I’ve been going through a bit of a rebellious phase in my pregnancy — against much of the “expert” (or not-so-expert!) advice offered to parents-to-be. These days, there seems to be an endless supply of books, magazines and websites geared towards making parents insecure and incompetent, as if they know nothing about raising children and need a permanent IV of advice from people who obviously know much more than they do about parenting.
I should know — I’ve been reading them, and questioning myself, for over three years now — ever since I became pregnant the first time around. I’ll admit that I was a bit of an advice junkie and felt compelled to read every parenting publication I could get my hands on. I had always heard that raising kids doesn’t come with a manual — but in today’s information age, there are plenty of information-givers who seem to offer an Official Parents’ Manual of What You Absolutely Must Do and What You Must Definitely Never, Ever Do When Raising Children in Today’s Society, Or Else.
But this time around, I decided to liberate myself from those advice-givers — many times who offered conflicting guidance — and from my insecurities. When I found out I was pregnant, I asked myself whether I really need to read and absorb every single word of “What to Expect When You’re Expecting.” Was it really a Bible for expectant moms that could not be ignored?
I did read one chapter on “The Pregnancy Diet,” and found one passage particularly ridiculous and over-the-top: “You’ve got nine months of meals and snacks with which to give your baby the best possible start in life. Try to make them count. As you raise fork to mouth, consider: ‘Is this a bite that will benefit my baby?'”
Seriously?? Pregnant women are being told by this highly-esteemed book that they have to monitor every single bite they put into their mouths for nine months? What human being could do that? Maybe my sister-in-law and her husband could, whose diets are regularly very health-conscious. But I fall more into the category of a “moderately” health-conscious person. I eat my fruits and veggies and stay away from fast food, but I will admit that I enjoy munching on Cheez-its (known as “Dad snacks” around our house) and having a glass of red wine. Plus, between working and getting N to and from preschool, my days are so hectic that I can’t always focus on eating as healthy as I should.
But here’s my advantage: I’ve been through this before. Last time, my weight gain was within my doctor’s recommended amount, and–thank God–my three-year-old daughter is healthy and beautiful, despite my occasional intake of Cheez-its and red wine.
So this time, I decided I knew more about me than the “experts” did, and I rebelled against their advice.
Then I tweaked my back while lifting Natalie. The pain wasn’t terrible but it sure was annoying. I realized with a mental “oops” that I had decided not to take the experts’ advice about doing daily pregnancy stretches to manage back pain with a growing belly. Okay, I thought — I’ll start doing stretches.
A few days later, my body strongly reminded me that I really ought to be including a bit more fiber in my diet, and drinking more water. With that wake-up call, I reluctantly dusted of my copy of “What to Expect” and sighed as I re-read the “pregnancy diet” chapter.
I guess there is a reason for some parenting advice getting passed down from generation to generation, and I shouldn’t rebel against all advice just because some of it is bad. In our information age, parents have to sift through the deluge of messages with which they are constantly bombarded, and — with confidence — discern for themselves which advice will work for their family, and which won’t.
Thanks to a host of new scientific discoveries in recent decades, there’s so much more good advice than ever before. But this is where parents need to cut themselves (and each other) a break — no one could ever possibly follow all the good advice that’s out there. In my decidedly un-expert opinion, I think the most important thing is to try every day to be a little bit better at parenting than you were the day before — not necessarily to get everything right and by-the-book.
So, that’s my advice — ha! Parents, feel free to take it or leave it — and feel good about it!!