Go to any parent and baby group, soft-play area, park, or general public space, and it quickly becomes clear that there are literally hundreds of thousands of different ways to parent. You can’t swing your changing bag without knocking down a whole load of people with a different parenting style to your own.
This is good. I mean, every child is different, so it makes sense every parent would be too….right? Well, yes, although it can also make life as a new Mum pretty precarious. Already you’re a foreigner to this strange new ‘Parent Land’ navigating your way through uncertain terrain: “Home or hospital birth? Land or water birth? Breast or bottle feed? Traditional or Baby-Lead weaning? State school, private school, homeschool, un-school?!?!” etc etc etc.
It can be difficult enough, what with the sleep deprivation to even begin to make sense of the choices you’re facing, without also having to worry that by doing A you’re going to be upsetting everyone who does B or that by choosing X you then have to also choose Y and Z as well.
There are some people who pick one parenting path and stick to it. For some of those people it may genuinely be that every single bend, fork, and bump along that path suits them and their little family perfectly. In which case that’s wonderful and super convenient. For others I expect it’s more the case that they’re so overwhelmed by this new parenting journey they’ve found themselves on, too exhausted and terrified to forge their own path forward, too late to turn back, they really just want someone, anyone, but preferably another parent or better still, an “expert” to hand them a sat-nav, a route plan, a backpack of supplies and tell them “THIS is the right way to go. Do this and all will be well” And so they subscribe to whichever particular parenting style that is wholeheartedly, blindly and in good faith, in the hope that they’ll reach their destination, whatever that is “A good night’s sleep” “A potty trained child” “An 18 year old with no criminal record” “A well rounded human being” without hitting any hurdles or falling in any bogs along the way.
Unfortunately parenting is full of hurdles, both little and large, and there are bogs too, and great quagmires of shit. Parenting books, parenting styles, advice from other parents, they can only get you so far. When you and your children get lost in the woods (metaphorically speaking, but also, like literally too if it comes up), you need to know that you can be the kind of parent your children need right there and then. Regardless of whether it fits in with your overall ethos, or goes against advice someone has given you, or if it will make you unpopular amongst other parents you know. It may turn out that all that happened was you took a left instead of a right, and a simple tweak of your day to day parenting is all that’s needed to bring (relative) harmony to your family life once more. But it may be that your compass has been fucked from the start, in which case you’ve been heading in the wrong direction all this time, and some serious rethinking and backtracking is required. Even so, there’s no need to panic, kids are resilient and adaptable, and once you know where you need to go, they’ll probably even be able to help you all get there.
If there was a name for my style of parenting it would be a Pick ‘n’ Mix parent. I do what suits us best as a family, based on the information I have at the time. This usually involves a little from column A, a little from Column B, and the rest of it I make up as I go along (Shh, don’t tell anyone!)
I have two children, one of whom was born in hospital, the other at home, I have both breast and bottle fed, I have both co-slept and had my children sleeping in a seperate room, I have used cloth nappies, and disposable nappies, worn my children in slings and pushed them in prams, I have rocked them until I could no longer feel my own arms, and at times they have cried alone (usually at those times i have also been crying alone, in another room but I digress). They have to sit to the table for dinner, they have a bath most nights and they’re generally in bed for 7.30 but we’re humans not robots and willing to make exceptions to all those (and many others). They watch TV and sometimes eat sweets and have far far too many toys. We don’t have a naughty step or chair, although I sometimes have to send myself into another room for a few minutes to calm the fuck down. They have had all their routine vaccinations but no extras. They will be going to school when the time comes (if I get my shit together and figure the system out in time!) We bake and paint and read lots of books. They sometimes get yelled at. They have cuddles and kisses in abundance. A lot of the things I do, or have done fall under the “Natural” or “Attachment Parenting” umbrellas but many many others don’t.
My parenting style doesn’t always make me popular, If you don’t fit into any of the convenient parenting boxes then people don’t know how to categorise you, which means you’re left sitting on the fence, a painful and precarious position, with folk either trying to pull you down on to their side, or push you over on to the other. It’s messy and bitty and means that there’s never an obvious answer when it comes to making decisions I have to look at whatever evidence is available at the time and make the choice that’s right for me and that I think will be right for my children (after all we can’t ever be sure, of anything).
But despite all that I still think it’s the best style of parenting there is. You know why? Because Chris and I invented it. It is exclusive and tailor made to our two children, it’s constantly evolving and adapting as we change and grow as a family. Parenting theories have come and gone, many a mother has been left regretting decisions she made based on a so called expert’s advice, wishing she’d listened to her intuition instead. That isn’t going to be me fourty years down the line.,
Don’t get me wrong, I don’t for one minute think my children are going to grow up and agree with every single decision we made on their behalf, sometimes I actually wonder if they’ll even give a shit about some of the things I have agonised over, or if things that once seemed so important will fade into insignificance as they grow. I know we can’t be the perfect parents, but I also know that we can try to be the best parents we can to the children we have, and that there is no one else, no one expert, no one theory, absolutely no one, who can do that better than we can.
I wrote this post for Theme Thursday! Click above to see what other folk have got to say about Parenting Styles 🙂