For a good number of years I spent my time intensely studying child development – what’s normal, what’s abnormal, and how parents can help or hinder development. It would seem that I would thusly be very well prepared to raise a child of my own, as I am considered an “expert” in the academic field of parenting. I think it may in actuality be the opposite, however. I know too much.
Mothering is instinctual. Our bodies, brains, and hormones all change in order to prepare us for our new roles. This allows us to be highly attuned to our babies, what they need, and how to fill those needs. It’s when we start to overthink things that problems arise, primary of which is our own stress.
When we know too much, we overanalyse every behaviour, every milestone (hit or missed), and our own responses. We think too much about what we should be doing rather than just following our instincts and our babies’ lead.
This is not just true for me but for most of the mothers that I speak to. This generation of mothers is over-educated in mothering. We read books, blogs, research articles and apps and can spit out facts on oxytocin, cortisol, sleep cycles, and separation anxiety, and can list the pros and cons of various strategies for sleep training and weaning. But does all of this knowledge translate into benefits for our babies? Probably. But I think it also causes us to try too hard to control things that can’t be controlled (see: babies) and tends us towards helicopter parenting and driving ourselves mad with stress and anxiety.
Our intentions are good, we do it to ensure the best possible outcomes for our children. And the information we can gain from research will hopefully help us instill empathy, morality, drive, work ethic, and all other positive traits we aspire for our offspring. But we also need to take a step back sometimes and trust ourselves and our babies over what we read. A fundamental truth is that all children are different and all parent-child relationships are different and although we can be informed by research, ultimately we need to listen to our own instincts about what is right for our own individual circumstances. Research is important because it allows us to make informed decisions, but it’s most important to do what makes you and your little one happy 😊