Part 1: Finding your Parenting Style
Parenting can be exhausting! And I think it can get confusing with all the information we have access to, especially when we are starting out and haven’t found our own parenting style yet.
Before I had kids (13 years ago) I was a bit of a hippy/hipster. I studied herbalism, wore quirky outfits, was a singer/songwriter and was pretty relaxed. When I was pregnant with my first child, I thought we’d probably have 4 kids and maybe some foster kids as time went on, likely have a family bed (since it kind of went along with my vibe), shop at farmer’s markets and generally continue to live an earthy lifestyle.
Then my daughter Greta was born and my vibe changed. How could taking care of one baby be so hard?! I was timing her feedings, scheduling her naps, and I made sure we were always home by the time she had to sleep. If she napped at the wrong time, our whole schedule got thrown off. Who had I become? I was all of a sudden concerned about dishes in the sink and clothes on the floor in our bedrooms. I needed control! I didn’t want a family bed, I wanted sleep. And I didn’t want 4 children anymore, I didn’t even know if I wanted another one!
Greta was a lovely baby but she wasn’t a great sleeper and would wake up many times a night, so I read books on sleep and half-tried different strategies, knowing they probably wouldn’t work for us.
One day (after a string of bad sleeps) the thought came to me, “I am depleted and I don’t know what Greta needs but I do know what I need ~ SLEEP!”
That is when things changed. Instead of always trying to guess what my daughter needed, I began to identify what I needed. Sleep was #1. So that night my daughter learned how to sleep. Not magically, but over the course of a few nights. When my son was born, he learned to sleep from the beginning. Because that was what we did at our house (little did he know, we had just learned it a couple months before his arrival).
Eventually, a guiding question materialized in my mind that ushered me through raising my kids, “What do I need, in order to be the best mom I can be for these kids?” I needed a good sleep, I needed them to be occupied while I was cooking if I was to make a healthy dinner for the family, and I needed them to nap during the day or at least be in their rooms playing quietly for at least the length of a CD each afternoon so I could have a break and come back patient and loving. So I started to stick to those boundaries. And my children learned them quickly. And we were all in more of a routine and settled and happier.
When we are familiar with our own personalities and tend to our own needs as parents, we can give the best version of ourselves to our kids. We don’t need a large library of parenting books, only ones that suit our own personality and parenting style. We will not necessarily parent like our friends or the the moms/dads at the ‘toddler group’ because we all have different personalities. How messy a house are you comfortable with? What do you want bedtime to look like? How do you feel about people ringing your doorbell while your kids are napping? How ‘on the go’ do you like to be? Once you decide what you need in order to sustain your energy and patience during the day, you can teach your kids accordingly.
Of course, there are some kids that are more teachable than others, in which case, you may need to swap childcare with a friend in order to get the break you need. However, for the most part, kids are willing to learn our rules, if we are not second guessing ourselves. In giving myself what I needed, I think I gave my kids what they needed: a calm, loving mom, a good night’s sleep, boundaries, and the wisdom to take a break from others, when needed.
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