Saturday, April 6, 2013

Motherhood: Expectations v. Complete Inexperience

It's confession time.

  1. I have been in 1 American wedding - my own.
  2. I have been to only one bridal shower besides my own.
  3. I have been asked to babysit only once, and that was during a church function where if something had gone awry, I could have called on an adult. This is despite the fact that I took the American Red Cross babysitting course.
  4. Though I never was asked to babysit, I was regularly asked to house and dog sit.
  5. I have never been to a baby shower - ever. Wait! I went to one when I was like 8 or something...does that count? I don't really remember it.
  6. I have never changed a diaper (though I've seen it done plenty of times).
  7. I have held a total of 2 babies in my entire life (one of them was one I babysat in confession number 2).
  8. My husband has more experience with young children than I do.
I am, by all accounts, inexperienced.

Like Hermione (with whom my husband regularly compares me) I have read and researched all kinds of things about babies and parenting - from gear and cloth diaper folds to birthing classes and toddler discipline, I have eagerly devoured information.

But of course, reading is not the real thing. Reading may be helpful, but every child is different. Every pregnancy is different. Every birth is different.

The sad thing is, I am not alone in my lack of experience. Many young women grow up with this lack of exposure to raising children. When they get to the point where I am, they become deer in headlights - freaking out about every little thing. Will I break the baby? Will I screw it up? Is this normal? How could this kid poop so much when he's only been drinking breast milk?!

It's enough to make anyone's head spin. We are, by all accounts, lost.

Gone are the days of communities raising children together. There is not that sharing of responsibility. Many couples are choosing to have no children at all making an even smaller pool of potential exposure to motherly pursuits. While some women choose to have larger families, more often than not, couples are choosing to have only one, or at most, two childrenChildcare is generally relegated to professionals with so many early childhood education credits to their names, in settings that are carefully controlled by state accrediting bodies.

Yet, while we're so inexperienced, we're expected to know everything. We're expected to be perfect angelic stewards of our bodies during pregnancy. In childbirth, we're expected to dope ourselves up and be strapped down to be cut open in a conveniently scheduled surgical procedure. When our baby is out, we're expected to love them immediately, follow all the rules set out by the experts (never mind that these experts are consistently contradictory), and raise them with all the latest gadgetry in the most scientifically supported parenting style.

This is the American way.

It is completely bonkers.

Instead of this wretched picture, I will choose another classic American way - independence. I'll do things my way - the way that makes the most sense for our particular situation. I will not feel guilty for my lack of experience. I will not feel guilty if I don't use all the crazy gadgetry or the parenting style du jour in magazines. I will enjoy this adventure and let things happen as they must, doing the best I can with the information and intuition I have at the time.

So, if you decide to give me some bit of pregnancy/childbirth/parenting advice, don't be hurt if I do the exact opposite. Because I might. Hell, I probably will. I'm ornery like that. I live in Oakland, and as they say, we do what we want.

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