An important aspect of our mothering journey is finding our inner expert, that guiding voice that will helps us make our decisions for our families based on their unique needs. Utilizing this instinct comes with practice, along with honest reflection about what could be hindering it in the first place. We often become confused by all the various parenting experts out there and forget to consult the real person that truly matters: our babies. We really cannot go wrong if we bring our awareness to our children’s unique needs and follow their cues rather than some other influence, even if it is our own opinions.
Looking at some of the most controversial parenting subjects, we can pinpoint fairly easily what parenting choices are not coming from the heart but from social conditioning. We have become so focused on being perceived as perfect mothers that we force unnatural behaviour on our children in order for them and us to appear a certain way and quite understandably they resist it and our relationship with them is thus affected.
Along my own parenting journey I struggle with letting go of some of the preconceived notions I have about mothering a certain way and am working on following my son’s cues for what he actually needs from me in any given moment instead. I have allowed my intellect to cloud my biological instincts and as a result I have been struggling in my relationship with my son by causing power struggles instead of connecting with him and meeting his needs appropriately. When I started reading The Continuum Concept by Jean Liedloff, the interesting idea that so many parenting struggles we face are self-created emerged that made me re-evaluate the way I interacted with my son.
This budding idea was reinforced one night when I was struggling to get Leo down for the night and neither baby-wearing him nor nursing him was having any effect and I was becoming frustrated and angry. Leo being the sensitive creature that he is, picked up on my negative feelings and began acting out; swiping at me and whining and being overall unhappy. Instead of reacting like I normally do, I took a deep breath and considered what I was struggling against exactly. The answer shamed me: I was struggling against myself. Then I felt stupid. The belief that my son needed to fall asleep by a certain time for his well-being conflicted with the signals he was actual giving me that made it clear he was not ready just yet. Perhaps he was wound up from the day still and needed help relaxing, or he just wasn’t done yet transitioning from playtime to quiet time but regardless of the reason, I was not paying attention either way. I led myself to believe that by wearing him and nursing him he would do as I wished because I expected him to, but of course that was silly and he made that abundantly clear. So instead of reacting and disciplining him for his audacity of showing me how upset he was, I simply held him and told him gently that I was sorry. Immediately he stopped whining and squirming and looked into my eyes and babbled some sort of reprimand and then cuddled me in return and we spent the next hour simply enjoying each other’s company. He eventually fell asleep in my arms without any other soothing needed. That night he slept its entirety without any waking. It was the most peaceful night we’ve had since his father deployed overseas.
Now I am trying to get into the habit of cooling my engines when I am struggling with my son and looking at the deeper meaning to our interactions. Usually, it is due to an unmet need caused by some ridiculous idea I have that he should be acting/feeling a certain way. I may not look to be the typical picture of the ‘perfect mother’ allowing my son to remain awake well into the night, or sleep wherever he wants (whether in my bed or out of it too!), or let him eat when hungry as much as he wants, but it works for us. It works because instead of trying to fit a certain mould I follow my own instincts and also his cues to guide me to setting healthy boundaries when interacting with him. If I had not turned inwards to my own instincts and outwards towards the signals my son was showing me and instead relied on what many parenting experts suggest in controlling behavior, such as variations of the CIO method, I would not have found a healthy solution that met both our needs.
Remember that above all else, WE are the parenting experts, along with what our children communicate to us if we open to listening.