I don’t need to tell you that there are countless books on babies, parenting and motherhood lining the bookshelves of your local Barnes and Noble. You could read non-stop until your child graduates from college and still you would have barely scratched the surface of all the reading material there is on the topic.
If you’re like me, a lover of books and maybe a tad bit of an obsessive over-achiever, you probably once had intentions to read every single word ever written about infant development, child rearing and motherhood. Now, as I admit the impossibility of that task, I also realize the futility of such an endeavor.
A few weeks before my due date I pushed the pregnancy books aside for the baby books. And I started sweating profusely. From sleeping to breastfeeding to developmental milestones, the books covered it all. Each book seemed to be written by an 'expert.' After the baby arrived, I read more fervently in a sleep deprived haze. And the more I read the more I realized that the experts didn’t always agree with each other, the books were contradicting one another, and my mind was spinning. And my baby was crying.
Despite the information overload, for several weeks I held on to the belief that the answers to all my questions (ie: will I always be this tired? should the poop be flourescent? is showering required every day?) had to be written down somewhere. Eventually I stumbled upon a book, written by an expert of course, that actually brought me to tears. Suddenly instead of merely confused I felt inadequate, stupid and panicked. How was my baby ever going to eat, sleep, play and develop normally if I couldn’t manage to figure this out? That book suddenly seemed like the only book, simply because it seemed the most impossible for me. I won’t tell you the name of the book, because the name doesn’t matter (*COUGH* Baby Whisperer), the truth is that for you that book may have had another title. But the point is the same.
As soon as you find the book, or even the sentence or chapter, that makes you feel like a moron who should never have been entrusted with the life of a child, stop reading. For you and your child, that book is absolutely unimportant. I don’t care how many of your friends recommended it, I don’t care how many letters are behind the name of the author. That book is not the book for you. Naturally, there are things we can learn from people we may not agree with, but when it comes to motherhood I’ve found that confidence is much more than half the battle. You are the expert on your baby, your baby is the best teacher you can find. There are probably tips that can help you understand your baby’s lessons a bit more clearly, but as soon as your research turns into an exercise in destroying your self-esteem, class dismissed.
If, like me, you’re tired of wondering if you are doing everything ‘wrong’ and you’re sick of fretting over when your baby will catch up to the friend of a friend’s child who was walking as it came out of the womb (if you’re really worried about developmental milestones, call your doctor instead), take a look at Momma Zen (a personal favorite), Buddhism for Mothers (recommended by a friend) or Afterbirth. Or maybe, just maybe, pick up an 'Us Weekly' and let your baby stare at the Christmas lights for a while (I’m never taking them down, at least not before she loses interest…Christmas in July anyone?).
Contributing author Lane is an intentionally unemployed social worker who is currently a new mom, following her husband's dream, trying to stay relevant, and practicing her mothering skills on two rescued dogs, Enid and Falcor (in addition to her new addition, baby Vesper). Check out her fabulous blog, the Overseas Trapeze.