Behind The Scenes To Finding More Confidence In My Parenting
Hi sweet friend! It’s me, Jesse here.
What were the early days like with your children? Has confidence in your parenting come natural to you, or is it something you and I are both working on?
Motherhood For Me In The Early Days
I remember so clearly being pregnant with my first baby, Leena. I had a pregnancy full of ease and ice cream, a long and bumpy, yet empowering birth with a midwife, and I expected being a parent was going to be a breeze for me. You see, I had worked with children as a social worker and teacher for many years, and so I wasn’t expecting the mix of joy and total frustration I felt off and on in our days. I wasn’t getting much sleep and she cried often. I tried popular parenting book suggestions to soothe her cries that included endless breastfeeding, swinging her, “wearing her” around the house, swaddling her tight, or bouncing on a ball together. Yet she also seemed unsure and sometimes agitated by all of this.
I’ll admit, I felt the same way. Many times I could not understand why she cried, and never considered that it was her way of communicating with me. I thought it was my job to stop her cries and keep her happy and entertained in her every waking moment.
I also wasn’t sure how to play with her in the day, and I didn’t want her to be bored. I kept her busy with songs, a variety of classes, clapping games, baby yoga, and always, always working on something new for development. It was at about the 6 month mark when I started sleep walking and feeling anxious, and utterly exhausted. Though, I felt very confident with our breastfeeding routine, our long naps together, and loved making homemade baby food. We also had some wonderfully joyful days full of giggles and being together.
Something just felt off.
One night while nursing Leena in the wee morning hours (and facing some doozy anxiety in my days), I scrolled my phone and stumbled upon a parenting approach that truly opened my eyes.
Discovering Gentle parenting, magda gerber’s way
I was reading about the Educaring® Approach, which was founded by Magda Gerber who formed a resource center called RIE®. She was a child expert and therapist who believed that babies and children are whole human beings who thrive from our respect for them as people. Our goal as caregivers is to encourage a child to be authentic - in a way that they feel secure, independent, connected, competent, and deeply understood and appreciated by the people close to them.
Through her extensive work and research of children, she advocated that babies learn best through self-directed play and connected caregiving, and had a unique perspective on the importance of emotions. I immediately felt its truth and grew inspired to try out a few ideas -especially a strategy that might help with my daughter's new penchant for biting me while I made dinner. Within a week, the biting stopped and even more compelling - I had a better understanding to why she bit me in the first place.
I felt so excited by this all as I slowly learned more each passing week. Here are the parts that gave me (and my baby!) the most confidence.
My children learned to play independently as babies and without my endless entertaining that I relied on in the beginning, and we both discovered through my observation what interested them (here’s how to do it at home!). I’m sitting here now typing to you, writing about something I’m passionate about, while my children are hanging Halloween decorations around the house with so much giddiness. If follow me on Instagram, I share many of our child-led play/observation adventures.
When she became a toddler, I set limits and learned how to follow through in a gentle and respectful way without yelling and timeouts, and did more self-care and reflective journaling when I felt triggered and resorted to yelling and timeouts. It has gotten easier over time, and I still love and accept myself on those days when my kids drive me bats! It’s never about being perfect, but I do see how respectful discipline has deepened our relationship and has helped pave the way to children who respect me and the limits in life.
I also calmed down about toy taking and forcing my children to share, and didn’t fret too much when my son Nikhil didn’t start walking until he was 16+ months old. I trusted in his natural developmental timetables and continued the path of laying him on his back (never propping him into a sit position or teaching him how to walk). There are many benefits, including added agility, confidence, and more independent play time. Plus, he was never “stuck” waiting for me to give him toys, or worrying he might fall over. He stretched, reached, turned his head, and lead the way to his own tummy time, crawling, walking (and now running!), all when he was ready, and without any rush to do more.
Finding What Works For Our Family
What’s working well for your family right now? I balance this philosophy with what feels right for my own dynamic, especially because I’m not restricted by rules and sacrifice. Only a wish for true and authentic connection with my family. I have built a healthy attachment to both children, without all the stimulation and stressy guilt I felt.
I know much of this may (or may not?) seem unconventional in a world of Bumbo seats, the stress to get toddlers to share, and well meaning “shh, don’t cry” we so often hear. Yet, many of you through emails and messages and chatting on the playground are likeminded and do much of this in your own cozy homes! Or are curious about how to start some of these practices at home. I love knowing that there is momentum growing for respectful caregiving - because families have felt the special rewards.
I’d love to hear from you
What areas of parenting do you feel confident and beautiful in? Is it mealtimes? Outfit changes? Trips to the park? Just hanging out?
Sending you lots of love on this parenting journey, beautiful friend. No matter where you are on it, I have a feeling you’re doing more than awesome and I hope you’re loving and accepting yourself as it all unfolds.
With love and oodles of respect,