Wisdom from Mothering
One thing I always demo and have mom & dad practice is swaddling. I tell about how I didn't swaddle my daughter because she cried the couple of times I tried it, and as a first-time parent, I let it go. After reading more, and seeing how much swaddling helped my second-born, I realize just how much swaddling would have probably helped my daughter, who is highly sensitive and easily over-stimulated. I mention all this briefly in class, part to underline how though not all babies like the act of being swaddled, it might still be worth doing & seeing if they like it once it's done! And I mention it because it hints at the fact that parenting is about learning, and we don't always know what will help, and sometimes we do something we wish we hadn't, or fail to do something we wish we had. As parents, we're still humans, and as anyone can tell you, humans aren't perfect! So there is no perfect parent.
Two articles in Mothering magazine's weekly e-newsletter (which I highly recommend) recognize the fact that we are works in progress as parents. Here's an excerpt from "Breaking Free of Mother-Guilt":
Our society in general, and the Mothering community in particular, has a problem: How can we advocate for birthing and parenting practices that have proven benefits without making parents who have not achieved them feel denigrated? How, for example, do we discuss the overuse of cesarean delivery without making the one-fifth to one-quarter of us who've had one feel bad, or promote extended breastfeeding without seeming to blame women who haven't been able to do it?Ahh... circumstances, limited knowledge (for however much we know, there's still plenty we don't know!), and real life challenges... it can be hard to accept that even our very, very best may not feel good enough. Parenting regrets are hard, very, very hard. The other article I highly recommend, "Regrets", by Peggy O'Mara, suggests a lovely metaphor for how to handle regrets productively:
I suggest that the answer lies in achieving a certain perspective. This perspective starts from the premise that each of us does the best she can—given the particulars of our knowledge base, resources, support system, and the circumstances in which we find ourselves (and which we often cannot fully control). No one should ever allow herself to feel judged inadequate for doing the best she could, or the best she knew at the time of choosing. But we must also note that because our knowledge base is one of the keys in our decision-making process, it is absolutely appropriate that every effort be made to disseminate good information as widely as possible—never to blame people for past choices or idiosyncratic situations, but to get good facts out to whoever needs and can use them.
Furthermore, and crucially, those who promote such information must recognize that while such choices as excellent prenatal nutrition, natural birthing, extended breastfeeding, avoiding circumcision, cosleeping, and so on are documentably ideal for most families most of the time, there sometimes really are exceptions, limits on information, and limits on what is possible.
A bad experience is like a dive for buried treasure. There is a wreck. Someone has to figure out what happened and remember what to do the next time. Everyone hopes to find the treasure hidden in the wreck, even though many doubt that it's there at all. Like a bad experience, once we mine our regrets for information about what we might have done differently, and what we might do if the same circumstances arise again, we've already discovered a lot of treasure. When the time is right, we can then let the experience go.Parenting is definitely the hardest job I've ever had to do - full of sacrifice and the occasional bout of performance anxiety. But on the other hand, I've never been so motivated to do a job well, by the sweet, grateful smile of a snuggled child, by a look of joy & wonder at something new, by a question that shows how deeply my child is participating in life. And, I've certainly never been so well-rewarded.
Christina @ Birthing Your Baby
Independent Childbirth Classes for Central Maine
New Mothers Support Circle