Parenting is a cacophony of emotions. When you’re not thoroughly worn out from sleepless nights, exhausted from good parenting days, or simply just trying to make it through, there’s always something to worry about. Someone you know lost a child, someone in your area had a child go missing, someone who knows someone who was a really good parent ended up with a junkie-teen. Just like people love to share a terrible birth story, and tend to shun those who had wonderful birth stories, everyone loves to share the bad stories about what happened to someone else, or how another child turned out, and it doesn’t really matter – to some extent – how they were parented, it’s normally the mother’s fault.
Welcome to the February 2014 Carnival of Natural Parenting: Parenting Fears
This post was written for inclusion in the monthly Carnival of Natural Parenting hosted by Code Name: Mama and Hobo Mama. This month our participants have shared stories and wisdom about parenting fears.
It’s the fear of these things that make parents so susceptible to marketing, spending (often wasting) money on the latest gadgets and basically living our lives doing everything we can to prevent something bad, and encourage something good happening to the little people entrusted to us.
The scary thing though? Like most of us, I know this, but I still have three particular fears where my two little girls are concerned:
In no particular order, there’s the fear of death, kidnapping and failure.
Most of us know someone who has lost a baby – born or unborn – or a child. I never knew how ‘common’ infant loss was till I became a mother myself. And then, because Ameli’s birth was such an amazing, enriching and empowering experience, I was terrified when Aviya’s turn came. For months I really worried, almost believed that I would never get to hold her alive. I was so worried something was going to go wrong in her birth. I mean, what are the chances that I could be so blessed, twice.
And now, even though I am a confident second time mother, and even though I am confident and relatively experienced in my use of homoeopathic and herbal remedies over conventional medicines for most of the girls’ minor ailments, when Aviya, specifically, gets ill, this niggely, horrible voice in the back of my head forces me to question myself, reminding me of that ‘feeling’. It takes a lot of pulling myself together to trust my intuition as much with this lovely second child of mine.
While many of us know someone who has been touched by the loss of a child, very few of us – me included – knows personally someone who has had a child kidnapped. And yet, it’s probably one of the biggest fears a parent faces. I can’t imagine how parents who have lost a child this way go on. I can’t imagine the horror. And yet, the statistics on ‘stranger danger‘ and someone doing something to our children are so different to what our fears justify.
If you’re a parent who lives in the shadow of this fear, I highly recommend Sue Palmer’s book, Toxic Childhood (US Link). It highlights how rare something like a stranger kidnapping really is, but how, because we see the lost and forlorn little face, and the obviously heartbroken parents in our living room, on repeat, day after day after day, it imprints on our brains to the point that we start almost identifying each replay as a new occurrence. (I actually recommend this book for a ton of other reasons too, it doesn’t make you feel guilty, but does encourage you to see a lot of reality in parenting and child raising. It’s one of my top three parenting book recommendations!)
Failure. Failure is a big one, and we all get it from the day our babies are conceived. Didn’t have a natural birth? Will I be able to bond with my child? Didn’t breastfeed? You and your child will probably both die of cancer. Didn’t babywear? Your poor child will lag behind in literacy for, like, ever. Didn’t co-sleep? Poor kid will have intimacy issues for the rest of their lives. You sent them to nursery school for four hours a week? Oh, the drama. Didn’t send them to a Montessori/Steiner/Waldorf/Forest school? What kind of parent are you!?
Pretty much everything we do is wrong to someone. Praise your kids? Wrong. Don’t praise your kids? Wrong. Send them to school? Wrong. Keep them at home? Wrong . Feed them grass-fed meat? Wrong. Feed them no meat? Wrong. Make everything from scratch? Did you sprout the grains first? Well… did you?
I think a lot of parenting and enjoying parenting comes down to three things:
Let go – of the things you can’t control.
Be realistic – in accordance to what’s real, your circumstances and what you can really do
Trust your instinct – listen to your child, listen to the voice inside you, and when you’re confident in your choices, no one can make you feel judged. And when you’re not confident, do your own research.
If you can – if I can – let go of things I don’t control, be realistic about my limitations and abilities, circumstances and finances, and trust that everything I do is for the best of my children and our family, the fears are a lot easier to quell, and motherhood is a much more fulfilling, enjoyable ride.
Please take time to read the submissions by the other carnival participants (list will be final around 5pm PST February 11):
How long will it be, till you no longer reach for my hand?
How long until dinosaurs and fairies no longer roam
and you can face everything you fear on your own?
How many more days do I have, picking dandelions with you?
Answering a ceaseless stream of why’s?
‘fore you don’t need my answers at all?
When will you stop looking to me for all the new things you see?
How long do I have before either I no longer know
or you at least doubt that I do?
How many more days can I keep you playing, in the garden, with frogs,
excited by ‘the most amazing creatures’, common garden bugs
and gross-me-out slugs?
