Monday, September 11, 2006

Step Away From The Parenting Manuals

When Andy and I were first dating, I was surfing the internet one day at work (some things never change...) and came across a site devoted to The Rules, that sick-making relationship book that advised women to pretend to be total bimbos in order to get married. I was bored, so I started poking around on the site and the forums, and then it was like a train wreck that I couldn't look away from.

According to The Rules, I learned, I was doing absolutely everything wrong in my new relationship. We were spending almost all our time together; we'd slept together within a few weeks of dating; he'd seen me without makeup. According to The Rules, Andy was due to drop me like a hot potato any old time now, since I'd "lost my mystery."

Now, obviously, I thought this was the biggest pile of bullshit I'd ever heard. And yet...for some reason I couldn't stop reading those forums. And for some reason, even though I really didn't believe in any of it, that little voice in my head started to say, "but what if you're wrong, and they're right? what if your certainty that this is BS is wrong?"

I clearly have anxiety issues and always have, and it was a tough situation to be in, -- pretty sure I knew what was right for me, and yet unable to silence that little 1% of doubt. It was hard for me, and it made the beginning of our relationship a lot less enjoyable than it should have been. Of course, we got married anyway, so obviously the Rules bimbos can suck it.

Do I sound like a head case yet? Just wait.

So here I am, embarking on the second biggest change in my life, after getting married - having a child. And even though I've always had definite ideas about what kind of parent I would/wanted to be, I fell prey to the same situation.

It started when I was looking up information on breastfeeding in those first days home from the hospital, when I wasn't sure if Eleanor's 5-minute feeds were normal. I started with "So That's What They're For!" which several people had recommended to me. It's supposed to be a lighthearted but informative book about breastfeeding. Personally, I found it neither. It was poorly organized and low on concrete information, and it made breastfeeding sound about as much fun as a prison sentence.

I moved on to my giant AAP "Caring for Your Baby and Young Child" tome, which gave advice that seemed much saner. I felt better. I should have stopped there. Did I? Of course not! I looked up information online. And discovered Attachment Parenting.

It was The Rules all over again. I knew right away that this was a philosophy that was not and never would be for me, but I couldn't stop reading. (And to get slightly off topic, here's something that really annoys me--why does so much breastfeeding information out there make it sound like you can't breastfeed without also co-sleeping, strapping the baby to your body 24/7, and refusing to take even a moment for yourself? Isn't it possible to feed the baby and not make an entire lifestyle out of it? It's enough to make me want to stop altogether - not that I will, but still.)

Anyway, postpartum hormones and new-mother anxiety combined with the stuff I was reading to make the last few weeks kind of hellish. I KNOW I love my baby more than life itself and that I want the best for her, and that I don't have to sleep with her or "wear" her all day to prove it. And yet...there's that little voice again. What if Dr. Sears is right and I'm wrong after all? What if my crib-sleeping, stroller-pushed, binky-sucking, bedtime-ritualed, occasional-bottle-of-expressed-milk-drinking little daughter ends up at the top of a clock tower, sighting down the barrel of a rifle, sobbing, "Mommy WENT BACK TO WORK! And she didn't let me sleep in her bed! AND SHE GAVE ME A BINKY!"

Edit: I should clarify here that I'm not equating something like The Rules for relationships with Attachment Parenting as a philosophy. I think The Rules are actively harmful to relationships, whereas AP is just a style that's different from mine. I don't think it screws up kids or's just that I take issue with it being presented as the ONLY way to raise well-adjusted kids.


At Thursday, September 14, 2006 12:09:00 AM, Blogger Julian's Mom said...

Thank you for posting this. I TOTALLY thought I was AP before bringing home a living child, and have been completely disheartened to find out that I actually think that my previous "favorite" baby book by the Sears' is completely full of crap--at least it doesn't work for me or my daughter.

Breastfeeding didn't work no matter how hard I tried or how much money I paid to experts to help me work it out, I hate my co-sleeper and so does my baby, she hates her sling but loves her stroller, and she also "signs" to me to tell me when she needs her binky at only 7 weeks of age. I would really like to flush the Baby Book down the toilet for showing me that I am not at all the earth mother that I thought I would be.

At Friday, September 15, 2006 12:39:00 AM, Blogger vixanne wigg said...

LOL. Preaching to the choir! I have a "Dr. Suess Makes Me Feel Better Than Dr. Sears" blinkie for Fertility Friend. Hee hee.

I had a sick fascination with Mothering for a while. It was like picking a scab to watch it bleed.

At Monday, September 18, 2006 2:47:00 PM, Blogger lauralu said...

the ap philosophy IS like the hated rules in that the people who espouse it believe it's their way or failure. i think the rules are garbage, but they DO apply to some people: there are men who DO think that way, and women who want those men - they're all pathetic, but still, they're out there. the ap philosophy is also for a very tiny fraction of the population also valid, but who would want to hang out with anyone who had no interests other than their boobs and their child?

the upside of these books is that they highlight what we have to appreciate: partners who see us for what we are and want us that way, and the freedom to raise our children in the way that works for us.

At Tuesday, September 19, 2006 1:02:00 PM, Blogger Rachel said...

Thank you so much for talking about this. I do not see why I must co-sleep to have qa great relationship with my child. Again, thanks because I am in the middle of reading this..thinking, "Am I just going to be a bad mom because of don't follow the RULES"


Post a Comment

<< Home