When I was pregnant with my daughter in 2003, I immersed myself in advice, inhaling the entire parenting section of the library and local bookstore and supplementing my paperback reading with four magazine subscriptions and three different "has your baby grown eyelashes yet?" pregnancy calendars. I learned about avoiding soft cheeses and sushi during pregnancy, how to swaddle an infant and how to "keep my marriage alive."
After a period of toddler sleep refusal at the 18-month point, I turned my weary back on all parenting literature. Mad, was I! Angry! Those books didn't work! Those experts didn't know what they were talking about! This denial phase lasted about a year.
Now with a daughter about to enter kindergarten, I perch on the fence of parenting advice. My strategy now is to wait for one of my friends to freak out about something, then research the source of her panic to see if I should join her in the big fear orgy. With so many friends in the blogosphere, it takes an average of three days for a new source of trepidation to emerge.
While mulling this topic, I saw twin posts from Beanma on BlogHer. The first reminded me of my relatives' amusement with my stack of parenting literature:
One night, at dinner with my parents, my mother listened to me rehash facts about infant's nervous systems and REM sleep. "I don't know," she said, wistfully nostalgic, "I just got pregnant, my belly got bigger, and then we had you." I smiled at her. And then I immediately said, in my own defense, "There's so much information out there, and I feel obligated to be abreast of it." But it came out sounding like a weak excuse. "Women in China," my father casually reminded me, "squatted in rice fields and gave birth."
Seriously? Comparing our Purell-loving culture with squatting and giving birth? I personally consider it a travesty if drugs are not involved in the labor experience.
But if you can't trust books and the Internet, who can you trust? Certainly not your mommy friends. Beanma goes on to write:
At some point, I thought it would be a good idea to send my list to several friends who had kids—to get some
opinions on these matters. And, boy, did I. Opinions, at this stage in the game, are the last thing I need, but I asked for it—only to find, in the end, I no longer trusted anyone save a few favorable reviews of the product in question by complete strangers on Amazon.com or Babies-R-Us. A friend told me which brand of crib she’d bought, and when I looked it up online and discovered that it had been recalled, I chose to stop asking her for advice.
This parenting business is tough. All of the opinions are conflicting. This whole topic is reminding me of my favorite-ever vintage Finslippy post, circa 2004:
“That’s not tuna you’re eating, is it? Did you know that tuna is composed entirely of mercury? Um, so, do you care about your unborn child?”
“Did you just order a turkey sandwich? Ever heard of a bacterium called listeria? Well, you better find out all about it, missy, because from now until that poor innocent baby is born, your thoughtless snacking can kill. No more cold cuts for you. Or brie. Forget brie. Don’t even think about goat cheese. If you care about anything except yourself. And I hope that’s decaffeinated tea you’re drinking.”
“Listeria? I ate a salami sandwich every day and you turned out fine. Don’t be an idiot. Eat this prosciutto while I stand here and watch you. Eat it eat it eat it. Your child needs protein. Jerk.”
We don't really need advice. We need facts and friends who can talk us down from the swine-flu ledge at crucial moments. We need friends and relatives who can help us sort the wheat from the chaff. We need our online tribe to laugh and cry and remind us to BACK AWAY FROM THE ADVICE. I laughed out loud when I saw Tia's post on Behind The Child:
When nothing else works and the child is disorientated by the hour change as well as being uncomfortable post operatively, Dream Mother sacrifices her sleep and enjoys one to one time with her child, appreciating the smiles and giggles she gets in return for her efforts to entertain the child.
I sit the child beside me, fire up the laptop and write a list like this.
In my early days, I was more Dream Mother. I sacrificed sleep, happiness and relationships for my daughter. Then, sometime around her third year, I just ... snapped out of it. And I'm glad I did, because she'd so totally make fun of me now if I were still Dream Mother.
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