When I was pregnant with The big one, around 8 years ago, I devoured pregnancy ‘manuals’ and magazines. It was my first pregnancy and I made it my mission to read up on as much as I could. I think I’ve mentioned before that I tend to get a little ‘obsessed’ with things from time to time and I found that this was one obsession that could actually benefit me. After all, education is the key to greater knowledge and power, right? It’s just that I wonder what exactly these books were teaching me?

Ok, so I knew what was happening to my body as the weeks progressed and I thought I knew what to expect during childbirth. I actually read the infamous’ What to expect when you’re expecting’ and enjoyed it so much I bought the follow on books: the First year and the Toddler years. I find it pretty telling that the Toddler years book has been barely opened.

Is that because by the time my daughter was a toddler I felt that no book could really tell me what I needed to know? I mean, it wasn’t written for my child, now was it? It was written for the average child and I don’t think I know anybody who has one of those.

Our kids are all so different- how can they possibly write a guide to raising them?

During my second pregnancy, I lost interest in the guide books and went with the flow a little more. I was a little older and a little wiser… I still wasn’t prepared for childbirth though. This time, I invested in a different type of parenting manual and I devoured The Baby Whisperer. I found that a lot of her methods suited me and there are still aspects of her work which I greatly admire and techniques which are still working for me and the kids today. But I was still unconvinced.

Should we really be doing it by the book? Should we really be labelling ourselves as a such-and-such parent? Ok, so I don’t agree with the crying it out ‘sleep solution’ but I’m not going to judge you if you do. They’re your children after all and only you know how to raise them. 

I have three children and each of them is a different person. My eldest daughter slept like a dream from five weeks old and self-weaned from the breast at 7 months. My son still does not sleep through the night every night at two years old and he was weaned from the breast at four months, onto specialised formula. Currently, the baby is exclusively breastfed and we are co-sleeping. I’ve practised baby wearing since my son was born and the baby is now in cloth nappies rather than disposables.

I think my point is that I feel unable to box myself into one type of parenting. I have evolved. I have allowed my experiences and my children to guide me through what they need and how they will cope with parenting techniques. Perhaps I am borrowing a method from here and a tip from there- is that so bad?

Parents don’t need to judge each other. Parents need to accept that other parents may do things differently. We are, of course, entitled to believe that our way is much more effective than any other way- we would only do what we thought was best, after all, wouldn’t we?

I no longer parent by the book. I have not opened a single one since the baby was born and I intend to keep it that way. Yes, parenting guides are useful tools for reassurance and for, you know, guidance, but at the end of the day the only person who knows my babies is ME.