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Monday, June 23, 2014

i like parenting books (sort of)

When I started telling close friends I was pregnant – my circle of friends were all thrilled I’d joined the “club,” a secret society where you’re permitted to gush and whine about all things those of us without children don’t understand – from nipple pain, after birth side effects, to sleep deprivation nightmares, once you get pregnant these subjects are no longer off limits.  WELCOME TO THE CLUB.  Don’t get me wrong, I’m loving having friends without filters who pour out the most intimate of details and learnings on parenting, although it is making me realize how I don’t know anything about what I thought I knew. In an effort to get to know this whole parenting thing I’m stocked up on books. 

One book in particular – BabyWise – has been given to me 6 times.  Yes, six different friends ranging from different socio-economic backgrounds with varying beliefs in God have all recommended this as the GO-TO GUIDE.  I devoured it the moment I got it only to be hit with a backlash of controversy.  My mother quite literally begged me not to follow this book given its controversial status – apparently babies have died from dehydration due to its strict scheduling of feedings causing them to lose their publisher as they are now self-published.  More than that, my mom, who ONCE loved the book tried to do a study on it for new moms at our church back in her fertile years and women told her they would leave the church if she did this study.  Apparently, the book is banned at mega church Grace Chapel for having the same effect.  At dinner one night, one of my husbands friends told me – this is the best parenting book out there, but people will hate you and judge you as a mean parent if you do this.  UM. YIKES.  Needless to say, I’m still a big BabyWise believer – don’t hate.  And once Nick actually reads the book we may follow it “loosely” once we decide it’s time to get regimented for sleep schedules.

Now, my favorite book – Bringing up Bebe.  This author is funny and it reads as more of a cautionary tale than a “how-to,” which makes you trust and like her more.  Pamela Druckerman is a American mother living in France bringing up her children in Paris, French Paradise - the land of free daycares (and preschools), baby foodies, and women who value wearing their skinny jeans three months after their birth.  This was my first “ah-ha” moment for life as we know it.  I think what I’m really looking for in all these books is – How do I still be “ME” and my marriage be “US” after I have this baby?  Basically it addresses my real fears (outside of WILL I EVER SLEEP AGAIN) – Will my husband still think I’m sexy and mysterious?  Am I a bad mom if I want to go back to work?  Will I be lonely spending so much time with this baby I love so much?  Am I going to expect Nick to share 50/50 of this with me as a feminist, or will I just nag him to help me all the time?  The answers are lengthy and psychological in this wonderful memoir/cultural study and I have begged everyone to read it so I can talk about it more, but here’s basically my 3 take-aways:
·      (1)  “Le Pause” – Walter Mischel is a French-born, Stanford educated Psychologist who is most known for devising “the marshmallow test” in the 1960’s where children are tested on their ability to delay themselves from INSTANT GRATIFICATION.  The assumption is this – that children who are taught delayed gratification from infancy (pausing before feeding, picking them up, etc.) actually does make them calmer whereas middle-class American kids, who are in general more used to getting what they want right away, go to pieces under stress.  Basically – try and WAIT to assess your babies needs before instantly trying to “fix” a screaming child.  Sometimes, they’re just shifting sleep patterns, use your intuition rather than a rulebook.
·      (2)  BE GIFTED - “We Americans assign ourselves the job of pushing, stimulating, and carrying our kids from one developmental stage to the next.  The better we are at parenting, we think, the faster our kids will develop.”  I mean of course I want my baby to be gifted and play the violin by age 4, but lets be honest, it probably has little to do with me.  French parents are less motivated by guilt to be a good parent and push and thus as a culture are comfortable putting their children in daycare to socialize their babies (a skill they view as more valuable than giftedness).  It feels like perspective at least to recognize that maybe its not the end of the world if I don’t obsess over getting my kid in drum circles from the moment they’re born.
·      (3)  SEXY BACK - “For American women, the role of mom is very segmented, very absolute, When they wear the mom ‘hat’ they wear the mom clothes.  When they’re sexy, they’re totally sexy.  And the kids can see only the ‘mom’ part.  In France the ‘mom’ and ‘woman’ roles ideally are fused.  At any given time, you can see both.”   I haven’t even decided if and when I will go back to work, but just thinking about it makes me feel SO GUILTY!  I am having this baby so I can love it, so why in the world would I choose to love myself more by going back to work – a career that has taken four years of college, and some painful assistant gigs that were WAY HARDER than pregnancy!!!!  Will I really delight in wearing yoga pants and a baby forever?!  Can I wear both hats?  Apparently, in France, this is somewhat of a non-issue.  Identity’s are “ideally fused,” – how liberating does that sound?!  PERSPECTIVE.  (although I still feel guilty, so give me some time to work this out).

All in all, my reading has me concluding that more than anything – I chose my husband and I want to be an incredible wife because he is so awesome.  I want us to remain so in love post-baby and really that is more important to me than if this baby sleeps through the night.  For that reason, I’m just really on this educational journey to try and rid the control-freak in me that thinks I can makes lists and data that will chart a successful family.  The books guide perspective – but my new prayers are changing my heart to strive for FREEDOM rather than a laundry list of guilt.  I just hope I can get there before the baby comes so I can truly DELIGHT in her and she can bring our family joy rather than self-inflicted guilt and pressure to be a good mom.  FREEDOM CHANT COMMENCE NOW.

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