Parenting by the book?

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.


  1. Kathryn Brown (@CrystalJigsaw)
    March 16, 2012 / 12:55 pm

    Great post! “Our kids are all so different- how can they possibly write a guide to raising them?” – totally spot on.

    If people think they can raise their child by reading through a manual then they need to wake up and smell the coffee!! And what’s more, (little ranty soap box moment here, do excuse me), the majority of these books if not all of them, are written for children ‘without’ special needs. Of course there are books to read for SEN children and I have some myself, but at the end of the day (when all’s said and done), our kids are individuals and shouldn’t be compared to any other.

    CJ x

  2. March 16, 2012 / 5:10 pm

    My Mum bought me a Gina Ford book when I was pregnant the first time – and I also dipped into the Baby Whisperer after my eldest was born.
    Both made me feel inadequate and a little panic-stricken. The routines detailed in their pages were just too regimented and I didn’t know how they expected me to get my child to sleep at a certain time every day. He slept when he was tired. And the times would vary (during the day, anyway).
    It wasn’t until I relied on my own instincts that I got the hang of it.

  3. March 18, 2012 / 2:20 pm

    I think you are so right to regard these books as guidance only. I read loads when I was expecting, not just about the pregnancy and what to expect for the birth but what to do with the little bundle when it arrived too.

    I’ve received a few raised eyebrows from people as they see the stack of baby and toddler books on the shelf – What to Expect…, Jo Frost, Gina Ford, The Baby Whisperer – I’ve read them all. Most were recommended from friends and family and I’ve taken something from each of them from time to time. Some techniques I’ve tried and discarded, others I’ve never tried, some I have sworn by. Maybe it helps to believe in going with your instincts in the first place. After all, there are a lot of scared, uncertain mothers out there, possibly bruised already by bad experiences in childbirth, who fall prey to feeling inadequate or incompetent if the techniques advocated in these books don’t work immediately for their child.

    Most parenting books do come with an introduction which explains exactly what you say – that they are based on the experiences of the writer and not on your child – but how many people actually read the introduction to a book, especially time poor, desperate, sleep deprived new parents? The bottom line of this debate can only be that mothers and fathers are usually the best judge of what their child needs and we should all encourage each other to trust that judgement. That having been said, nor should we ever be afraid to seek help and advice when we feel we need it – from all the resources available to us.

    Apologies for the essay but many thanks for writing such a balanced post on what can be quite an emotive subject!

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