Being the first of my group of friends to have a baby I’m often asked what parenting book I read and which would I recommend. I didn’t really read any. A fact which is usually accompanied by shocked looks and mouths open. It’s not because I’m so amazing, not by a long shot. I just believe there’s a lot to be said for a mom’s natural instinct; and sometimes books can cloud that natural instinct.
My friend, Anna, has two kids. She was struggling to get her son to sleep. She was putting him to sleep the same way she had put her daughter to sleep, swaddled tightly, all snug as a bug. That’s the way the books would have said to do it. He wasn’t sleeping so maybe something else was wrong with him. In our conversation I simply said, “what if he doesn’t like it?” The phone line went silent. The thought had never occurred to her; one, because she was following the “rules” and two, because “the rule” had worked with child number one.
I’ve seen too many moms fall into the parenting book trap. I think it’s hard sometimes to think of the books as just a guideline, especially when it’s your first baby and you want to do everything right. A lot of parenting books are an example from one author about one kid, or a few kids. That’s how the books should be read, maybe it will help, maybe it won’t.
The hardest conversation I’ve had in a long time was with another friend of mine. We talked through email about a book she had been given. It was all about how girls shouldn’t be given Barbie stuff, princess stuff, encouraged to like pink, frilly skirts or baby dolls. My poor, sweet friend was suddenly wracked with guilt that she was harming her child and began questioning almost everything she was doing with her. She respected the person that gave her the book so naturally it must be right? Judgment then swoops in and throws a low blow to the Mommy Ego.
It should be said that I don’t think parenting books are evil; some of them really do help people. There is so much pressure in the mommy world to be perfect and to know everything. Moms want to be prepared, so they read every parenting book, they Google and they put too much stock in the words of others- ALL the time. Getting words of wisdom from friends is the way to go no doubt, but choose wisely who you talk to. And don’t let anyone else’s voice over power your own. Just believe there’s a lot to be said for a mom’s natural instinct.
Books I love: