The experience of being a mom can be challenging, exhausting, rewarding, and inspirational. There are plenty of trained experts and professionals who lend their guidance on ways to navigate through the complex web of motherhood, but oftentimes, the most grounded support comes from those who have been down in the trenches — so to speak: everyday mothers.
Today, we bring you words of advice from mothers who shared with us the wisdom and insight they acquired along the way, on their motherhood path.
What is the best parenting advice you would offer another mom?
Kassandra Brown: “My best parenting advice is to allow your perspective to broaden, your heart to soften, and your mind to notice how lucky you are to have exactly the children you have. What we believe, we perceive. By believing it, you will see evidence more and more often that proves how true it is that you are lucky to have your children.”
Lisa Feiertag: “The advice that I would share with other moms is how important it is to remain flexible and to know that everything will change even when you think it is all static. Growth naturally causes things to shift, and it is a lot easier if you are moving in that flow instead of resisting it. Also, try to not take anything personally or to personalize your child’s actions and emotions. When you find yourself feeling upset look into why that is. What is being triggered internally? Parenting is an opportunity to heal all our unmet childhood wounds, which is one of the reasons why it is not an easy job.”
Megan Bell: “Let go of ‘should’ and truly connect with and listen to your children. They are our best teachers. Offer them what they need when they need it, and know they won’t need it forever.”
Rochelle Kipnis: “Our children grow up so fast, so cherish every moment you get with them. Make memories and know that they grow up too quickly. Hold on to the moments and take it slow. Enjoy every day that you’re blessed to be here on earth with your children.”
Effie Morchi: “Above all, listen to your heart and trust your instincts; they are there for a key reason. When you are faced with a challenging moment, take a deep breath and think, ‘that too shall pass…’ and when you are faced with a blissful moment, take a deep breath, and let it wash over you — it will serve as nourishment for the road ahead.”
Jillian Amodio: “Honestly, there’s a lot of advice floating around. Five different people will give you 5 different answers. The best advice I can give you is truly none at all. Just follow your heart, it will never lead you wrong. Mamas, you are wiser than you will ever know, more important than you will ever realize, and cherished beyond measure. Hug those little ones and love yourself, because even when you don’t feel like it, I’ll bet that you are doing an AMAZING job.”
Kelly Shealer: “My advice to other moms is to trust your instincts. Trust what feels right for you and your children. You know your child best, so you can give them a unique gife that make them really happy.”
Inga Bohnekamp: “It is a lot about connection and trust. Find ways to over and over again connect with your child — and yourself. Try to see her with fresh, curious eyes every day and try not to make too many preconceived assumptions. She will continue to surprise, to amaze, and to challenge you in her very own unique ways as she grows up and faces the challenges of the world she lives in. Connect with yourself, with your intuition, with your very own inner wisdom. Most of the answers you will ever need are already inside of you, somewhere — you might just need to uncover them and then listen to them, which can be scary. And while, of course, trusted sources of support are always important — repeat after me: We cannot do it all by ourselves! — always remember that every child, every parent, every situation, and every relationship is different and changes from moment to moment, which makes it highly unlikely for a ‘one size fits all’ approach to actually be a good fit.”
Katelynne Eid: “Trust your gut. With each little one, I’ve learned to trust myself even more. There are endless information and opinions out there, but nothing beats a mother’s intuition. Even if you don’t think you have it, I promise you do!”
Shoshana Hayman: “Although modern society has devalued the role of mothers, know that your role as a mother is of paramount value in the world. No one can be for your children what you are to them — their primary attachment figure, which gives the optimal context for healthy human development. Teach them lovingly, both your boys and your girls, that the most important roles they will fulfill one day will be to parent their own children. Mothers need to be confident in believing that nurturing their children, throughout the years that they are growing up, helps shape a healthy and peaceful society more than any daycare, school, or educational program ever can.”
A Mother’s love is a gift that gives forever and her legacy is life
In gratitude, consider a tribute to a Mother in your life while helping a mother in need of support at the same time.
It’s a gift that that keeps on giving because you help mothers receive much needed information and support.
Editor’s note: All parents, especially new parents, find themselves on the other end of well-meaning advice that challenges their own instincts or goes against the principles of Attachment Parenting (AP). Cynthia at The Hippie Housewife recently posted about handling criticism – how to have a healthy discussion when you can, when to bow out of these conversations, even signs that you may want to heed the concerns of others.
Once a parent has made the choice to raise their children in an Attachment Parenting manner, they often find themselves the target of a great deal of criticism and anti-attachment advice. Family, friends, and acquaintances are often vocal in sharing their concerns with an attachment-oriented approach to parenting. This criticism can shake a parent’s confidence and leave them wondering if such warnings and advice are valid.
It can be challenging to choose a different path than that of the predominant parenting culture. Fortunately, there are steps the AP parent can take to both reduce the amount of criticism received and reinforce their own convictions on the matter.
