Here are the biggest lies about parenting

...and the truths

By Kavita Srinivasan

Published: Thu 20 Oct 2022, 8:05 PM

Last updated: Thu 20 Oct 2022, 8:11 PM

There is so much information you are fed when you become a parent. None of it makes sense when you have a wailing newborn in front of you. Every ounce of resilience you thought you possessed flies out the window. You are left with very little to hold yourself together. And so you grab onto anything that you think will bring you relief from the sleeplessness, the brutal demands on your body, the endless nights and longer days, lack of time and a sense of self. A lot of the advice experts dole out is actually rooted in intentions that do not serve you. What is that will truly serve you and your child?

Lies: Fed is best.

Truth: Support is best.

Formula is a life-saver. It is a gift to mothers. In no way is this demeaning the importance of formula and the mental health of the mother. The most important thing to remember is that maternal mental health takes precedence over everything. Listen to your body. In cases with premature babies and other complications as well, formula is a gift. But what I am about to say goes deeper. It is addressing a mindset and a system that needs healing.

Why are we not able to give what we were naturally made to give?

What is it that we are lacking?

Women are pressured in ways we were never meant to be. Fathers are stressed to make ends meet and work long hours; we no longer have a village; we are no longer connected to nature. We are pushed to meet capitalistic needs. And so our bodies fail us for no fault of our own. We are disconnected from nature and are no longer able to give what is natural to us. What is it in the system that needs to change to support us? To heal us? To give us peace of mind? The problem is deeper than breastmilk or formula. It is deeper than that. It is simply as profound as a complete loss of our connection to nature, to all things natural, leading lives the way we were never meant to. How can we regain some of what we have lost?

Lies: You will fall in love with your child the first time you see him/her/them.

Truth: You will most probably not.

I want to do away with the shame of not feeling connected with your child immediately. How you feel with the birth of your child is complicated. You love but you mourn the loss of self. You give endlessly but you are also resentful. There is no shame in mourning you. In loving you. In losing the connection with you. How could there be shame? You are a human being who has forever changed. Acknowledge that loss and grieve it. And then you can, in time, embrace your new self. And love first you and then your baby. You are the source.

Lies: Sleep training gives your child the gift of sleep.

Truth: Children who are sleep trained wake up as many times as those who are not. The only difference — they know no one is coming.

This is where getting support figures the most. Children learn to soothe themselves with you soothing them. That is how they learn. When you leave them to cry, they go into high alert danger mode. The environment isn’t safe anymore. So they freeze. Sleep is important and lack of it can be catastrophic. But how do you help your child in a way that helps you and them? We need support.

There are ways you can have both. Unfortunately, a lot of that help involves restructuring the demands of the system. Flexible working hours, paid maternity and paternity leave, affordable help and mental health resources, skills and education that are accessible and do not break the bank.

Let’s start talking about this. Raising our children and ourselves with compassion is the most important thing we can do for the next generation.

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