How much time do I have left, to view the world through your eyes?
To see the magical, the beautiful, the every day
in your incredibly sensory way?
How many more days, because it passing too soon, in whirlwinds and torrents and days come to pass.
Hold on for a moment, you’re growing too fast, let me drink it all in, let me sip up my fill
then let me hold your hand, while you allow me to still.
I realise today, again, that the me I was no longer is. Motherhood has killed off much of my previous self, and while that is sometimes something I struggle with, today I’m feeling acceptance. Rather than resignation to this fact, I feel almost relief, a little bit of joy.
It’s like a clean canvas, on which can be drawn, anything.
It’s like a fire that ravages an old building, from which can be built something new.
Has it taken me two years, almost three, to truly embrace the new me? No, perhaps it’s a process, and perhaps tomorrow I’ll wonder again where on earth this thing is taking me, but with the knowledge that yesterday for a few hours I felt good about the opportunity to start afresh, leaving behind the responsible child I was, the obedient teen, the angry young adult, the partially messed up and at times rather screwy young woman. It’s an opportunity to leave behind destructive habits, negative self-image, painful relationships.
And then it’s an opportunity to start again, to rebuild, to pick through the ashes of an old life, and decide what I want to carry forward with me, what I want to pass on to my innocent children. To determine the outcome rather than drift along on the wind.
The old me has died, and I’ve known that for a long time. Perhaps it’s inappropriate to feel happy on the event of your own death. Perhaps it’s not the done thing to pat yourself on the back. It’s unusual, in the least, to acknowledge that you’re adrift and alone. But the blank canvas, the open road, the endless opportunity fills me with something I recognise as excitement.
I make no apologies.
Long may she live.
Melissa asks: How do you cope with the motherly Guilt? I find it the hardest part of being a mum. Guilt imposed by myself and by Others. Work, don’t work, allow chocolate, ban chocolate etc…
Melissa’s question made me think about one of my very early posts, Guilty As Charged, where I wrote about all the things I felt guilty about as a new mother. â€œMy mom told me today that you aren’t a parent till you feel guilty about something.Â And there’s so much to feel guilty forâ€, I wrote at the time.
Now, 15 or so months later, I realise that my approach has changed and my feelings are different, and motherhood has been a much more pleasant experience as a result. There are many reasons, but an oddly simple explanation: I am doing my best.
And that’s not a cop-out statement. On the contrary, it is meant as a motivation, and for me, an ambition to strive for. That also doesn’t mean I never feel guilty about things, but rather use the guilt as a starting point for change.
So what brought around the transformation for me?
So much of being a mother involves politics. If you do one thing you offend one half of mothers and if you do another you offend the other half. No matter what you’re doing, you’re doing it wrong, and yes, your child will be scarred for life because you did do, didn’t do, or thought of doing xyz. Knowing why (point 4) you do what you do makes standing firm in your choice a lot easier, and makes avoiding the politics that much easier too.
Remember also that there is no ‘one size fits all’ in parenting. What works for me and mine might just not work for you and yours, so don’t waste time and energy comparing yourself and your child(ren) to those around you.
So, in the end, I think the answer is to do the best you can with what you have, and make peace with what you cannot do, or give. If you have to work, don’t feel guilty about it, because guilt exhausts, meaning when you get home you don’t have the energy to spend the quality time you do have effectively. Give chocolate if you want, don’t give it if you don’t â€“ but both in moderation. We don’t allow sweets or sugary drinks in the late afternoon or evening (choice) because the sugar keeps Ameli awake too late, isn’t digested by the body in the evening and isn’t good for her teeth (reason).
By allowing ourselves to feel guilty for all the ways we aren’t as good as we want to be, we lose out on valuable time where we could be meaning something, and doing something positive. By no means does just doing your best mean that you have to compromise on your parenting ideals, but what it does mean is that you’ll cut yourself some slack when you fail, and tomorrow, once you’ve caught your breath, counted to ten, or the next time your child walks into the room, you can apologise if need be, and start again, with a clean slate and no need for guilt.
I’ve been thinking a lot about balance over the last few weeks. Balance between my different selves, or the different parts that make up me as a person. Mother, wife, daughter, friend, sister, employee, woman (self). So many parts make up this whole, that most days, most parts aren’t even thought of, much less nurtured.
As I lay feeding you tonight, watching your eyes grow heavy and your breath deepen, I wondered what you would want to know about me one day, if I were to die. I imagined you sitting on a beach, lost in thought. I imagined your Aunty coming to you, and I imagined you asking her about me. It made me sad, seeing you there, staring at the stars and the waves, with your toes digging holes and your fingers massaging the sand as I love to do.
I wondered what she would say; what people would tell you, if I were gone.