I strive for balance in my life. Now that I am a parent I see how very important that is when you are raising a child. I knew I felt strongly about certain convictions and beliefs. I knew that certain values that were important to me would influence my decisions I made for how I wanted to raise my baby. I wasn't aware of how impressionable I would feel about others and their opinions.
When I was newly pregnant, the wife of a co-worker of my husband (whom I barely knew) told me that I HAD to sign up for this baby class. I said I would consider it. She said I had to sign up immediately if I wanted my baby to get into it. There was a waiting list for a baby class, which little did I know would be the beginning of waiting lists (the biggest scam ever) all over the city of Los Angeles. She claimed this mommy group (or so I thought that's what it was) would change my whole experience of being a new parent (that was quite an endorsement!). The session was 10 weeks at 35 bucks a pop. That is a lot of moola, but if it could gently ease me into a lovely circle of women, all sitting around nursing new little people and chatting about getting the swing of things, then it must be worth it.
Months later my baby was born and I received a congratulations call that we had "gotten in." So I went with my little newborn on a warm Wendsday afternoon. I was greeted at the door with a set of rules, a folder of lecture topics and a desperate need to protect my innocent child from the woman running this class. This was no support group, this was a militant baby boot camp. This woman collected thousands of dollars and spewed her ideas of how to raise our babies. She used phrases like"I will not have your baby sleeping in a bassinet anymore, by next week when you come back they should be in their own cribs" Who the hell was she? I was so vulnerable at that time that I questioned my instincts and better judgement. She said bumpers were dangerous, and even though my doctor had said mine were okay, I raced back home that night, ripped them all off and threw my husband a look and said, "She told me to."
With a little time and a little sleep, I regained my confidence and left the group. This wouldn't be the first, and won't be the last, time that I question myself though. I questioned allowing my baby to cry it out when I wanted her to sleep through the night. I knew it wasn't something I could do but friends who I looked up to all did it. I considered it, but even in my devil deal making pleas for sleep, I couldn't do it that way. I considered a woman's opinion of not feeding a child meat until there 3. I wondered if my friend who won't let her child eat any sugar was on to something. I liked the idea of deeper bonding with your baby by limiting stroller time and wearing your baby instead. I agreed with no TV until two. I agreed with a NY times article that explained some great reasons for not saying "good job"to your kids. I would hear an idea and suddenly I couldn't walk out the door without doing something that broke some crazy rule somewhere.
At some point I remembered something my friend Andrea said about raising kids. She said that there are many right ways of bringing up children and really only a few wrong ways. I agree. While I have a bunch of great friends that I love spending time together with our kids, I cannot say that there is a single one that I parent the same way as. I like to have my daughter sit down and eat when she snacks but I have friends who let there kids roam freely with a sandwich in their hands. That doesn't work for me but if I am in their house then we bend the rules a bit. Going with the flow makes life easier for everyone. I am pretty strict about nap times and bedtimes but there is a time and place where the set scheduele doesn't apply.
Children are constantly changing. My mother always says that just when you get used to something -- it will change. I felt so resistant when my daughter went from two naps to one a day. It was such a big adjustment for me. I have to learn that change happens and when it does, it's best to handle it with grace. My reactions are, after all, are an example for her. So bring on the sugar -- once in a while. Put them to bed later on special occasions. Get out and travel with your kids. It's a pain but it is almost always worth it.
Balance isn't so much filling your plate so full and hoping it doesn't fall -- but landing gracefully when it does. So I continue to strive for balance. When it happens I see my spirits lift, and the spirits of my daughter, too.