When I became a mother there was no social media, which means there were no mommy Facebook groups, no Instagram, no Tik-Tok. Nonetheless, through parenting magazines, commercials and talk shows, we heard the messages about what it meant to be a “good parent”. Gone were the days when mom or Grandma passed on the practical wisdom of the ages. One book might extol the virtues of scheduling your baby’s sleep, while another book praised nursing on demand and co-sleeping. And so, the chatter was there, but it wasn’t as loud and confusing as it is today.
For me, a desire to go back a generation and breastfeeding led me to more resources along the natural parenting lines. I co-slept some, put the babies in their crib some, breastfed here, bottle-fed there. Although mom-guilt has probably been around since the dawn of time, and I definitely had some, I didn’t beat myself up or over-analyze every decision. I didn’t view crying as child abuse. I didn’t ask 300 women what baby carrier they used or how many times a night they got up with their baby. I’d read a book if I thought it would help, and move on. Parenting was stressful enough in its own right; I’m thankful I didn’t have the additional pressure of other people’s judgments.
With the babies I have had as an older mom, the chatter is so much louder, the voices more opinionated, the parenting styles more polarized. You are either a crunchy mom or a silky mom , an attachment parent or a rigid scheduler. You are either pro-vax or anti-vax. You birthed in a hospital or in a tub. You wear your baby or keep them in their stroller . One side cries ‘child abuse’ to the other side. Mothers are fraught with indecision and insecurity. Will the moms in my Facebook group vilify me for placing my baby in the crib and letting them fuss a bit before going to sleep, or will they roast me for co-sleeping?
Wisdom of the ages
As I observe this I wonder what our grandmothers and great-grandmothers did? Were they frozen with the fear of ruining their child for life with the next decision? Did they worry that their child would have attachment issues because they had to let them cry while they made dinner? Did they scorn the other mothers in their circle for doing things differently than they did? Did they scour the research to see the absolute best way for their baby to sleep?
I am here to tell you that they did not. They parented from intuition, from wisdom of the ages, from pragmatism and common sense. They were not overthinking this mothering gig. The mothers of great men and women throughout history probably couldn’t tell you what their feeding “method”, their sleeping “method”, their discipline “method” was because although they were parenting from the heart, they were also parenting from intuition. Not “what would other people think of this,” but what just feels right and makes the most sense. They most likely did what their mothers had done and her mother before that. And that is the missing piece right now, wisdom from the ages.
A mentor and your intuition
You know what I recommend? Find someone, or maybe a couple of someones, and listen to them. Look at the outcome of the way they do things, and model that. Tune out the chatter of a hundred contradictory voices, and just listen to a couple. The model throughout time has been the older women teaching the younger women. After a while of tuning into mothering wisdom, your mothering intuition will grow, and as you trust it, you will feel free of the condemnation, the indecision and the anxiety. Mom-guilt may still occasionally plague you.You may still worry about your children now and then. But you will know this journey of motherhood is one of growth, not perfection. And your children will know you loved them enough to be intentional as well as confident.
And one more thing. Be nice to the other mom. She’s doing the best she can, too.