I read this article from New York Magazine about how being a parent makes you THINK you are happier, but you're not.  Apparently, most academic research studies indicate that people with children are less happy overall than their peers without- the findings are so conclusive that its accepted as a general fact in academia.  But as I read the article, I really felt like it's not parenting that makes people unhappy, but the ridiculous expectations parents have for themselves because "OMG! I am molding a future god knows what here!"

People need to realize that their happiness is all in the choices they make.  If your expectations for you, your life or the people in your life are too high AND you have decided to base your happiness on the rate at which those expectations are met, you're setting yourself up for unhappiness.  It all comes down to choices you make.  There is nothing wrong with having high-expectations just as long as the gratifying elements in life have nothing to do with meeting them- typically then they are called "goals."

I think "society" and what it "deems acceptable" or "expects" of people is whack, period.  But with parenting, it's all whack to a much higher level.  It's funny to me because, as very soon-to-be parents, my husband and I have made decisions on how we want to raise our child.  Most of the decisions we've made happen to align themselves with the way a majority of children in the world are raised: natural birth, co-sleeping, breast feeding, elimination communication, baby wearing- people in Africa/Asia call it "normal."  Unfortunately, my husband and I have decided to do these things in the Western World, where they are considered ass-backwards, too difficult, nonsensical, or hippie parenting- like there is something inherently wrong with being a hippie [insert rolling of my eyes].

We didn't wake up one day and say to ourselves "hey, lets look to the Third World on how to raise our baby."  When we got pregnant for the first time it was a complete surprise, but we had been thinking about doing it SO we had started looking into what techniques would fit us best.  The first thing you read about affecting parents when you read about newborns is sleep deprivation.  This was a big deal to us because I have narcolepsy; that's right, I am a fully bona-fide narcoleptic.  I am lucky enough to not lose consciousness without warning, my case is not that severe, but high emotions and high stress most definitely put my brain into sleep mode.  I get cataleptic when I laugh really hard or make fun of someone, and I have regular sleep paralysis and hallucinations.  And, all of it gets worse when I am sleep deprived!  So as subtle as my narcolepsy is, it's something Marc and I do have to plan our lives around.  My narcolepsy led us to research co-sleeping- the facts are all online and in books, so I'm not going to reiterate them.  Co-sleeping essentially appealed to us because it meant I wouldn't have to get totally out of bed and travel to a separate place to take care of baby in the night.

Of course I would be the one ALWAYS getting up because I was going to breast-feed.  That wasn't even a choice for Marc and I.  We were both breastfed as babies; I remember my mom breastfeeding my younger sister.  All my life breastfeeding just seemed like what a mom does once the baby is born, so the reading I have done on breast feeding in the past year has really surprised me.  Apparently breast feeding isn't considered "normal" in Western society.  The Western World tries to act like breastfeeding is the accepted feeding normal, but it doesn't really.  If it did, then people wouldn't tell you that the Dad should get to feed the baby too, like you're depriving him of some sort of incredible experience.  a) The Dad can participate in the feeding without actually doing the food delivery; and b) if the Dad was going to be deprived by not going through the "feed the baby" experience, his breasts would produce milk too.  So Marc and I never even had to discuss breast feeding except to say "duh" and that led us to learning about co-sleeping.

So if you do an internet search for say, a parenting book that covers both breast feeding and co-sleeping, you're going to find out about Attachment Parenting.  Breast-feeding and bed-sharing are two of the "b's" of Attachment Parenting.  One of the other "b's" is baby-wearing, and we just happened to really start reading about Attachment Parenting at the end of summer when we were out and about at different events that involve crowds of people.  I find one of the most frustrating things in a crowd of people is a stroller.  And, I'm sure that just being a pedestrian next to or behind a stroller in a crowd is not nearly as frustrating as being the one pushing a stroller through a crowd.  Walking through The Ex in Toronto to get to the food pavilion and back to the Virgin Festival was enough for me to declare I would never use a stroller to move one child from place to place, ever.  I think I would physically hurt people if I tried; or at least be incredibly rude to them.

