So when I linked to the post about nurturing babies yesterday, I didn't really set out to write a post about that. I was having a busy day, sat down to check some emails and happened to read what Jane had written and thought it was so great and inspiring, that I wanted to share what she'd said. So I just really quickly jotted down a few thoughts of my own and that was it.
My point is that it wasn't a well thought out, articulated summary of anything. I mean I totally meant everything I said, but after having great conversation with a friend this morning about it, I thought I might like to add a few things on that subject.
And by the way, this is still just off the cuff, and not well thought out or articulated...I wish I had time for that!
1. First of all...I always think its really interesting to see what kind of comments people leave about posts like that. It seems like a lot of times people get really hung up on a tiny part of something people have written and sort of miss the big picture. In the case of Jane's post, several people felt they had to defend the fact that they either didn't sleep with their babies or that because their babies were good sleepers, that somehow made them a bad mother (or that that was what she was saying). Here is an example of part of one comment:
"My kids have all been champion sleepers and I hope you don't think I'm a bad mom because I love my kids enough to keep them well rested and myself well rested as well. I devote every WAKING moment to them, I can assure you."For me, Jane's post wasn't really about what kind of sleeping arrangements you have in your family or that you should ascribe to any certain "brand" of parenting (you know...all the parenting style labels out there...speaking of which I actually kind of hate...but that is a subject for a different day!). I won't put words into her mouth, but this is the massage that I got from her post: Because babies only source of information about the world around them comes by way of their senses, and because of the important work that is going on in their brains in that first year of life, it is really essential that the information they are receiving comes in the form of nurturing. By nurturing and responding to your baby you are meeting their needs. You should consider all of a babies senses. They should be spoken to softly and often, touched gently and held close, comforted if they are upset, fed if they are hungry, changed if they are wet or dirty, and allowed to sleep in peace if they are tired. And these things should be done without reservation or limit. I mean...basic stuff. But the important thing is that just because babies can't talk, doesn't mean that no communication is happening. In fact it means that the communication that they are able to understand by way of their senses is more heightened. So whether you are tender and gentle, or rough and gruff, matters. And meeting their needs matters. And sometimes their need is just to be held. I also don't think that love and nurturing are necessarily synonymous. I think you can totally love your baby and not be very nurturing. And what babies need is nurturing, regardless of how much you "love them enough" to impose well meant restrictions on it.
I don't think I know a single mother who isn't trying to be nurturing to their babies...or at least who doesn't want to be. What I have seen are mothers who are afraid to be too nurturing because they have been scared into believing that by doing so they will somehow "teach" their babies bad habits, or to be manipulative etc. And for me, that was the wonderful massage of Jane's post. Babies have needs and it is important in their development to meet those needs. And I agree. And not because its scientifically explained, but because it just makes sense to me and rings true in my soul. You can't nurture, or respond too quickly or too much when it comes to a baby. That first year of life is about teaching them that the world is a safe place, that their needs will be met, that they are loved, and that people can be trusted. Babies are wonderfully straightforward that way.
Could I say the word needs any more?
2. I don't think that being nurturing to your baby translates into "devoting every waking minute to them". I think its totally possible to be a nurturing and responsive mother and also meet your own needs. I don't think we need to be haggard martyrs. But I also think it is dangerous to buy into the notion that mothers should be able to have it all. You know? It seems we are told that we can have babies, and that if we are vigilant enough, and start early enough, we can get those babies to fit neatly into our lives with as little disruption and inconvenience as possible, and should be able to carry on with as much time left over to fulfill our own desire to craft/exercise/decorate/be creative/cute/trendy/thin/ambitious/externally gratified as before you had a child. I am more tired after having a baby then I ever was before. I am fatter, less stylish, and less productive too. But I am also immensely happier. I accept that my life is different. I don't feel like I've failed because it is.
3. Jane's post was talking about BABIES. While obviously its important to love and nurture your children throughout their whole lives, the concept of how their brains are developing and why is so vital to infants should not be confused with how parenting should naturally evolve when children become toddlers and into childhood. I think a HUGE misconception about being a really nurturing mother is that it means you aren't also concerned with being consistent, having firm discipline, structure, consequences, and rules. And I'm not just making broad generalizations here. I have actually had people mention to me that they are surprised at how I parent my toddler (set clear limits, follow through with consequences etc.) based on how I had been with my infant. They assumed that because I tried to be so focused on being responsive and...I'm going to say indulgent, with my newborn, I'd have a hard time with the friction that comes with being firm and consistent with a toddler. I'm obviously far from perfect in terms of behavior modification techniques...but I heartily buy into, and strive to implement those things as a parent. Anyway, all I am trying to say is that being nurturing and firm aren't mutually exclusive and that babies and toddlers/children are very different and should be mothered differently (sort of).
4. I've kind of touched on this already but I want to say it again. Being a nurturing and responsive mother is about being in tune with the needs of your baby (and really also your older child) and responding to them. Its not about ascribing to a certain "Brand" of parenting. There is no one book or set of guidelines or method that will work with every parent and every child in every situation. Some mothers are able to naturally get in sync with the rhythm of a newborn baby and find it more easy to understand the communication cues they use to tell us what they need, and are able to respond effectively. Some mothers have a harder time with this and find its helpful to have a more structured approach with more concrete guidelines to help them decipher those things. There are tons of great books and resources out there to help parents who need it. I tend to be leary of those resources that focus first on the needs of the parents and not the baby/child. And any book that encourages ignoring your natural inclination towards nurturing your baby should be (in my opinion) met with serious skepticism.
I have noticed that generally our personalities tend to dictate where we gravitate when it comes to the specific methods we use. Obviously we all have different strengths and abilities--different levels of experiences--and different kinds of examples. And I have always felt that whatever the particulars of how a mother feeds, sleeps, and cares for her baby-- it is always with the goal and attitude of doing what is best for them. I know there are mothers who don't have this priority out there...but I really don't know any of them. Which leads me to 4.
4. Please don't be offended if I express opinions about what it means to be a good mother and also happen to have some aspects of my parenting that are slightly different then you. You know if you are a good mother. I think you are a good mother! If I say that I do something and think its good...it doesn't mean that I think what you are doing that is different is bad. At all. Or that with future children and future circumstances I won't do something different either. Not that you care. But I notice that people often get defensive in their comments when it comes to parenting and when I write or talk about this stuff its only because I want to share something that has been helpful to me, or I feel might be helpful to somebody else.
5. Sorry...I could talk about this all day. I guess the last thing I want to say about this is that while I do think that we really are all just doing the best we can to be good parents, through new insight and new information, we often (hopefully) have a change in the way we do things and become better. I mean isn't that the point of it all anyway? I linked that post because I feel that the message is good and true and that it inspires better parenting. And there is always room for that right?
I really love watching and learning from other mothers. I am so grateful for the opportunity to be one.