My word, no one tells you about all the different choices you have to make when you become a parent. You get comments about how simultaneously lovely and hard it is. But this is usually about labour pains and baby care.
As a woman who changed her mind about becoming a mother as often as she changed her clothes, what it might REALLY mean to be a parent didn’t even enter my horizon. My parenting experience was limited to distant observations of family and friends, and guesses about how some of my students might have been parented. I imagined how lovely my children will be without considering how this would happen.I was a hesitant mother, dragged reluctantly with muffled sounds into parenthood. I suppose after almost a decade of child bearing pressure from family and friends, with their many ‘when are you going to’ questions, I had to face what was coming to me.
I first came face to face with the eye-popping un-signposted quagmire of the parenting choices supermarket during my pre-birth baby care research. Come to think of it, I didn’t even realise it then. You plod along, don’t you … to the next thing, and the next thing, and the next thing, as you try to prepare for the arrival of this little human that will change your life more than you believe, or indeed can imagine. 🙂
The clamouring and comparisons in this marketplace is excruciatingly overwhelming and isolating, especially for first timers like me.
It starts with the CONCEPTION aisle …
You’ve got natural conception for most … a range of fertility treatments for a few – artificial insemination, in vitro fertilisation, other drug treatments … surrogacy … adoption … fostering. Each of these also have many options within them.
Then you’ve got options about what to wear as your bump grows, do you adapt your old clothes or buy new ones? What food should you eat for optimal baby growth, and to prevent ailments like hemorrhoids?
Then there’s how long you should work before maternity leave, and so on and so forth. If you have complications, your option navigation becomes even more tangled.
The BIRTHING aisle is jaw dropping stop …
The birth plan … PREFERENCES really … gets this going. Vagina unsupported delivery, vagina supported delivery, planned c-section, emergency c-section, home birth, midwife led unit birth, hospital birth, pain-free birth, drug-free birth, hypnobirthing … the list goes on.
Some get their choices, others have to learn to live with ones thrust upon them due to unexpected circumstances.
Extremely few escape the NAPPY aisle …
Welcome to the battle of the reuseable natural cloth vs synthetic disposable … and I’ve since found out … vs semi disposable nappies.
My mum used cloth nappies on all of us; I remember how pleased she was that she maintained their whiteness throughout. So, I obviously thought cloth was a good option. I learnt you didn’t have to use safety pins like the old times to keep them together, or indeed how to fold them. They come ready-shaped today, with poppers and such like to go.
Never mind the different styles and brands, there are different materials to consider too.
You’ve got those with and without inserts, the actual nappy, the covers, the night ones, the swim ones, the ones that dry quickly and those that don’t … my word, so many types.
I can’t remember how many hours I spent poring over information about how fab they are for little bottoms, and how straightforward it is to clean them. I even found out that some local councils in the UK have free trial packs and other incentives; fantastic, right?
Unfortunately, whilst I have no doubt that they’re the best for little bottoms, I couldn’t find my way through the options.
The disposable versions are my nappy ‘guilty pleasure’. Reading about the chemicals in them made my heart run a mile. However, the ease of the cleaning, despite the impact on the environment – easy to forget because it’s a daily sight – made it a much easier option on a journey that I really wasn’t prepared for.
I went for the least chemical and most environmentally friendly option I could find; it made me feel somewhat better for not choosing what I think is best for my child in this area. 🙁 I’m aiming to choose better if I’m given another chance though. 🙂
We can’t forget the NAPPY CREAM shelf … you’ll find the one with the household name, the ones with natural ingredients, and the organic ones.
I decided to use the one we bought as sparingly as possible, and only if I felt it was needed – good for my child’s bottom, good for my purse.
What about the WIPES shelf? There are the reusable single, and double-sided bamboo cloth wipes, and the bog standard disposable ones – ranging in their chemical content.
I’m always looking for deals on the ones that are made of 99.9% water or so. The reusable ones are my preference but I need to get my head around making the cleaning solution, and turning them into ready-made wipes to meet our daily needs.
And the different ways to potty train? I don’t even want to go there yet; never mind toddler nappy changing wrestles. Elimination method, communication method (I just made this up 🙂); I know there are many different options here too. Start at 4 months, 9 months, 12 months, 2 years, whenever baby is ready … lots of tips about knowing when they’re ready too.
The FOOD aisle is quite something, isn’t it?
You’ve got breastfeeding (the biological norm) and various kinds of Formula (breast milk substitute) – organic and non organic. Then comes the recommended 6 months (earlier for some, later for others), with solids to add to the mix.
