Friday, August 19, 2011

Pride and Parenting

I was so blessed by the response to my last blog post.  It felt like a big risk hitting the "publish" button, but it was liberating and I haven't regretted it.

Several people told me that they didn't realize I was having a hard time making the many adjustments to motherhood, and although my post wasn't strictly about those adjustments but more about my own insecurities, it made me think about how these adjustments would have been so much easier if I weren't so self-concious.  Of course no one knew what a hard time I was (and sometimes still am) having.  I don't tell anyone.  Of course, I share things like, "I'm tired," or "You know, it's a big change," or the slightly less vague, "It's amazing how frustrated you can be with a baby in the middle of the night."

I think everyone has an unhealthy way they get validated by people that stems from their secret self-doubts.  Two of my biggest insecurities are that I'm stupid and that I'm weak, so it's incredibly important to me that people think I'm intelligent and capable of taking care of everything on my own.  Most people who know me would describe me as intelligent and strong... but being smart doesn't mean you have to know everything, and being strong doesn't mean you never need help.

The times I feel most vulnerable are when I'm admitting, "I don't know," or "I can't do it on my own."  And anyone who has ever spent any time with a baby knows you spend a lot of time saying these exact things.

It's funny how being pregnant and having a baby somehow make you public property.  People touch your pregnant belly and offer up their pregnancy and birth stories.  I finally learned to stop people and ask, "Am I going to feel encouraged by this story?  No?  Then sorry, I don't want to hear it."  Carrying around a baby is no different.  I've never gone anywhere with Isabella without having multiple strangers stop me to ask about her.  Normally it's nice stuff like, "Wow, all that hair!" and "What bright eyes!"  Sometimes, though, my response to an inane question (is she sleeping through the night?  Is she eating solid food yet?  etc.) opens a door for me to receive unsolicited parenting advice.

A few weeks ago a Home Depot employee actually followed me around the store, suggesting that I give Isabella rice cereal before bed because she'll sleep all night.  The other day an older lady that goes to my church told me that if Izzy bites while nursing, to flick her foot.  ("It just shocks them!")  And I can't tell you how many people have suggested some form of "sleep training" to cause my little girl to nap on my schedule and sleep through the night.  Well-meaning interluders, the lot of them, but we have informed and specific reasons not to take much of the traditional parenting advice to heart.

I'm realizing though that my problem isn't that people are giving me advice... it's that I feel like it's necessary to tell them why I don't agree with them... essentially, how right I am, how put together I am.  It's pride, and that's all there is to it.  I could just say, "That's an interesting suggestion, thanks."  Or the more direct but still polite, "Thanks, but I'm not sure that method is for me."  People really are just trying to be helpful.  But instead I shoot people down in order to affirm that I do in fact have my shit together, and I don't need or want your advice.

Motherhood makes you the target of a constant barrage of unsolicited advice... it's not just me.  It's like this for everyone.  And I need to realize that A) it's no reflection on me personally or my capabilities as a parent, and B) listening politely to someone's suggestions doesn't mean I have to take their advice.  Maybe they can go home feeling purposeful because they were a huge help to a new mom, and I can go home and do whatever I intended to do in the first place.  And... here's the really scary one: C) Maybe... just maybe... someone out there knows more than I do about this whole baby thing, and I could learn something new if I would just listen once in a while.


Amy said...

This sound a lot like me (which given our many similarities should probably come as no surprise). I also feel that absurd need to let everyone know how knowledgeable and how right I am. It can be so hard to overcome! I particularly identify with that knowledge that if I had only been more open and communicative I could have made things easier on myself; I've realized that there have been a lot of times over the past several months when I could have eased my mind a lot by just sharing my feelings with someone. So once again I shall endeavor to be a little more open.

RachelRenae said...

Yes... we are a lot alike. I've spent a lot of time phsyco analyzing myself to figure out why I operate the way I do. You know you can always talk to me, right? :)