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Parenting from the Gut

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Nowadays, there are books, websites, DVDS, and even classes all designed to tell you how to parent. But when is it too much information? Shouldn't we just KNOW how to parent? After all, we knew how to "become" parents (without having to refer to a guide)!

Mom reading a book with baby

momlogic's Jenny: Before my son was born, I went out and bought almost every book on pregnancy imaginable. You name the week, and I knew what was happening inside my body. Symptom? Refer to the manual, call the doctor, and cross reference all answers. Birth plan? I had 5. I was that uber-prepared, know-it-all pregnant chick without a doubt in her mind that I had everything under control ... and I had allllllllll my baby books lined up ready for when he was born. Operation Good Mommy was in effect and I would not fail this mission. Oh, no ...

But after the first few months of diligently referring to the "manuals" and once again cross-referencing the advice of my pediatrician, my mother, my Mommy & Me teacher, and even complete strangers against that of the book, I started to go crazy. It's not that I don't care what is going on with my son, but I actually started to feel like it was too much information. Constantly "checking the book" actually started to make me feel guilty. I felt guilty that instead of parenting from my gut, I had to read about what to do and where he was at developmentally. I started to wonder: Shouldn't I just know? Shouldn't parenting be instinctual? Cave-mamas did it! Why can't I?

Recently, actress Gretchen Mol opened up to Cookie Magazine about being a mom. She said, "I'm not someone who reads up on everything and decides this is how we're going to do things. When he's having a tantrum, I am not going to look it up in a book and say, 'Okay, 14 months old? Check.' I just deal with whatever is thrown at me."

While her simple answer annoys me like most celeb moms who just "roll" with the tides of mommyhood so very effortlessly, Gretchen does have a point. At a certain point, you do have to own your own style as a parent. You can't let a book tell you how to raise your child or freak you out over every symptom or stage... OR CAN YOU?

How am I supposed to know that tugging on his ears could be a sign of tiredness and not necessarily an ear infection? How am I supposed to know how to bring down a fever? How am I supposed to know that diaper rash is sometimes caused by fruit that is too acidic? I'm just a rookie! I don't know anything! There must be a way to start feeling like I know what I'm doing ... Perhaps someone's written a book ...

So tell me, do YOU refer to the manuals? Or do you parent straight from the gut?

Want more? Connect with Jenny in the momlogic community.

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9 comments so far | Post a comment now
Megan February 17, 2009, 9:44 AM

I was like you and read every book possible while pregnant. Then my son was born 10 weeks early. At that point anything written in the “normal” parenting books didn’t apply to our family. Once my son was home I stopped looking to books for advice. I figured my instincts would serve him better than any book. So far, I think I’ve done a pretty good job (he’s 2 now).

anony February 17, 2009, 11:05 AM

I was just like you… Oh and if I wasn’t at home reading then I was at the library reading everything I could get my hands on. Then my son was born…. At first I would look up everything that happened at every stage, but, by the time I began to wean him off of breast feeding I realized that my instincts were working better than anything I read. So I shelved the books and started trusting my instincts more.

SoberMother February 17, 2009, 11:21 AM

I read books, magazines, newsletters, whatever said “baby”. I would tell my mother about the progress of my pregnancy always prefaced with “The book says…, so I’m doing just fine.” My mother got sick of me one day and just blurted out “aint no book never had no damn baby!”

What I’ve found in these couple of years, is that there is no book written that can tell me anything about The Dude that I don’t already know.

Anonymous February 17, 2009, 11:51 AM

i too read every book while pregnant. then after i had my son, i would read….on and off for about 2 months, then i just started not having time, and found that my gut served pretty well, who knew i wouldn’t need a book, i guess i should have more faith in myself!!!

jess February 17, 2009, 12:21 PM

i go back and forth on reading the books. My daughter has special medical needs, and some delays, and reading books can help me deal with some of my anxieties and fears. and sometimes, reading completely “off” things in the books (they aren’t all equal, and biases definitely show through at times) can reinforce my beliefs that I am doing the right thing for us at this time.

Uly February 17, 2009, 1:26 PM

Cave-mamas, as you put it, had it easier.

They had younger children around them as they grew up, whom they helped take care of. They had elders with them when they had their own children, ready to offer advice and help out. They simply had a better situation for parenting than you do.

Mic February 17, 2009, 3:02 PM

I read a lot of books while pregnant w/my 1st child, & for the first few months. I did not read anything for my 2nd, & sometimes when she is acting up I think maybe I should read something, but haven’t. I think it is good to research when you are pregnant with your first, but you don’t need to abide by everything they say. You have to have faith in yourself as a mother also.

Cassandra March 4, 2009, 8:20 PM

I was like you at when I became pregnant with my first child. I thought I had to read every book that existed on pregnancy and the toddler years. Now that my second child is over two years old I have come to realize that somehow I just know what I am supposed to do to care for my children. The thing about these “manuals” is that every child is different and unique in their behavior, medical issues, and personalities so you would therefore need a different “manual” for each child.

helloh January 20, 2011, 4:29 AM

Thanks for the tips, maybe I can use this through my multiethnic marketing and I’ve been use whatever ethnic media in getting a traffic and they love truly a big help on me.
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