I’m not referring to raising your children whilst wearing Crocs. No, when I say “style”, I’m referring to parenting styles. I’ve been fairly clear from pregnancy that I had no intention of following any particular “parenting style”. Now that SB is coming up to two, I thought it would be a good time to reflect on parenting without guidelines, and how it’s worked out for us.
As I’ve said in previous posts, there’s nothing wrong with following a particular parenting style if that’s what suits you – but we made a fairly unconscious decision not to follow any styles, because they all seemed a little too rigid. I’ve read a great deal of blogs from people who blog solely about their parenting style, and they all seem a little… well, “militant” is the only word I can really think of.
There’s also the problem of feeling like a failure. When parenting styles have such rigid rules, “breaking” one of these rules can make a new parent feel like a failure. There’s so much on Facebook at the moment about attachment parenting, and there are plenty of resources, groups and forums to discuss it. However, there is a hardcore group at the centre of the movement who are adamant that unless you breastfeed, you cannot call yourself an attachment parent.
When so much of breastfeeding success is based on circumstances outside of your control, it seems a little unfair to restrict that support and community to only those lucky enough to be able to exclusively breastfeed. Someone could spend their entire pregnancy within an attachment parenting community, meeting people, making plans and preparations – and if they don’t manage to breastfeed, or find that co-sleeping doesn’t work for them, or their baby hates being carried in a sling, they can be made to feel ostracised from that community. That’s damaging to any new mother in the early days of parenting.
The same goes for the “Free Range Kids” movement. When so much of it is based on giving your children freedom to explore and independence, what happens if you develop anxiety and are no longer able to commit to the movement? What happens if your children need that extra guidance and support, and struggle with having independence forced upon them? I don’t know much about how militant people get within the free range parenting community, but I’d imagine you’d feel that you’d failed as a parent.
We’ve actively shunned any kind of label for the way we parent. About half of the time, it’s pure instinct that drives the way we parent. The rest of the time, it’s either Google or pleading for advice from other people who have successfully raised functioning human beings. Okay, so there’s no real specific community for “parenting by the seat of your pants”, which I suppose is the best descriptor for what we’re doing – but there’s also no rules whatsoever, so we never have to worry about being kicked out of “the club”.
I don’t know what will happen with future pregnancies and babies. I may try and breastfeed again, or I may not. We may use slings and carriers, or we may use pushchairs. We may try and encourage the child to be independent, or we may try to keep them as reliant on us as possible. Whatever we decide to do, it won’t be because a book or a Facebook group has told us to do it. (It will be because Google has told us to do it, which is more acceptable for some reason).
In short, I have no regrets about not adopting any specific sort of parenting “style” with SB, and intend to do the same with future children too. Most of us are familiar with the saying “The baby hasn’t read the books” – they also haven’t joined the Facebook community or read the blog, so just as we can’t expect them to behave exactly as the books say they might, we also can’t expect them to adapt to your chosen parenting style immediately (or at all).
If I had to create a parenting style, the only rules to follow would be these – relax, be flexible and adapt. Trust your instincts, Google lots and get to know your own baby – not what a Facebook group says. I don’t think you can go far wrong.