Responding to criticism
People are far less likely to jump in and offer advice or criticism if you look like you know exactly what you are doing. There is no need to seek approval, permission, or validation when it comes to your parenting choices. Simply carry on with what needs to be done. Hungry baby? Feed him in whatever manner you choose. Tantruming toddler? Pick her up and find a quiet private place where you can help her regain her composure. No big deal. Just do what needs to be done, and do it with unapologetic confidence. Keep in mind that proceeding calmly is reassuring for the child as well.
Recognize their motives
Most people who offer warnings, advice, and criticism truly have the target parent’s best interests at heart. They sincerely believe what they are saying and authentically want to help. Being aware of these positive motives can take some of the sting out of their words and make it easier for the parent to calmly proceed.
Acknowledge and disengage
With those positive motives in mind, acknowledge the shared advice without feeling the need to engage. In other words, don’t try to change the world; change the subject instead. You are not obligated to enter into a discussion simply because someone shares their advice, criticism, or warnings.
“Thanks for the advice, I’ll keep that in mind!” followed by a change in topic often works to end an unhelpful conversation. Humor can be useful here as well: “Oh, you know how those recommendations are always changing!”You may choose to discuss the reasons behind your parenting choices with other parents who sincerely want to hear what you have to say (even if they ultimately disagree); you may also choose not to engage in a fruitless discussion with someone whose sole motivation is to convince you to change your mind. Smile, nod, and change the subject.
Similarly, “he’s sleeping well!” is a perfectly acceptable answer when a more detailed answer (“he wakes up every three hours to nurse, as expected for his age”) will only invite criticism. Be aware of who you are entering into such a conversation with. It is wise to share your parenting challenges only with those who you know are supportive of an attachment parenting/gentle discipline lifestyle. Just as you wouldn’t discuss homeschooling challenges with someone who was vocally against homeschooling, don’t discuss parenting challenges with those who are vocally critical of an attachment approach to parenting. Don’t invite criticism.
This doesn’t mean you have to pretend everything is perfect. A simple “we’ve had our challenges, but we’re handling them” can be more than sufficient. This form of discretion is simply a wise boundary, not a fake projection of perfection. Use your best judgement to determine when entering into a dialogue with someone will resolve itself peacefully or only create more conflict.
Unfortunately, there are those who will persist in the conversation despite attempts to politely disengage. For those who can’t leave the topic alone, enforce strong boundaries. “I will not discuss this further.” Repeat until they accept that the topic is not open to further discussion. Leave if possible/necessary.
Turn the conversation around
Shift the focus off of you and back to them. This allows them to offer their experiences in a non-confrontational manner. “Interesting! What was it like for you when your baby weaned?”
Lead by example
Actions speak louder than words. Rather than engaging in a discussion, step back and let time demonstrate the fruit of this style of parenting. In the meantime, the same gentle parenting techniques can be used on those who persist in offering criticism: listen to their words, reflect their feelings, acknowledge their underlying motives, and firmly yet gently enforce your boundaries.
Share your reasons and resources
Of course, you may always choose to enter into the discussion rather than politely disengage. When doing so, there are three techniques that can help to make the experience a positive one for both parties:
Empathize:“It sounds to me that your concern is _____. It means a lot to me that you care so much about your niece.”
Educate:“Current recommendations state…” or “If you are interested, I would be happy to share with you some resources that we found helpful when making our decision.”
Express enthusiasm:“I’m really excited that our nursing relationship has continued this long. It’s been a wonderful bonding opportunity for both of us, and it has been an excellent tool in helping us through these turbulent toddler years!”
In addition to knowing how to respond to criticism, it is helpful for the AP parent to have an AP-oriented support network in place as well as an understanding of why they have chosen this path. Both knowledge and support will help to prevent discouragement from taking root.
Build support networks
It can be discouraging to spend time with other parents who are vocally critical of an overall AP approach to child rearing. It can also be difficult to maintain a positive outlook and attachment-oriented focus after spending time with those who parent in a punitive and authoritarian manner. As such, it is helpful for the AP parent to also find supportive families that affirm an AP lifestyle.
While no two families are likely to agree on the details of every parenting matter, connecting with those overall supportive families can leave an AP parent feeling refreshed and re-energized. A supportive network can also provide the parent with additional tools and relevant brainstorming when challenges arise.
For some, that community may be found in person. Attachment Parenting playgroups or La Leche League meetings are good starting places to find these connections. For others, however, depending on the community they live in, that group may exist mainly online during some seasons of their life. While face-to-face support is generally preferable, a solid online AP support network can be an excellent source of resources and encouragement either in addition to or temporarily in place of that in-person community.
Reinforce beliefs through research
Knowledge is another source of affirmation and encouragement. When you are confident that healthy attachment will lead to healthy independence, it matters less when others warn that independence must be forced from the beginning. Scientific resources routinely reaffirm an attachment-oriented approach to child rearing. Spend time reading this research in order to bolster the underlying reasons for your parenting choices.
