I’ll be the first to admit that I have no clue what I’m doing when it comes to this whole “being a mom” thing. The more I read and research, it seems like the more there is to learn, and it all varies depending on who you ask.
A lot of it seems like nonsense. My grandmother was convinced my cats would smother the baby or “steal its breath.” A client at work told me I should co-sleep if I have a son, otherwise he will never learn to share a bed and never get married. But some questions and concerns are still up for serious debate, like how long to breastfeed, or whether or not to circumcise.
The science behind how babies work has come a long way, even in my lifetime. But the emotional and anecdotal truths of raising children have even deeper roots in our personal and cultural psyche. When people, mothers in particular, find out that I’m pregnant, they almost always want to share advice about how to parent. As a soon-to-be new mom, I value those first hand experiences very highly. And as a folklorist, I value the unofficial history of parenting practices quite highly as well.
But sometimes, people suggest things that make my 21st-century mom brain shriek in indignant horror. You can’t put anything in the crib with the baby at night! Don’t use baby powder! You can’t feed semi-solids to a newborn!
And okay, I believe those things are true, and important to know. But when mothers in my life are sharing their experiences, I try not to jump down their throats with all of my newly acquired, yet-to-be-tested-firsthand knowledge. A lot of the time when mothers are sharing their advice and experiences with me, they’re not actually giving me advice. They are re-living an important and meaningful time in their life that likely changed them to the very core of their being. And what could be more invalidating than being told by some fresh-faced young woman who has yet to experience the horror of a nuclear-level diaper blowout at 3 a.m. that your personal experience is “wrong”?
So new moms, I encourage you to smile and nod along with me when well-meaning strangers tell us we’ll spoil our babies if we hold them when they cry, or that breastfeeding our sons will turn them into perverts. Someday in the future we will be the ones sharing our precious memories of motherhood with a new generation, and hopefully they won’t jump down our throats when we describe how we raised our children without cyborg implants.
Erin Bowling holds a master’s degree in Folklore, blogs casually and can bake a wicked batch of cookies.
The views expressed in this guest blog are those of the author and do not necessarily reflect those of the organization.