I sometimes like to imagine what it was like to be a mum before the internet, TV and books were invented. You grew up, watching your mother and aunts tend to your siblings and when you had your own baby you did pretty much the same. You didn't worry about the newest research or about what your friends were doing with their own babies (because they were all doing the same thing). Although you undoubtedly were scared and unsure as any young mum, you had the safety net of tradition and extended family breaking your fall.
Don't worry. I'm not saying we should all go back to the dark ages. Tradition can be great at creating confidence but it can also perpetuate practices such as not giving babies colostrum, or swaddling them so tightly it causes hip dysplasia. Definitely not a good thing. I love research, I love information and I love that we can now make informed choices about how to bring up our children.
But it's also stressful. Every parenting decision can be debated. You read one article and only feed your baby pureed carrots but your friend reads a different one and says the only proper weaning food is fish soup. Conflict ensues. Because as friendly as we try to be when talking about our own personal parenting decisions it is difficult not to sound judgy or feel judged. Since we make these decisions with our children's best interests in mind, by default we are sort of saying that "if I do A, I obviously think that you doing B is wrong".
I believe this has created two types of parent: first there are the ones who overshare, who are convinced they have found the holy grail of parenting and have to tell you what to do. No matter how smiley and friendly they are when they do it, it makes your skin crawl.
The second type is hyper apologetic and never dares to contradict their friends. They are terrified of admitting that they do things differently in the fear of being shunned by the group. This parent just nods and smiles and continues feeding the baby chocolate mousse on the sly.
I'm pretty certain I've already been in both camps. I feel guilty both about giving advice and withholding it. Which is silly. Because when I'm in advice-giving mode I'm really just trying to help another mother out with a few suggestions. I'm well aware that her baby is not my baby and what works for me might just not work for her. Also, if it's a good friend I hope she knows she can just tell me to shut up. Keeping my mouth shut is even worse in a way, because the other mum might be desperate for some tips.
This is why I love the internet. We can throw those bits and bobs of advice out there and know that we will never be overbearing. If what I write doesn't suit you, just close the page and move on. If you want to know more, ask me a question. I'd love for mothers to feel less shy about sharing advice in person, but for the moment, the internet is a good place to start.
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