Having been through the birth of a new baby three times, I can tell you that there have been few times in my life when I have been more insecure and second-guessed myself quite as much as when I was a new mom to James, Alex and Emily. I think I speak for most women when I say that making decisions on behalf of a precious life creates overwhelming anxiety at times.
One of the reasons for the high level of anxiety is that as a new mom, we are pretty clueless as to how to care for our new baby. There are no courses that fully prepare you for looking after a baby and even if there were, every baby is different. So unlike most other tasks that you will perform in life, there is simply no way to skill-up ahead of time. Our response to this inexperience is often to try to assimilate as much knowledge and skill as possible in the crash course of parenting. And we do this by asking people’s opinions, seeking ‘expert advice’ and most often looking it up on the Internet – all of which leads to an inundation of conflicting advice. All this solicited and unsolicited advice creates immense confusion and often the net result is that a mom can no longer hear her inner voice or instinct.
It is in this very vulnerable state that you will encounter very polarized and strong voices in the mommy market place. These strong voices are usually moms themselves who have raised a baby or 3, and who feel that their way is the only way. The volume of judgment leveled on other moms by these experienced mothersis unparalleled, except maybe in extreme religions. But for every strong proponent of a specific position is an equally strong voice for the opposition. And many an unsuspecting mother will find herself caught in the cross fire of a mommy war.
Mommy wars are typically waged over issues such as method of childbirth, breastfeeding, co-sleeping, home-schooling, sleep training, working moms, feeding and vaccinations, but really the list can go on and on. It is the level of judgment that is crafted and guilt created that makes a new mom feel so vulnerable.
These mommy wars serve no great purpose and are a very sad fact of parenting. One outcome of these mommy wars is that a new mom feels immense pressure to follow the advice and recommendations of the vigilante mom, for fear of being a ‘bad mommy’. This may mean that she either does not follow her instinct or does not act with her baby’s or her own interests at heart. When she has made a decision and acted already, she may be left with guilt, more anxiety and even depression. Many a mom who has given up breastfeeding or chosen the route of a caesarean section has been left with the scars of depression, feeling that they have made the wrong choice for their baby.
So how do we begin to put an end to these battles that really serve no good purpose?
It is incredibly important for new moms to start to trust their own mothering instinct again. Three steps to do this are:
- Read and attend seminars while you are pregnant, before the baby arrives. Take the information that resonates with you and start to form an idea of your style of parenting.
- Once your baby arrives only consult with a limited number of people who you know will confirm your style of parenting – be it attachment parenting, more routine or even a more modern hands off approach. It is my belief that most parenting styles, in the context of love can work well for your baby. Do not listen to or seek the advice of people who will undermine you.
- Trust your inner voice – weigh up your feelings on an issue with the science you have read and make your choice and be confident.
Once you have made your choice and know your inner voice, celebrate that but do not for a second think it is universal. Respect other people’s opinions and choices. Acknowledge that even when someone does something differently, it may be a better choice for that mom and her unique baby.
You can wave the white flag on the battlefield. If you hear the insecure voice of a new mom at the next tea you are at, support her. Ask her what she thinks and reinforce her choices.
Being a new mom is hard enough with out being targeted in a mommy war. Like any other war in the world, it takes a few voices to stand up and not fight – you will take the wind right out of the sails of the strong voices and that will deflate the fight.
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