Do you remember buying a pregnancy and baby guide when you found out you were pregnant? Perhaps even three or four? After all, becoming a parenting is serious business. I remember reading mine diligently, as well as some baby magazines. I wanted to be prepared. But it turns out that nothing can really prepare you for having a baby.
Yes, it is helpful to know how many vests, blankets and bodysuits to buy. And yes, one should know how to bathe their newborn baby, and what to do if your little one has a fever or gets cradle cap. But we have moved on from using parenting handbooks as helpful manuals. They have become baby bibles. And we have taken every word as divine law. We research how our babies should be acting, how they should be developing, how they should be playing. Then we either agonise over our children not meeting their targets, or we become insufferable braggarts and gloat to the other mums about how special our child is.
And this does not end when they are babies. Then we buy books on what to expect from toddlers, and how to deal with tantrums and the terrible twos. Sometimes we are so determined to fix our children that we forget to just let our children be. Just be. Grow and learn and play. And yes, sometimes there will be tantrums.
We have started to rely less on our instincts and more on what experts advise. But here’s the thing. We are all experts on our own babies. We know when they are hot or cold (is there anything more annoying than a stranger commenting on your child being under-dressed??!!). We know when they are tired, and when they are hungry. We know when they need a hug and when they need to just shout it out.
But we are constantly being told that we do not know what is best for our own children. I remember the first year of motherhood, wanting so desperately to do everything correctly. I now wish I had worried less, and enjoyed my child’s baby days. Because my daughter was fine, and I was doing a good job. I didn’t look at any baby books when my son was a baby. I knew he was fine and that I knew what to do. And guess what? He is absolutely fine and I enjoyed his baby and toddlers days much more than with his big sister.
Mothers have been relying on their instincts for thousands of years. Baby books can be helpful. But they are not the ultimate guide to taking care of babies and toddlers. So come on mums, throw those manuals away. We really are the experts. We know how to take care of our babies and our children. And if you’re really stuck, just google it.