OPINION: We are all parenting experts when it comes to our own children
- Credit: Ruth Davies
I worked on a job last week which involved me being interviewed for radio and television stations.
The same interview conducted by many different presenters all over the country and the title they gave me, to answer their questions, was 'parenting expert'.
I found myself wanting to shy away from it.
We’re taught to dampen our own horns, to never toot them ourselves and not just that, but to put the trumpet down pretending it’s not ours altogether.
I squirmed, imposter syndrome at its best, then I wriggled free because I have been parenting for over a decade, I have four children, I was talking about colic, a subject I know a lot about, and I knew my stuff.
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I absolutely could be titled as a parenting expert when talking about this and though I still did it with one eye closed, I forced myself to embrace it.
We’re allowed to be good at things, we’re allowed to be proud of ourselves and we absolutely must be able to own our own accomplishments.
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There’s a fine line between bragging and being able to acknowledge your areas of expertise but it got me wondering why we constantly accept being put down yet find it such a struggle to take praise?
As a parent I think the challenge to accept our own strengths is even more tricky. From the moment we conceive we feel we must be doing things wrong and therein lies a mass of problems for parents, especially women, going forwards.
We worry we’re not perfect enough, failing harder than ever before and when it comes to feeling happy with ourselves that’s an alien concept.
Perhaps because we’re concerned everything we do affects the children we love and also because we constantly feel under the microscope of other watchful eyes.
Everyone has an opinion once you have a baby, from your own family to outsiders. Any level of slight criticism is heightened and with every parenting decision made there is that ever-present niggle that you could have done it better. Why?
When pregnant I worried was I doing things by the book, had I read the right ones to know?
Did I eat something I wasn’t supposed to, did I exercise too much or too little, was I too fat or perhaps I should have put some weight on as my bump didn’t look big enough (I know that because other people kept telling me so. Other people are always good at telling you so)?
When I gave birth to my son four years ago this week, it ended in a c-section and though it was out of my control I felt I’d failed.
Unable to push my baby into the world as nature intended, instead having my tummy ripped open to save his and my own life and it felt like I was a fraud at being a mum.
It took a long time to work out had I not listened to the consultant obstetrician, an expert in his field who wasn’t afraid to say “I know what I’m doing” then neither of us would have lived to tell the tale and ponder these thoughts.
I’ve worried I’m getting it wrong and doing it wrong in so many areas of motherhood. From leaving (or not, in my case) the baby to cry, to putting them to bed at the right time.
On holidays I’ve wondered if I should be lying in a dark room while they sleep instead of in a buggy drifting off (or watching an iPad), beside us while we dine. We’ve experienced judgement there and with that comes the feeling of not being good enough all over again.
We’re damned if we do, and damned if we don’t.
Others' eyes will always have something to say and it’s not until we can own our style and know that yes, we are the expert in our field, we can make peace. Imposter syndrome has no place when it comes to parenting and that’s whether you want to call yourself an expert or not. We’re programmed to not feel good enough and wired to be self-doubting.
But, as a parenting expert (and I’m owning the role as it goes, having worked as a parenting writer and contributor, as well as my decade plus in the field) I say we are all experts when it comes to our own babies.
Only we know what’s right and good for them and regardless of all the advice, despite the mountains of criticism, there is no one more expert or better placed to parent our babies than us. We birthed them (in whichever way was safest and right) and we love them, know them and understand all that they are made of.
So, my ‘expert’ parenting advice is, and always will be: Do it your way, own it and believe in it because you know best for your children. That is absolute fact.
When it comes to other parenting topics like colic? The thing I spoke about on breakfast TV and radio and something I know so much about (after four children who endured the nightly bouts I couldn’t not) then I’ll say this: Trust your instincts, stay calm, soothe them, love them, seek advice from your GP if you’re still worried and above all don’t worry about giving them something to help.
I said in my interviews that I gave all mine the Colief Infant Drops on the advice of my doctor (even though there was a voice telling me that my first should consume only breast milk – I was obsessed) and it literally saved me. We learn from experience and mine has taught me we can’t do everything, but we can be experts in our own babies and we can take advice when we need it. Or let it go when we don’t.
You don’t have to be a parenting expert to know this, just have to be a parent, without imposter syndrome, willing to believe in yourself.
Ruth Davies has a parenting blog at www.rocknrollerbaby.co.uk