Christie from Childhood101 asked me
“Do you parent the way you thought you would before you had children?”
I’ve been pondering variations on this question for a little while now. You see, I got an invitation to attend my 20 year high school reunion the other day (oh I am so old!), and it made me wonder….
If I my answer to the obligatory high school reunion question “so what do you do now?” was – “I am a stay at home mum to our four kids, living in the country, gardening, cooking from scratch and parenting with a definite crunchy flair…” Would people be surprised?
Would my old high school friends have expected me to turn out like this?? Did I expect me to turn out like this? Is this what I thought my life would be like? Am I the sort of parent I thought I would be?
Yes and No.
I don’t doubt my high school friends all expected that I would get married and have kids. I think I’ve always been the maternal, baby sitting, kid loving, type. No surprises there, I thought I’d get married and have kids too! I didn’t, however, think I’d have this many kids, nor did I ever think I’d feel so strongly about staying at home with my children, or about how I parent them. And only in my wildest dreams did I ever imagine living anywhere but in the city. Gardening and cooking from scratch? These things are important? and satisfying? Are you kidding me??
When I was studying and first working in child care I took a very traditional ‘behaviourist’ type view about children and parenting. Back then, if you had asked me what I thought of parents who ‘let their child sleep in their bed’ I would have told you that they needed to set some limits and not let their child ‘rule the home’. If you had asked me how to deal with a child’s behaviour I would have been all about the praise and rewards with a few star charts thrown in for good measure.
Ah the assumptions I made, the judgements, the ‘us v’s them’ mentality of parents/adults and children….
Over the years I learnt a LOT while teaching preschool and studying… my views about children changed a lot, and, along with them, my views about what sort of parent I would be.
I admit, I was still shocked when I saw a mother openly breastfeed her toddler, making loads of assumptions about why on earth someone would do that. But, not long after that I learnt of the phrase ‘attachment parenting’ and not long after that I was pregnant and then it all seemed to make sense and feel right.
These days I not only ‘let’ my children sleep in my bed, I encourage it and believe it is a safe and appropriate place for babies and children to sleep. And now I am the one breastfeeding my toddlers and doing so with an understanding of all the reasons it is important and appropriate.
Having grown up with a Mum who was always there for us when we were little (she didn’t go back to work till I, the youngest, started school) and parents who were always interested and responsive I think I took it for granted that I would do the same. So making the leap from there to a more alternate, hippy-la-la, parenting philosophy probably isn’t so unusual. The unusual thing for me is doing something different to the ‘norm’.
Back in high school I was a wallflower and I liked it that way. I just wanted to quietly fit in, have a few friends do ok at school and pretty much do what everyone else was doing. I am not a rebel in any sense of the word and standing out or being different is definitely not my thing. So to take an openly different view on something as big as parenting is in the life of a 30 something year old…. back then, I would never have believed that would be me.
I still like to fit in and so I admit I do pursue some of my ‘different’ parenting ideals in a more quiet way. I don’t advertise to the world that we co-sleep or breastfeed past 12 months or any of the other ‘odd’ things we do, but I don’t hide it either. I will stand up and be counted on issues that I think are important and I while I won’t begin an argument on parenting styles I am not afraid to explain my position either. But mostly I won’t compromise what I feel is important for my children, not for other people, and not even for my desire to ‘fit in’ and be a wall flower.
Did I expect to be this parent? In some ways yes, in some ways no. All in all, I am not surprised I parent the way I do, I am just surprised I have found the confidence and motivation to be a little different.
Read the comments or scroll down to add your own:
A lovely insight into your parenting style Kate. I surprised most of my high school friends (and myself) by being one of the first to marry and have children. I blew some of their minds by going on to have five children! As I was always a little left of centre, I don’t think my parenting style is a huge surprise to anyone.
Aunty Sarah says
Man Candy wants to know if being called Kate has made a difference in your life?
I wanted to know if we can just start calling #4 “Q-fer” (Q for Quattro, Quiran, Qantum, James Bonds side kick Q, Quasimodo, Question-mark…etc)
Aunty Sarah says
PS isn’t it time to update your description of “picklebums”? *snicker*
jenny @ let the children play says
I’m very similar to you – we have always co-slept and breastfed to 2 years and do so because I truly believe that it was best for me and my children – but it is not something I went around sermonising (sp?) about.
I did feel the odd one out at times, until my oldest started at a progressive preschool and I met others who shared my style of parenting and I felt ‘safe’ to talk about my views without stepping on any toes.
Gosh, i’m so happy you surprised yourself in some of your parenting choices. I don’t think we’d ever have met otherwise!
Kelly Be A Fun Mum says
I can really identify with you here Kate. I had a lot of plans about what I would do and wouldn’t do when I had children. And one of them was not sleeping with my children, especially as they got older. With each child I’ve had, the more I’ve recgonised the value of nurture. Most nights we have at least one child in our bed. I never thought I would be one of ‘those’ mums. lol. But I am. And it’s right for me.
This was a really interesting read. I’m definitely a different mother than what I thought I’d be. I also had a sort of us vs. them idea when I first became a parent. But my biggest change is that parenting has made me so much less judgemental and willing to accept people as they are.
Zoey @ Good Goog says
I’m much the same – I was all about children being in their own beds. And then Riley was born and I was unwilling to have her sleep in the bassinet at hospital because it was too far away from me. Happily things have continued in a similar vein every since.
Well, I definitely don’t parent they way I imagined I would before I had kids. I had opinions, but didn’t know a thing!! My aunt said to me today (upon commenting that I was looking well and less tired than when Nathan was the same age) that “Nathan trained me well”. All I could do was agree!
I loved reading your thoughts into how you became the parent you are. :)
Naomi Ellis says
love your thoughts on motherhood and parenting. so glad you are feeling confident and happy with your motherhood style – it sure makes a difference and I think the kids notice it too. I don’t know what my high school friends thought I would do but the ones I have caught up with have been totally blow away that I have seven kids. In fact, some days I am pretty blown away too! Thanks for linking up today. Naomi x
Do you think that is a common experience for teachers who become mothers?
I know I completely resonate with your post. As a teacher, things were so black and white for me.
I would love to go back to the first 3 months of my daughter’s life and start again. I tried being ‘text book’ with her until I realised something was bothering my heart.
It’s nice to work with the rhythm of your children and do what is right for your family.
yup another cosleeping, breastfeeding, cloth using, non vaxer here! I too had completely different ideas before children.
Sometimes I laugh at my young naive self and what my expectations of motherhood were (you know crazy ideas like, I would never take my kids out with crazy hair, dirty faces and mis-matched clothes :) haha. Now with 4 kids in tow, I’m happy if my kids just have both their shoes on as we shuffle out the door :)
It’s always refreshing to read posts where women express confidence in what they are doing, even if it’s different to what ‘others’ do or expect.
Thanks for sharing your thoughts about this.
Becky Jane says
Love the Picklebums! I had children before my youngest sister did and I could hardly wait ’til she became a mother…
now she has 7 kids and I don’t get advice from her anymore…LOL
Visiting from Mother Heart!
My post yesterday was quite similar! I also did a complete turnaround once I became a mum. Cosleeping was crazy – and now he’s always in our bed and we love it. Breastfeeding beyond the first year was odd – then I breastfed him for nearly 3. I’m so glad I just followed my heart like you. I can’t imagine it any other way. I think my high school friends thought I’d be the one with lots of little ones by now…maybe one day! Loved your post.
Really enjoyed this post, I can feel the calm, confidence and contentment oozing out of your words! And that’s an ideal environment for any child to be raised in.