Monday, May 28

Being the Authority

There is something very special about a woman who has been able to go through the process of childbirth.  It is a physical and emotional struggle that leads a woman to a very special place.  In the process of giving birth to a child, she also births a new life for herself.  She births a new role and new responsibilities.  In the process of giving birth she proves to herself that she is strong.  She may not know everything about how to care for a baby or how to be a mother, but she is strong enough to survive the process and the pain of childbirth, and so she has to realize that she is, in fact, strong enough to be the new authority.

I write this because I am part of a group of Mommy Friends on Facebook and we come from all different walks, several who have many children who are older, and some pregnant for the first time.  Some cloth diaper and others use disposables.  Some nurse, some don't.  Some homeschool, some don't.  We work hard to be positive and encouraging.  I don't believe I've ever witnessed anyone being attacked in the group, and if I did, I think that the individual would be encouraged to remove themselves.

What is the one thing we all struggle with?  Being the authority.  Many of the girls have talked about how hard it is to assert yourself to others- nosy people with opinions, in-laws, mothers, fathers, siblings.  But that's what we're supposed to do.

After several recent conversations I remembered this article that I read a while back.  It reminds me that the truth is that as long as what you are doing isn't physically or mentally harming the child, other opinions are not relevant.  You mother's aunt's cousin may have breastfed until their child was six, or gave them rice cereal at three months, but the truth is that YOU are the one who has to raise THIS child, so it's only your opinion that matters.

The opposite is also true.  You don't get to bludgeon others with scientific studies and warning labels because they aren't your child.  It's one thing to encourage a new mother, but to bludgeon her with your way of doing things isn't the best way to approach her.  I am as passionate about breast feeding as the next crazy lactivist, but there are some women who can't feed their babies that way.  My passion and a slew of scientific evidence doesn't give me the right shame another mother  for making the choice to use formula.

My lovely Mother-in-law gave me a book on babies just after I had my first one.  It was a book by Dr. Sears, who I had never heard of at that point.  The book is basically a manual on attachment parenting.  I love this book.  I don't follow it to the letter (for instance: I hate cosleeping) but it certainly informed a lot of my parenting choices.  I also love a book called "Secrets of the Baby Whisperer" that a friend loaned me after Jonah was born.  I've also read "The No Cry Sleep Solution" (Good, but I threw most of the information out until I could start fresh with a new child, and "Boundaries with Kids" (AH-mazing!)

The way I mother my babies is a mish-mash of these books and experience and watching my Mom, and channeling my twin sister (she's single and seems to have infinite patience with my kids).  Can you imagine, though, if someone else tried to do all of those things?  There's no way they could be exactly the parent I am, and there's no way I can be exactly the parent someone else wants me to be.

That's where my authority comes in.  I know I am the mother I am because of unique set of experiences and choices and influences, so when someone else gives me their opinion I don't have to be offended by that, or intimidated by it.  I am empowered by my own understanding of what I am trying to accomplish, and by the grace I offer others.  I don't try to cite authorities.  I don't try to act like the authority.  I AM the authority by virtue of having given birth to my babies; by virtue of having gotten up endlessly in the night with them; by virtue of my knowledge of how they like to sleep, nurse and play; by virtue of my own love for this child.  I AM the authority.


TheBookWormMama said...

It’s nice to know there are diverse, no-bash mommy groups like the one you are in.

I couldn’t agree with you more about establishing authority. I too read a lot of books including Dr. Sear’s The Baby Book and On Becoming Baby Wise by Gary Ezzo. The advice in those books were in direct contradiction to each other. It was like being at lunch with your two best girlfriends screaming at each other.

I still like books, but my own intuition is the key to raising my daughter.

Chara said...

As well it should be! I think the fundamental flaw in thinking that there is A WAY (cue heavenly angels in song) is that every child is different. I have three and they are all very different form each other and if I tried to discipline them in the same way, it would never work. There is no WAY to raise children- there is only the way to raise that child.