Thursday, 29 March 2012

If I Wanted Your Opinion...


Since becoming a mother, I’ve noticed that a lot of people have opinions about parenting. Not just how they parent, but how I parent. And how everyone else parents I suppose.
I’ll be honest, I have opinions too. I’m sure every parent does, because you need to believe you are doing the right thing for your child. But I keep my opinions to myself, I would never question the way someone else raises their child because it’s none of my business. What fits in with my life may not necessarily fit into someone else’s.

Parenting isn’t an accidental thing, it’s a life-long decision making process. Everything is a decision, and there are so many different variables and possible choices that I’m sure nobody parents in exactly the same way. Every choice is considered, sometimes carefully and sometimes in the heat of the moment (eg, I’ll do anything to stop her crying), but each time there is a thought process before a decision is reached. It might be based on science or culture, or it could just be an old wives tale that won’t go away.
A lot of it is irrational. For example, I wouldn’t use a dummy, and although I know there are probably lots of scientific studies that could provide me with reasons to justify my choice, it is in fact because my Nanny (a woman whose logic includes gems like ‘if I gave up smoking I’d die’) thinks they are for lazy parents, and I certainly don’t want her to think that of me.
Some of it is based on science. I breastfeed because I know it is much better for my baby. The first couple of weeks of breastfeeding are tough (and anyone who says otherwise is misleading you) and I can definitely see why so many people give up. It hurts, it’s exhausting, it’s intense and you cannot get more than three hours sleep at a time. But for me, it was the only option, so I persevered through those first two weeks and I’m glad I did (it gets loads easier after those first two weeks, I promise).
I base most of my decisions on advice I seek out. I have a number of friends with babies, so whenever there is a big decision to make, I ask them for advice. They all have very different parenting styles, and I find it useful to ask them all and then use all their answers to come up with an answer that works for me. It’s important for me to have these friends to rely on, and their advice is invaluable to me. It reassures me that I am worrying about the right things and often provides answers that I had not even considered. It’s useful to speak to other parents about things, especially parents I know and trust.
If you see me doing something with my daughter, please assume that a lot of thought and consideration has gone into the activity.  Don’t assume, as some strangers do, that I am a bumbling idiot who makes bad decisions and would much benefit from your intelligent opinion. Don’t assume that if you are my friend. But definitely don’t assume that if you are a stranger. And you are working on the till at Asda.
I have a sling to carry Ebony in. I borrowed it from my friend and at the time I thought I would only use it around the house to calm the baby if he or she (at the time unknown) was crying. It turns out Ebony doesn’t really cry though, unless she is in pain, so I haven’t actually had much need for it around the house. I used it once in the first couple of weeks and it was great to have my hands free to clean the kitchen (I’m sorry if reading this last sentence made you want to explode with jealousy for my rock and roll lifestyle). A few weeks ago I decided to use the sling to go into town, to save me the hassle of putting the pram together. Aside from a few double takes in Romiley, the trip was problem free. Ebony slept in the sling, she felt secure, I felt she was safe and I had my hands free to carry the shopping (I know, I know I’m like the North West’s answer to Courtney Love).
Since that day I’ve started using the sling more and more. It’s great for nipping about. Don’t get me wrong, I love my pram. I probably love it more than any person should ever love an inanimate object. It’s pretty, fancy and snuggly for Ebony,nice to push and it feels safe. I love how happy Ebony looks snuggled up fast asleep in it, and I love how I feel pushing it... fancy. The day it arrived was so exciting, having the pram suddenly made everything feel very real.
But prams are hard work, you are reliant on lifts. This means walking the long way round, and it means searching for lifts, and struggling to get through doors, and having to get assistance to get onto trains. And, if you have a car smaller than your pram (like I do), it means sitting squashed up in the back with the seats down because the pram won’t fit in the boot. Whereas a sling means freedom. It means having free hands, it means using stairs and escalators, it means having room on the back seat and it means a happy sleepy baby.
Unfortunately, the sling also attracts opinions. Especially from people who work in Asda. The cashier warned me that “carrying him around like that will mean he’s clingy when he’s older.”
Firstly, my baby is a SHE you anus! Just because she has a blue vest on does not automatically mean she has a penis. And how rude of you to assume it does. Have you seen these eyelashes? They don’t belong to a he!
Secondly, carrying her around does not mean she will be clingy. I would be interested in seeing the scientific studies that led you to believe this, but since I assume the opinion just wept out of your bumhole I shall not held my breath.
And finally, I truly do not care for your advice and I would rather not have to listen to it as I pack my shopping with my wonderfully pram-free hands. I don’t know what possessed this woman to share her thoughts with me. Perhaps she thought I had chosen to use a sling because I wanted as much distance as possible between myself and my baby forever, and she felt it her God-given duty to enlighten me that I had made the incorrect choice. Or perhaps she had some kind of illness meaning she physically could not keep the thought to herself. Or, most likely, she just thought her style of parenting was best, I was wrong, and for the sake of the baby she should say something.
Everyone thinks their style of parenting is best, or they wouldn’t be doing it that way. No-one would deliberately bring up their baby in a substandard way. Different things work for different families. I don’t go around pointing out what I consider to be parenting flaws, I wish every other parent would have the decency to do the same.
Especially the arsehole from Asda.

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