With breastfeeding, you don’t need any extras to make it work, though many would agree that a breastfeeding bra is needed to support your milk storage. Many of us, for a range of reasons, soon get bugged down with desirable and undesirable accessories or essentials like nipple cream, nipple shields, breastfeeding scarves, breastfeeding clothes, and breastfeeding covers.
And which should you go for if needed: hand expressing, manual pump, electric pump, or a combination?
You can’t choose potential problems, but there are options of available support for those who need it; so vital to get the right one at the right time. Let’s not talk about the food choices for the extra calories needed for the task, or to support milk supply when needed.
Oh, there’s also the different lenghts of breastfeeding – premature weaning vs natural term weaning, recommended babyled on request feeding vs structured intervals and duration … on and on and on. So many opinions, and the potential for so much tears and smiles.
As for solids, there are the purees – in satchets and jars, organic and non organic – starting with the 4 months+ ones – confusing given the official wean-to-solids 6 months advice .
Then you’ve got the snacks, different ones for different months, I wonder how many remember to check the age before they buy.
There is also Baby Led Weaning, an age-old modern-studied weaning approach. And oh, should you only get organic food items or is it okay to use non-organic ones.
I must say BLW is my preference, though it can take more time and cause more mess. I like to think I’ll be more relaxed and confident about it next time.
And oh, water-only vs squash-sometimes … which are the best low salt and low sugar items? … which iron and calcium rich food items are best to use? … what about using or not using vitamin drops or tablets? … when should water be introduced anyway? On and on and on, it goes.
The ClOTHES aisle is the easiest …
Brand new, pass-me-downs, charity shop buys …
I’m so pleased some friends told me about how quickly babies grow out of their clothes, especially in the early months. I’ve got very little brand new so far and my purse is fuller for it.
Dear oh dear, the TRAVEL aisle …
It’s the most expensive of them all. Our saved Tesco vouchers and their vouchers exchange program sure did come in super handy for us, thanks to my hubby’s foresight.
You’ve got the different kinds of travel systems, the single buggies, double buggies – side to side or front and back, even quad buggies. Then the forward facing buggies vs the backward facing ones (I wish I knew about this when we got ours). You’ve also got the prams, pushchairs or strollers.
Then there are the front, and rear facing car seats, and different groups of the front facing ones depending on your child’s size. Oh, and the isofix ones versus those that rely on the car’s seat belt to hold them in place. I wish we knew about this before we bought our pre-baby car. Let’s not forget the swivel car seats too, and the different degrees they are made in.
The world of booster seats awaits us: backless vs with backs.
O my word, the SLEEP ‘SOLUTIONS’ aisle …
CIO (cry it out) / camping it out and CC (controlled crying) dominate in some circles. Breastfeeding to sleep dominate in others. All have a variety of ways to execute them.
You’ve also got rocking to sleep, cuddling to sleep, dancing up and down to sleep. You name it, it’s there. There’s the ‘do it this way’ camp, and the ‘do it whatever way works for you’ camp. You’ve got the naysayers – definitely don’t do it this way – and doomsayers – if you do it this way, your child will NEVER sleep by themself or through the night.
I’m glad I finally accepted what works for us in this area.
There are so many other aisles in the parenting choices supermarket and even more sections. I could write a whole book about them … maybe I will … feel free to get in touch if you’re a publisher. 🙂
I mean, you’ve got choices like immunize or not … male circumcision or ‘leave it as it is’ … female ear-piercing or not … smacking or not – so many different approaches to discipline.
There are many choices to make about how to bring up children in terms of values, beliefs, and culture too.
I can probably think of more aisles if I’m not feeling so frazzled with it all now.
I know life is full choices, but they sure seem densely packed on the parenting road. You can’t escape them or their consequences, and it’s better not to let others make them for you if you can help it.
Sometimes it gets so sticky and very confusing, undermining and overwhelming; other times it’s so satisfying and lovely, enriching and enlightening. It is humbling, with the potential to give both an inferiority and superiority complex.
Even then, it is possible to navigate it in a way that empowers instead of enslaves, inspires instead of extinguish, invigorates instead of tire, and motivates instead of quench. I will write a post about this soon.
For now, here is my take away point:
Let’s be kind to each other and ourselves on the parenting road. Let’s remember that it’s a lot to take on, and it comes with so many entangling options. Let’s be very slow to judge and condemn … let’s put ourselves in each other’s shoes … let’s treat others as we would like to be treated if we were them … let’s discuss and perhaps confront if needed with an overdose of compassion … let’s be considerate to others as we find our way through.
How are you fairing in the un-signposted quagmire of the parenting choices supermarket?
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