When I first became a mom 12 years ago, I noticed something right away. I noticed that everyone started giving me advice. From feeding the baby to getting him to sleep, I heard it all.
“You're breastfeeding, right?”
“You have to introduce a bottle right away.”
“You’ve got to lay him down when he’s asleep and get him used to being without you.”
“Just put him in a sling for naps.”
A lot of other things too.
It was really overwhelming and even though people were trying to be helpful, I realized right away that I would need to remember how to trust myself.
Well-meaning people also told me I should distract him so I could get some things done and that I should get childcare so I could go have some time to myself. When I heard all of this I got that terrible, sinking feeling in my gut that told me something felt off. I didn’t have any desire to distract or leave my baby.
And so out of the exhaustion of being a new mom, and the overwhelm of so many decisions, came something incredible. I remembered how to trust myself. I realized that I was the one who knew the most about my baby. I was the one who was deeply connected to him through nursing, co-sleeping, soothing his cries, and spending all my time with him. And I was the one who was going to decide how to best mother him.
The act of becoming a mother allowed me to tap back into my own wisdom, listen to my intuition and actually remember to trust myself. I say remember, because simply living in a culture where the standard is to look outside of ourselves for answers, validation, and approval often steers us away from our own truths. From the start we are rarely encouraged to trust ourselves and after over 30 years of this I had lost touch with that part of myself.
This is no small matter when mainstream parenting culture encourages us to:
By trusting myself and following my intuition, I do my best to consciously:
Deciding to mother with these principles has felt right to me and that decision came from trusting myself. It’s certainly not what people advised me to do. It’s allowed me to grow as a mom and focus on my relationships with my kids above their behavior. For this I am extremely grateful.
Don’t get me wrong. I make mistakes daily. I learn and grow from parenting most days and I still consult family, friends, experts, and books.
However, with that I am able to decipher what resonates for me instead of just going along with whatever someone tells me. Remembering to trust myself is just one of the many gifts I have recieved from my children.
Where in your parenting are you trusting yourself? How are you allowing your children to trust themselves?
I am beginning to understand just how much people really don't need my advice unless they ask for it. This is a hard lesson to learn for me as this advice-giving pattern seems to be ingrained in my being. Especially being a mom, I often find myself full of too much advice for my boys, who are 12 and 9. I have to take a pause and remind myself that they really don't need someone telling them what to do. What a realization!
Giving advice to someone can discount their story and worse, make it seem as though my story is more relevant than theirs. It can also open the door for disconnection and can be a sign that you aren't really listening to the other. In the case of my sons, when advice was given, the one on the receiving end felt hurt and judged as if what he said (or thought, or made, or did) somehow wasn't good enough.
So what am I to do when I feel the urge to give unsolicited advice to my kids?
I find when I can remember to come from this accepting place, things go a whole lot better. The receiving person usually feels heard and accepted instead of judged and rejected. More importantly they are given more space to figure out their next steps themselves.
This, to me, is a big gateway to connection.
Today is a windy day. The sky is a bold, beautiful and bright blue with fluffy clouds. The sun is shining and it is very cold. I go out in the morning and the cold air reminds me that I am alive. I look into the sky and feel my mind opening to the possibilities of the day. I sit quietly and hold onto this feeling, the feeling of possibility, the feeling of connection. I listen to the sound of the trees blowing in the wind.
I carry this feeling with me throughout the day. The image of the sky is patterned in my brain. I see the different hues of blue, the light from the sun shining on the dogwood branches as they blow in the wind, the shadows they cast. I am reminded that I am part of something bigger.
The next time my sons argue (which seems to happen quite frequently) I draw on this feeling. I feel that expansiveness and diversity of color, shadow, light, and dark. I accept them for who they are, both their light and dark sides. When things between them cross the line I use this feeling to remind me to listen and offer empathy. I remember what they are capable of developmentally. I help them remember to listen to each other and I support them to resolve their difficulties together.
We do this a lot and they feel heard. They know their voices matter. They usually work it out. They learn to resolve these conflicts over time. They learn to listen to each other. They learn that their needs have value. We all form these new patterns in our brains.