be consumed by what other people deemed as appropriate, right and proper parenting. And do you know what, it made me really really unhappy, stressed & anxious. And no mother should feel this way.
The biggest lesson & learning of this for me was my breastfeeding journey with Amelia.
In many European countries and around the world breastfeeding & extended breastfeeding is common practice and very much the norm still. In Ireland & the UK it is very much not. And that coupled with people feeling the need to share their opinion, it was a recipe for disaster for the 'me' back then.
Amelia pushed me out of my comfort zone by refusing expressed milk, water, or anything that didn't come from the boob itself. No soother, bottle teat or bribe could change her extremely willful self (some things never change!) Once she turned one, I allowed myself to feel judged by her continuing to breastfeed and became very selective in who I shared my journey with.
Something completely natural, that gave her that much-needed comfort and safety that a young child needs, became a source of anxiety for me.
If I could go back, I would shake myself and let other people's unwanted opinions slide. I was doing something good for my child and meeting her needs, not to mention the endless benefits. But I spent way too much time stressing and not enough enjoying these precious moments with my little girl.
I had similar experiences when it came to choosing my homebirth, a relaxed approach to baby led weaning, babywearing, co sleeping...listen, the list goes on!
We should be encouraging parents to trust and do what feels right for them! (To clarify here, I'm not talking about practices that are unsafe & uneducated.) One size doesn't fit all. What works for one child, almost certainly won't for the next. My own kids are teaching me this! Telling someone how to parent their children only leaves them feeling more inadequate. Instead, try being empathetic to their situation and if they need to sound off occasionally, just let them without forcing your opinion.
A good example of this is Amelia didn't sleep in her cot, like ever. In fact, unless she was on me, in a sling or feeding she struggled to sleep for any length of time. It was really stressful. I knew I was trying all the approaches that I felt comfortable with, just unfortunately without much success. Somedays, I just needed to voice the struggle. Not so anyone could magically fix it, just to get it off my chest, ya know?
Am I saying don't help each other out? Don't share best practice information? Of course not, if someone wants your opinion, give them the information and resources, but do so with humility and ultimately allow them to discern what works for them. I am an open book at the best of times. I share my struggles as a parent with others, what works for me, what doesn't. But if someone asks me for advice or is trusting enough to ask my opinion, I tread carefully. Yes, I will tell them what worked for us. But I am always be mindful that the recommendations I give are in line with best practice, said with kindness and in equal parts encourage them to read, research the topic of conflict and then make an informed decision, one that feels right to them.
I adore when women empower women, encourage women and help other women out.
This is love, this is kindness, this is empowerment. All the things we try to teach our children.