So I just finished up doing a podcast as a guest speaker on Lifestyle Scoop. The topic this morning was “picky eaters” and how to get your kids to eat healthy. The struggle is real and all you really ever want as a Mama Bear is to keep your children healthy. Post podcast reflection has me thinking about how I got here. By here I mean speaking on a public platform about parenting. I have studied many things throughout my educational and professional career. But parenting? How can you really study how to be a good mom?
There is an entire industry trying to teach parents just that. There are all sorts of resources, literature, and other types of media, including social media, targeting new (or seasoned) parents who feel like they need some help. Don’t we all? The saying “it takes a village” comes from somewhere. It comes from the recognition that parenting has never been easy and back before we had access to everything via our friend Google, the village would literally step up and help. It was just instinct to help your neighbours in any way possible. Whether that was looking after one child so mom could tend to a sick one, or making an extra casserole so the tired overwhelmed mom could feed her family and keep her sanity for just one evening.
Bu t this parenting industry seems to be separating the village instead of bringing them together. There is an information overload on how to raise your children. And like anything these days, it’s all controversial. Epidural or no epidural; breastfeeding or bottle feeding; baby led weaning or pureed food; sleep training or co sleeping; attachment parenting , authoritative parenting, free range parenting…the list goes on and on.
I don’t know if it is the digital world we live in and if this is yet another thing we can blame on the media and social networking, but parents are by far the most defensive people in the universe. We probably have always been that way- hence the terms Mama Bear or Mama Lion. But it seems to have gotten so extreme that if someone has a slightly different parenting style than the next parent, that parent seems to get her guard up immediately. We are all so worried about being judged by other moms that instead of listening to each other and truly trying to help, it seems we are putting walls up in fear of being “mom shammed” (truly never thought I would use that term in my life).
There is really only one way to parent your child- gather all of the information you need to make sound decisions that you are confident with and work well for your family, don’t compare your life, your kids, or your situation with anyone else, love your kids more than life itself, and do everything possible to raise solid human beings. There is also only one way to give someone parenting advice. Listen. Did they actually ask for it? What is your intent on giving it? Is it truly helpful in this situation? If the answers to these questions are yes, I want to help this family to be as happy and thriving as we are by implementing something that worked well for us, and yes I believe this to be solid advice, then go ahead. If said parent feels that solution isn’t the one, no big deal. It does not minimize what worked for your family.
Lastly, there is only one way to receive help or advice from other parents-with an open mind. They may be obsessed with some new fad that isn’t for you, they may be only giving you this advice to make themselves feel good about their choices, or they may be genuinely trying to help and believe they have found the key! Whatever the intent of the speaker is, you can choose how to receive it. Parenting “experts” may be just that. But the only expert when it comes to the health and well being of your children and your family is YOU. I love that we have this information overload. I love to gain as much knowledge on a given subject as possible and use it to make informed decisions. But don’t let it overwhelm you. At the end of the day, a mother’s BEST resource is instinct. Don’t let the village intimidate you, let them help you.
Amanda Cooke, RMT