I was reading this article in the Huffington Post about Breastfeeding and thinking, again, about the so called Mummy Wars I’ve been hearing a lot about recently. Arguments between people, often Mothers (sometimes Fathers) about how they raise their children.
I’ve watched some discussions take place on Twitter about how people have handled feeding, weaning, sleeping, tantrums, education etc with their own children. I spend a lot of time questioning whether I’m doing the right thing with Joni, because – let’s face it – this is the steepest learning curve of my life so far. I’ve already done a whole host of things that I’ll do differently next time, why? Because I’ve become an Expert Of My Own Experience. And, I am the expert on Joni. I know more about her than anyone ever will. I can decipher her talking – we have whole conversations that only me, her and her Dad understand. No one knows her like we do. So, whilst controlled crying – as an example – might have worked a treat for your child, it hasn’t worked for us and we won’t be trying it again. Why? Because my expert knowledge tells me not to.
I do read books about parenting. I’ve tried to steer clear of How To guides as such, opting for slightly more academic books with lots of research. But that is because that’s my background. In a past life I was all about Evidence Based Practice and improving quality through research. So, naturally, that’s how I approach my research into how to raise my child. I also consult experts in my own life: my Mum, her Mum, aunties and friends. Often, because they are experts on me, and are close to Joni, they can help us along the way.
I was recently inspired and encouraged by this blog post from Ministry of Mum – I couldn’t agree more with the sentiment. Whatever Works. And, as my own Mum pointed out, the emphasis she puts of the parents sleep being really important is a serious point for me. I can’t really function as a rational or normal human being without enough sleep. So I get it whenever and however I can (and wherever for that matter). Because my expert knowledge tells me that me getting enough sleep is better for my life and the lives of those close to me. As an Expert, I choose Whatever Works.
I spent some time in my early twenties trying to understand how my parents raised me and why they did the things they did. My Dad once said this ‘your mother and I did what we felt was best at the time with the resources we had’. After some pondering I realised: of course. Because they loved me. Because they wanted the best for me. Because they chose to have me. Looking back, not everything they did was perfect. Of course. Who could do a job for 18 years and not make a mistake?
These so called Mummy Wars (you know: breastfeeding vs formula, cloth vs disposable nappies, Gina Ford vs Attachment Parenting, staying at home vs going to work, BLW vs Purée, I could go on and and on and on.) are more worrying for a more serious reason though. In fact I’d go as far as to say they scare me. Why the division? Why be so evangelical? One thing worked for you and your family. It solved your sleeping/weaning/feeding issue: GREAT. I want to hear about it and understand it, but as an Expert Of My Own Experience I want to be allowed to, respectfully, not apply your idea to my own family. Or, to take from it what I can and expertly apply it to my family. I want to be able to admit that I was wrong and I changed what I did because of something you said or did without feeling like a failure.
So, who is creating these Mummy Wars? We all decided to have children for roughly the same reason and everyone wants what is best for theirs. There are really very few people out there who don’t. We are the majority – we want the very best and to do the very best and a lot of the time we agonise over what the best is for our children. This is what should unite us all as parents. A mutual understand that as Experts we will do Whatever Works to raise our children and we will share these experiences in a way that helps each other – not starts wars or factions or labels people as ‘brigades’. So, I’d like to advocate Supportive Parenting.
Where we aren’t in a war about what is ‘best’ but – as a group of Experts – we can share our own experiences, take advice, but most of all be confident that we are ‘doing the right thing’, or attempting to, and are supported by other parents as we do it.
And, for your viewing pleasure, here’s Joni in a moment of despair (and flag waving)