You read too much

 When I asked my mother which essential books about pregnancy and mothering mothers read when they were pregnant, she looked at me and frowned. She said that she never read any books about it. All she did was ask her mum for help and advice on most things and follow the doctor’s recommendations about feeding and sleeping, as long as they did not go against her instincts. So here I am, the living product of my mum’s intuition regarding the education, feeding and raising of healthy children.

A couple of years ago I told my mum that a friend of mine with a year-old toddler had started attending classes on “crianza natural” (rearing children naturally). My mum looked at me and laughed, saying “You are very complicated. If bringing up a child is a natural thing, why do you need to attend a course?” She is right. When it comes to raising our children we don’t rely on our feelings and emotions any more. I’m not saying that checking and revising is wrong, but giving a great deal of importance to other people’s opinions might affect our capacity to listen to our son/daughter. In this process of reading and looking for the best advice we lose our spontaneity, our connection with our own children and our awareness of the process we are living through.

However, I confess that when E. was little I read a lot, especially about babies’ sleeping, as he was a dreadful sleeper and we would spend hours trying to put him down in his cot again after feeding him at night. However, after reading many books, talking to friends, blogging in Spanish and English on how to get your baby to sleep and some eventual crying out of tiredness and desperation, the only thing that worked in the end was patience and the sense that I was doing my best. Whenever I’ve tried to follow instructions in a book I’ve just got nervous, so I’ve ended up adapting bits and pieces from here and there to make them fit my current situation. In fact, I did just what my mum suggested, but I managed to make it look like a very thoughtful and sophisticated process coming out of a new theory of bonding and attachment. My mum has never commented on this, but I’m sure she’s still laughing at it.

Sometimes I think that all those hours spent reading and searching through Internet blogs and forums would have been more usefully spent with another mum beside me to give me a great big hug and tell me: “This will pass: do what you think best for you and E.: and for God sake, stop reading!”


10 responses to “You read too much

  1. This hits home for me. I didn’t really do any reading (I’m an obsessive researcher, but I knew if I started, I’d just spin myself into a frenetically anxious state about what I was doing differently than the books said), except about sleep. I, too, have a complicated sleeper. I dove into every sleep book I could find, devouring them, looking for the one thing that was going to get my child to sleep for more than 3 hours. And I drove myself crazy. Each book had something else I should try, or that I was doing wrong, or revealed some new bad habit I had created. And none of them had any sort of magic.

    And now at 18 months, he only wakes once, which is the biggest victory of my parenting experience. And I had nothing to do with it. He matured, or developed, or whatever and we’re all sleeping better. No books needed.

    • Same for me. I found a lot of misconceptions about sleeping in books. For example: if you sleep a baby in your arms, he/she will get used to it and he/she will wake up at night looking for your arms again. Well… not mine. So many of the things that came naturally to me where labelled as “YOU MUST NOT” in many books. At the end, I did what I thought was the best and we all survived the experience and we all sleep the whole night ( more or less)

  2. Absolutely.

    The rise of parenting experts beginning with Dr. Spock’s column and culminating in the huge parenting sections we now have in bookstores and the entire magazines dedicated to this new verb, “parenting,” is one of the thoughtful premises of “The Mommy Myth: How the Idealization of Motherhood Undermines all Women” by Susan J. Douglas.

    I know, I know, the irony of recommending a book here is rich.

    But it’s an amazing book about where all the mama anxiety comes from these days. It was one of the first books I read while I was nursing my firstborn and I remember thinking, “What mama anxiety?”

    Now I get it. Oh, yes.

    One of my awfullest parenting challenges was when my toddler son started hitting and biting his big sister, hitting his newborn baby sister, and hitting and pushing kids at the park. I of course researched everywhere about what I should do about it and the advice I got was mostly that it was my fault for either over or under-reacting. I was wracked with guilt and anxiety about it.

    Then one day at the park I was apologizing to a mom because my boy had thrown sand in her son’s eyes. I was almost in tears and she said:

    “Why are you so upset? He’s a little boy. That’s what they do. I know, I’ve had four. He’ll grow out of it, you know.”

    Honestly – I wept with gratitude and relief to hear someone say that. She kind of patted me on the shoulder and looked baffled.

    “That’s the nicest thing anybody has ever said to me,” I told her, to explain why I was overcome with emotion. But she still looked baffled so I explained, “Sorry, I read waaaaaaaay too much.”

    p.s. he’s grown out of it.

    • Mine is going through the same phase and I’m trying to keep cool about it. I haven’t started reading so far, but I’m sure I will do it soon. I find that we tend to believe that toddlers are angels, and should behave like them (another sort of myth). We expect them to share their toys, to be gentle and never get mad, but how would you react if your neighbour come and take your car? I guess we would be really mad..It is funny to observe in our societies how violence is displayed anytime and anywhere, but we still don’t allow children to show their emotions and feelings, especially those related to negative feelings or aggressivity. But saying this…. I feel very bad when E. behaves like this!! So, thanks for the comment which is very uplifting at this point!!

  3. jumbleberryjam

    Such wonderful stories here today! It is refreshing to meet others who “read too much” on any subject, but especially parenting. I had the complete opposite experience. I desperately wanted help with my son, but couldn’t read a thing (sleep deprivation, constantly screaming child, etc.). I have spent the last two years blaming our first miserable two years on myself for not finding the help I needed in books, online fora, etc. So, I’m somewhat relieved that research doesn’t, necessarily, lead to a solution.

    Betsy, I’m so glad that playground mother was so kind to you. I’ve seen so much judgement out there – especially between mothers, of all people!!

    • I’m glad to hear that you didn’t spent hours on internet and buying books on the topic. Maybe you thought that you were not doing enough at that time, but I promise… most of the times all these readings doesn’t help that much. If you take the positive side of it, your sleep deprivation helped you to keep away from books 😉

  4. Heard that! I was very nervous when my first was born and spent most of my time listening to everything and everyone other than myself. And I think I made it harder on myself by doing that. Then I went the totally opposite way and shunned any books at all for years. And this isn’t great either because the right book at the right time can be illuminating. So I’ve learned (am still learning) to be selective. I have a tendancy to go “whole hog.” 🙂

    • I don’t feel like reading about parenting at this moment ( I guess that due to overexposure to reading:-) but sure , the right book in the right moment can be illuminating. For me it was the non-cry sleep solution, recommended by my dear friend Lucila ( by the way, she was the one listening to all my sorrows at that time) This book helped me a great deal, but the most helpful thing was talking to Lucila and other friends back home!

  5. I don’t know that I read a lot, but I certainly read parenting books. But above all else, I trust my gut. And I trust experimentation. The books just give me more things to try out, new ways in to seeing what’s going on with my son and our relationship.

    Part of my reason for turning to books is that my mother died when I was 22, so that source of information just isn’t present in my life. And I also know that many of the approaches she took with me aren’t approaches I want to take myself. So the reading helps there, too. As does talking with my stepmother. And e-mailing friends.

    Also, that word natural is so troublesome, anyway. Breastfeeding is both a natural and a learned behavior, for example.

    • It seems the magic balance is a compromise between reading and being in touch with your intuition and feelings. This has proved a difficult one for me. Hey, good point about what is natural, I guess that many different things that we label as natural are learned and culturally and social constructed ( including breastfeeding)

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