Joella from Dear Delilah, Fine and Fair has graciously bestowed some of her knowledge and superior writing skills to my blog today. She speaks of something close to my heart…patience or the lack thereof. We work so hard to be patient with our children, but what about with other adults?
Before I became a mother, I wasn’t a terribly patient person. I played the role well enough, but beneath my patient façade there was always a volatile mixture of annoyance, agitation, and intolerance brewing. I could be smiling on the outside while screaming and writhing on the inside. Shortly after the birth of my daughter; that tide started turning.
I doubt that it is unheard of that mothers learn to be patient with their children. While hungry and sleep-deprived, and with floods of hormones surging through our bodies, we tenderly comfort and care for our babies, sometimes for hours at a stretch. This patience that I’m speaking of, however, goes beyond handling teething, nursing strikes, and sleep regressions with grace.
While I was both surprised and relieved by how patient I was with my daughter, I was downright flabbergasted by the patience with other mothers that started to develop. At first, I often found myself annoyed and offended by the well-meaning advice and suggestions of other mothers. Suggestions to get a newborn who didn’t know day from night on a strict schedule struck me as absurd. Being bombarded with questions about how well and where my daughter slept felt like an attack, and I couldn’t help but want to shout in reply “It’s none of your business! Is it YOU getting up with her at night? No? Then don’t worry about it!”
I slowly came to realize that other mothers; my own, my husband’s, and friends, relatives, and even strangers at the grocery store were only trying to help. Perhaps they remember that feeling that is so unique to new mothers, the feeling that you know exactly what to do, but that, at the same time, you have no idea what to do. Perhaps they miss having a baby of their own to love and nurture. As my daughter grows and develops and I become more seasoned as a mother myself, I sometimes catch myself offering up unsolicited advice. I deceive myself, telling myself that MY unsolicited advice must surely be welcomed and appreciated; after all, MY unsolicited advice is RIGHT!
Mothering is a unique juxtaposition of internal instinct and external information. While the internal instincts tend to be rather universal, the external information is ever-changing and often conflicting. The bottom line is that all of us do the best we can with the information we have available to us at the time. Whether that information comes directly from other mothers, from the internet, from books, or from doctors, we weigh it against our instincts and proceed with what fits best for us and our families.
Where does that leave me, as both a giver and receiver of well-meaning advice? As a giver, it means that I make myself available to new mothers, letting them know that I’m happy to answer any questions they might have. I withhold my advice until it is actively sought out, unless I notice a mother doing something that I know to be truly dangerous. And you know what? People DO ask. I take comfort in knowing that because the person sought my opinion, whether on breastfeeding, vaccines, baby wearing, co-sleeping, or any other manner of motherly topics, my advice WILL be welcomed and appreciated. As a receiver, it means I listen carefully and patiently, and then smile and say thank you. Again, unless the person is giving advice that is potentially dangerous, it doesn’t make much sense to argue.
In the end, there are very few parenting decisions that are black and white. We mostly choose among various shades of gray, trying things out and keeping or discarding them; developing our own parenting style that works best for our family. One day, when caring for babies and toddlers is a thing of my past, and I am that stranger at the grocery store telling you all about the benefits of cloth diapers and suggesting you ditch that Baby Bjorn in favor of a wrap, please be patient with me. Smile and remember that I was once where you are, and that I’d give anything to have a sweet-smelling soft little baby to love all over again.
Joella writes Fine and Fair
, a blog of letters to her daughter. Fine and Fair is focused on the ups and downs along the journey of raising her daughter as a responsible citizen of the world with the values of compassion toward all living things, environmental responsibility, conservation, and celebrating diversity in all of its forms.
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