Being a mom is hard. How do you know if you are doing the right things? Teaching the right things, setting the right example, making the right decisions? I don’t know if it’s ever possible to feel confident in mothering. Once I started feeling confident, a new challenge snuck in from behind the scenes. Breastfeeding finally going smoothly? BAM, the baby starts teething. Finally enjoying the trials of toddlerhood? BOOM, preschool starts and you discover a new world of questionable behavior and sleepless nights. Where does it end?
If you are hoping this blog will give you the answer, your disappointment is certain. The answer to years of parenting questions and dilemmas will not be found in a few paragraphs (although we still hope that Google will give us the answer fairly quickly). What I am hoping for is to reassure you that your uncertainty is normal. I’m going to go so far as to say that it’s not only normal, its expected.
Years ago when I first started to spread my wings in the world of mothering, breastfeeding, and birth and parenting, I was told that planned pregnancies were only about 50% of all pregnancies. The rest were “surprises” or “gifts” or, as some like to call it, an “oops”. I don’t know if that is still an accurate statistic, but I’m willing to bet that it’s true. So, that leaves one to wonder…if pregnancy were unplanned, you would expect that parenting would come as quite a culture shock. Putting it mildly.
I see new families every day, usually within the first week of the baby’s life. This is when the parents are sleep deprived and vulnerable. Mom is most likely experiencing physical pain, physiological, emotional and hormonal changes, and questioning why she wanted to be a mother in the first place. She may never say that last part out loud, but it might very well be passing through her tired brain at any point and time. Partners and family members feel lost, unsure how to help, not wanting to overstep their bounds and treading very lightly on shaky ground that is dubbed “postpartum”. One of the biggest challenges new parents face is the world of uncertainty. Inconsistent information, lack of support, unsure if they are making the right decisions. In this day and age, parents find themselves looking for solutions on the Internet at 3am, hoping for any answers as to why the baby is crying or why feedings are not going well. New mothers need support. New families need reassurance. And they need it in the form of accurate information that is consistent with their lifestyle. In order to offer this, we need to work together. This means that new families need to do their best educating themselves, and health care providers, support people and family members need to take a step back and listen to what new mothers are telling us. If you are in the position to support new families as part of a health care team, are you all giving the same information? Are you aware of the needs and wants of the family? If you are a friend or family member, are you listening to the concerns of this vulnerable new family and acknowledging their fears or are you filling the time talking about what YOU did as a new parent?
This is delicate territory. Thankfully it passes quickly, and before you know it, it’s gone. Research shows us that new mothers want support from the medical personnel that they trust and family and friends that they feel comfortable with. Parenting is not a perfect skill, and everyone approaches parenting differently. Ultimately, this is why we are so unsure if we are doing the right things or not. If there were a solid answer (think 4+4=8…solid answer) we wouldn’t spend time pondering such things as breast vs. bottle, toddler bed times, potty training and mealtime. Let’s realize that there is no “solid answer”. What we do know is that support goes a long way, and support can help the insecure feel more confident.