I will say that when we started really researching Attachment Parenting, we were still planning on using a stroller, a removable carrier-car seat, a crib, bottles... But, our research really converted us.  We realized that all the tenants of AP really made sense to us and spoke to our hearts.  Essentially, Attachment Parenting simply acknowledges that this little baby is a person with needs.  Just like any other person, the baby is the best expert on what it needs- not a book or a relative or a generalized set of rules.  As a parent, if you pay attention to your baby it will tell you how to meet its needs using a variety of individual signs and signals.  So, the goal is to get "in tune" with your baby to understand how it communicates and then be able to meet his needs before he gets upset and has to cry to get help.

Babies are not inherently manipulative, but they are quick learners.  We teach babies that crying is how they get our attention to meet their needs. So, they learn to cry or at least to make the sounds immediately- it becomes part of their communication. Later in life, it translates into whining/crying for things that they want because children don't understand the difference between a want and a need.  I'm not a child psychologist, but it totally makes sense to me.  I have heard enough fake crying in the grocery store to say the theory has plenty of merit to my mind.  Plus, I think ideas like "the baby needs to learn to comfort/calm himself" or "let the baby cry it out" are so against the instincts of a parent.

So we agreed to be Attachment parents and we both read Attachment Parenting by Granju and Kennedy.  From the tenants of AP, Elimination Communication was an easy addition to our theorized parenting lifestyle.  EC says the same things about infant communication, just relates it to using the bathroom.  A baby has an inherent awareness of their need to go to the bathroom and a desire to not soil themselves.  We train the awareness and desire out of them by making them go to the bathroom in incredibly absorbent materials which always feel dry.  We have to potty-train kids twice: the first time to go in their diaper and the second to go in the toilet.  EC just skips the first type of potty training, and even though you're training infants who can't say they have to pee or poop with words, they do communicate it- it's one of their needs.  We learned about EC from The Diaper Free Baby by Gross-Loh.

We dove into researching more throughly the different parts of our new-found parenting style and we learned that a natural birth would help us get started with everything in the right direction.  I never thought about how the drugs that are used to make a mother feel more comfortable in labour get into the baby's system too.  So I'm spending months taking vitamins and eating good things, working hard to keep my body as healthy as I can because of this little life inside it.  And then, right before the baby has to make a HUGE transition into an unknown world, I numb its nervous system? mess with its muscle control? cloud up the baby brain? because I am in pain and uncomfortable?

The drugged-up baby doesn't breast feed as well, doesn't bond as well.  The baby's body systems are not fully developed enough to quickly remove the drugs so their effects last much longer than they do on the Mother.  We figured it would be better to just prepare for a natural birth.  We would have loved to do a home birth, but the midwife here in Denmark doesn't know us well and doesn't have time to figure out if we're prepared for it.

So that's how we got to be "hippie" parents.  We picked a parenting style that was convenient for us, it just happens to not be using any of the normal Western society ideas of convenient.  I think the best thing about the parenting method we've chosen, and the books we have read, is that they all highlight how important it is to not take it all too seriously.  Be flexible, fit what you can into a day and forget about the rest.  Just because you're baby cries doesn't mean you're not doing your best at Attachment Parenting.  When you miss a pee/poop, or decide to put your baby in a diaper for the day; you aren't ruining all the work you have done at Elimination Communication.  Every single book we've read says "take the theories here and apply them how you want- you make the expectations and then you meet them."  There is no right way.  Even the Breastfeeding Guide told me to chill out.  It's all the opposite of what the New York Magazine articles describe as reality for parents.

I can't say whether being a parent is going to make me think I'm happier than I am (it's possible, love does that to you, ya know).  But, I know I am not going to waste time and energy beating myself up over society's expectations of how we should or shouldn't raise our children.  I am so tired of all the skepticism that we get when we talk about our plans, but that doesn't mean I'm going to cave in and go buy a stroller so people leave me alone.  Live and let live- life is what it is.  I have goals, but not expectations.  And, I definitely won't be beating myself over having a totally different idea of "how to parent" when I actually become one.

1 comment:

  1. I want you to know that the "hippie parenting" as I have said before is often said because people (me) didnt remember attachment parenting when you first explained it. I think you should take hippie parenting as a complement. when I explain attachment parenting, from what i know of it, people look at me like your crazy but i honestly think that the more you explain it the more it makes sense. Again I will say that you need to write a book because i love reading your writing. I cant wait to meet my neice or nephew Im hoping my job gives me 3 or 5 days off to come and visit you. I love you keep me in touch with everything now that its getting close. LOVE YOU


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