The more knowledge and tools a parent has, the better equipped they will be to handle challenges and criticism, the more confident they will feel in their choices, and the easier they will be able to say “this is what we do” instead of “that is what we don’t do”. In addition, solid science-based information is useful to have on hand when choosing to enter into a parenting discussion.
Recognize the roots of criticism
Anti-attachment warnings are often both rooted in fear and create fear. Such admonitions may include warnings against responding to a baby’s cries, bed-sharing, full-term nursing, gentle discipline, and more:
“Just leave him to cry. He needs to learn he’s not the center of the world.”
“If you let her into your bed now, you’ll never get her out.”
“He needs to learn to be independent, or he’ll be living in your basement when he’s thirty.”
“That ‘gentle discipline’ stuff will create a monster who always expects to get her way.”
“If he’s old enough to ask for it, he’s too old to have it. You’ll turn him into a pervert if you keep nursing him.”
Recognizing these as fear-based statements can reaffirm the AP parent’s stance. Fear-based parenting is restrictive, reactive, and ultimately not rooted in reality. Because fear focuses on control and prevention, it actually restricts a healthy, age-appropriate independence as the child grows. Conversely, Attachment Parenting focuses on healthy attachment, mutually-trusting relationships, and responding to the needs of the individual child. The security and reassurance provided allows the child to grow into an emotionally security, empathetic, confident, and independent individual.
Give it time
You will see the fruit of your choices in time. As your children grow, it becomes easier to let the comments roll off, and the comments become fewer as others see the results as well. Your own experiences will begin to demonstrate the lack of truth in the earlier anti-attachment warnings and criticism. You can also look to those who have teenagers and adult children raised in an Attachment Parenting manner and see the positive outcomes there as well.
When warnings are valid
We have been focusing on criticism and anti-attachment advice that stems solely from an overarching disagreement with Attachment Parenting or gentle discipline in general. It is always wise, however, to consider when a specific warning may be valid.
While AP affirms balance and being aware of the individual child’s needs, there can be times when a parent becomes so focused on the specifics that they miss the bigger picture. An overemphasis on breastfeeding, for example, can be to the detriment of the infant who authentically needs supplementation in order to prevent failure to thrive. Other parents, as their child grows, may confuse AP with permissiveness. In such cases, concerned family and friends may see, for example, an infant displaying signs of failure to thrive or a preschooler seeking the safety of boundaries and offer valid warnings to the parent.
As with all else, use your best judgement to determine whether the warning has basis in reality or is simply a fear-based reaction against AP in general. The following questions may be helpful in making this judgement:
“Is my child healthy and thriving?”
“Is my child generally happy?”
“Is there a concern I have been ignoring because I don’t want to or don’t know how to handle it?”
“Has my child entered a new stage where an adjustment is needed to a particular aspect of my parenting?”
You know your child best. If none of these questions are a concern, the warning is mostly likely a general warning against AP/GD rather than a valid warning about your child’s health, development, or safety.
The parent who chooses an Attachment Parenting method of child-rearing is often the target of much criticism, warnings, and anti-attachment advice. While such criticism may initially shake a parent’s confidence, there are steps the parent can take both to respond in a positive manner and to strengthen their own resolve on the subject.
To reduce the likelihood of receiving unwanted advice, project confidence while unapologetically doing what needs to be done. Lead by example; in the meantime, be discerning when it comes to discussing parenting challenges. When criticism or advice is offered, there is no obligation to enter into the discussion. To avoid engaging, acknowledge the advice and change the subject or shift the focus back to the other party by asking them about their experiences. Gently but firmly enforce boundaries when polite attempts to disengage are ignored. When choosing to enter into a parenting discussion, empathize, educate, and express contentment with the choices you have made.
To strengthen resolve, build a supportive network of like-minded families. While it is preferential to have this support in-person, online support networks can be an excellent supplement or temporary replacement. Support networks are sources of information, encouragement, and relevant brainstorming when challenges arise. Knowledge is another source of affirmation and encouragement for the AP parent, allowing them to better handle criticism, tackle parenting challenges, and share science-based information. Finally, recognizing the fear-based roots of criticism and how that differs from Attachment Parenting can further strengthen the parent’s resolve.
While most of the warnings and criticism received will stem from a misunderstanding of and disagreement with Attachment Parenting, it is wise for the parent to be aware of times when the warnings offered may be valid. This requires both a willingness to acknowledge areas of weakness and a thorough understanding of the child in question.
Ultimately, time and experience will demonstrate the lack of truth in anti-attachment warnings. In the meantime, maintain positive responses, strengthen foundational knowledge, and continue to build strong networks of supportive families.
This article was originally published at The Hippie Housewife and is being posted here with permission by Cynthia.
Editor’s note: Handling criticism is a topic frequently discussed at Attachment Parenting International Support Groups. To share ideas with parents going through the same thing you are, find a group in your area.