Research makes me feel safe. When I have an unknown challenge looming in the distance, I open up a search engine and read everything I can find. Before participating in Tough Mudder in 2017, I read up on every single obstacle and even watched YouTube videos of the ones that sounded the most intimidating. Before I ran the Nashville half marathon in 2018, I read course reviews and previous years’ race recaps to know which miles had the toughest hills and what parts of the course were the most scenic. When we moved to Florida and again to Atlanta, I had census data, safety ratings, school scores, local blogger recommendations, Trip Advisor threads, and the most common weather threats memorized for all of the cities we considered. Perhaps this is a personality flaw and I need to see a specialist for my anxiety of the unknown, but you know what? Knowledge calms me, and it’s not hurting anybody.
So, you can imagine what I did when I was pregnant.
I read all of the books — the ones about pregnancy, postpartum life, baby schedules, wonder weeks, and sleep training methods. If sheer information could make me a top notch parent, I should absolutely have the HAPPIEST baby on the block. If narrating your day and sticking to a schedule are the keys to successful toddler years, my kids should win awards for their behavior and academic success. When it comes to adoption, I should have the most attached child since tiny baby Moses was pulled out of the river by Pharaoh’s daughter.
BUT GUESS HOW THAT TURNED OUT?!
Turns out? All of the practical advice in the world means absolute squat to babies, toddlers, and preschoolers. The books said I could help develop their tastes while they were still in the womb. Did I eat ketchup on grapes? NOPE. But guess who does? Kid #2. The books said my baby would sleep through the night if I stuck to a consistent routine and practiced gentle sleep training methods. HAHAHAHAHAHAHA. OH, OKAY. The books said co-sleeping was a wonderful way to promote attachment with my newly adopted child. Turns out? That’s a better way to security attach my hand to a coffee cup as we attempted to survive the day after being up every fifteen minutes at night.
You do you, mama.
The experts say no screen time. But you’re throwing up from pregnancy with kid #2? You do you.
The experts say you need to try a food seven times before deciding if you like it. But your child literally screams for an hour if they so much as sniff broccoli? You do you.
The experts say don’t nurse your child to sleep, but they’ll go back down in five minutes instead of 45 if you do, and you have three other kids who need you to be functional tomorrow? You do you.
The experts say your adopted child will be struggle to attach if you aren’t immediately responsive to their cries. But you haven’t eaten a meal or showered in three days, and you think you might be hallucinating from lack of sleep? You do you.
Happy kids need happy moms. I think the experts can agree on that too.
For me, that means we have screen time every single Monday and Wednesday when I let my middle son use his tablet while his big brother is at speech. And then I let big brother have his as a reward for working hard with his speech therapist. It means I never make my oldest eat broccoli because he hates it, and I am fine giving him carrots or something else instead. It means I stopped co-sleeping with my adopted son in the first week because we both sleep a million times better in our own space.
When I try to apply all of that knowledge I soaked up like a sponge, I am an anxious, exhausted, stressed out mess. It’s bad for me, and it’s bad for my kids. Instead, I use the advice as a starting point. I try it, and if it works? Great! If it doesn’t? We try something else.
And honestly? Now that I have three kids ages 5, 3 and 1, I just do not have the time or energy to care if someone thinks I’m a bad mom. I do what works for us.