I always imagined I would be a mother one day. When it didn’t happen easily for us “mothering” became an obsession with me. I read everything I could about child development, parenting styles, and psychology. I think I felt that the universe wasn’t giving me a baby because I was unworthy of one so I absorbed everything I could find about parenting.
Eventually, and happily, I got pregnant through IVF (in vitro fertilization) thanks to a grant program at my fertility clinic. I felt so overwhelmingly blessed to be pregnant and I was going to pay back (or forward) the generosity of the grant donors by being The Best Mother Ever.
My quest to be The Best Mother Ever only intensified my voracious appetite for parenting knowledge. I knew if I could just learn enough stuff I’d be the best. I read about pregnancy, birth, breastfeeding, formula feeding, cribs, cosleeping, vaccines, discipline, diapers, homemade baby food, baby led weaning, music classes, yoga classes, baby sign language, spanish for babies, poetry for babies, mozart for babies, carseats, strollers, slings, shoes, toys, play dates, separation anxiety, baby proofing, daycare, preschool, homeschool, private school…
You get the idea. I was looking for the answer to being a great parent that I knew was out there somewhere.
Then my daughter was born. The birth was “perfect,” she was “perfect,” and everything was perfectly perfect. Until I woke up one night in the wee hours with a panic attack. Suddenly, a decision I’d made to forgo a newborn procedure, a decision I’d made through tons of research, seemed like the stupidest idea ever. My daughter was going to die an agonizing death and it would be all my fault. I finally got the child I’d dreamed of and I’d already messed her up at 3 days old.
It was paralyzing. All the research in the world wasn’t going to make me a good mom if I didn’t trust myself, my true, inner sense of rightness. I know that my daughter felt right in my arms like she was meant to be and I was meant to be her mother.
That feeling of “rightness” was more important than any single bit of parenting advice I could get. The answer was inside me not out there.
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This scenario where I panic that I’m messing my kids up (I had twin boys 2 years after my daughter was born) happens again and again. But, I’m learning to take a deep breath, be still, and listen for the inner rightness.
The better I get at listening to this inner voice the easier parenting is! Well, maybe not easy. My kids make messes, have tantrums, and push my buttons like any kids will. The difference is that when I’m in that flow of feeling connected to my inner voice that parenting is just damn fun!
Suddenly, no obstacle or yogurt-smeared wall seems that daunting. Rather it feels like a chance for connection with my kids and a deeper connection with myself.
Over the years I’ve come to find that I’m really good at this flow parenting! I started to become a mentor and coach for friends and strangers! They often wanted advice about what to do in a particular circumstance – spank, time out, ignore, empathize – and I found that giving specific advice was less helpful than helping them find their answer. Basically to find their inner voice that says “this is right.”
My message, that I want to shout from the rooftops, is simple: Being a better parent isn’t about learning some technique (although that can help) or philosophy (although that can be fun) it is about being a better you; finding the better you that is already there and probably bogged down, like I was, underneath a dearth of how-tos and thou-shalts thrust on parents from every direction.
I blog over at Baby Dust Diaries where I write about life as a recovering infertile raising 3 miraculous IVF babies. One of the things I’m very passionate about is gentle discipline. I’m also co-founder of NursingFreedom.org a website dedicated to protecting and promoting legal rights related to nursing like nursing in public and pumping support for working mothers.