We live in a culture where there is too much information available and not enough support. So when we, as parents, are beyond our depths or feeling overwhelmed and we don’t have a village to turn to, all too often we end up turning to the abundance of information to seek the support we so badly need. Think about the last time you found yourself in a parenting predicament or completely overwhelmed, you didn’t know what approach to take or whether to take an approach at all but you needed a solution. What did you do? It is not very likely that you knocked on your neighbor’s door, she invited you in for coffee and you sat and discussed the situation while the children played happily in the yard. Equally unlikely is the scenario in which you threw the kids into the car and drove 5 minutes to your mom or your sister’s house and dropped the kids off so you could collect your thoughts. There is a high probability they live in another city, possibly another state. More commonly they work and are therefore unavailable (regardless of the geography)….and so do you! So, you sat at your desk and turned to the Google machine. Maybe there were one billion articles that had advice and maybe the advice was a little different in each one. Very likely the advice was based on scenarios that looked a little like yours but not entirely. Some of the advice made sense and some didn’t apply at all. I would place money on the fact that you either walked away with a plan that once started felt out of sync with your actual parenting style, or you walked away more confused and insecure than you were when you started. Welcome to parenting in the new millennium. Not enough support and way too much information.
There is hope however. Working with parents and being one myself, I find that the answers to your parenting questions are best found by simply following your instinct. The challenge is to filter out all the information that is available to us, distracting us, leading us down paths that may not be for us, telling us what we “should” do or what is right and wrong and all too often judging us…or more accurately, encouraging us to judge ourselves and each other. The more frequent challenge that I see however is that many new parents (and even experienced parents) have not had an opportunity to develop that instinct. It makes sense that most of the parents I meet with are filled with anxiety about what to do and how to manage. In an attempt to find the answers they have read 27 books and spent countless hours in online parenting forums, which usually results in further confusion and panic. How can we filter all of it out and tune into our instinct when our instinct has not been given the opportunity to develop?
"We outsource to nannies and day cares, baby nurses, doulas, sleep consultants and more. This should not be a point of shame for anyone, this is not a failure - it is simply the new world we are creating for ourselves. We are creating the modern village."
There was a time, when the village was prominent, that a motherly instinct and confidence developed just from being around children and other maternal figures. Teenage girls (and even boys) were encouraged to babysit, keep an eye on their cousins at the family holiday party, “here hold the new baby!”. Your mom taught you how to change a diaper, bathe an infant, soothe a crying baby and put a toddler down for a nap. Maybe it was your sibling, maybe it was your neighbor’s baby, maybe it was your cousin or a friend’s little sibling…but it happened. Children were exposed, expected to help and thereby learn and instincts developed. This simply is not the case anymore. I am sure in certain areas in this country it happens but in most metropolitan areas it is very unlikely to find a 15 year old babysitter. Furthermore, in my profession, it is increasingly common to find a 35 year old first time mom that says “I’ve never taken care of a baby before, I don’t know what I am doing.” My heart sinks a little when I hear that because she DOES know what she is doing, she has a biological predisposition to know what she is doing, it is simply a case of undeveloped or untrusted instinct. So many of the answers to your sleep questions can be answered if you are able to tune into your instinct and follow it with confidence. What I love about the holistic approach to sleep is that is covers almost all aspects of the care of a child; it is a crash course in instinct development. I have read many…many …many books on parenting and child sleep, on development and special needs. I have, (and continue) to research and read countless articles and abstracts and studies. As a professional in the parenting field I use this to provide evidence to support parental instincts in an effort to encourage confidence. Sometimes they are a jumping off point and sometimes they are the final touch but more often then not, the answer starts or stops with parental intuition.
The information is endless but the support is not always available. We are in an age in which it is becoming more common to outsource support. We outsource to nannies and day cares, baby nurses, doulas, sleep consultants and more. This should not be a point of shame for anyone, this is not a failure - it is simply the new world we are creating for ourselves. We are creating the modern village. It is bigger and more spread out. It is a little shinier and definitely more costly but it is available for us and it should be used because raising children alone is not sustainable. As part of the modern village I want to help you develop your own approach to routine and sleep. The plan is not in a book, the plan is your own; you just may need a little intuitive development and support from a modern villager.