Knowing You Won’t Reach Your Parenting Goals
When I was pregnant, I made many parenting decisions. These included: no screen time for two years, no sugar, no food dye, limited toys that would be educational (probably wooden), I'd use cloth diapers, do elimination communication, baby lead weaning, breastfeed a minimum of 2 years, etc. Despite knowing these decisions were my choice, it was frustrating to have experienced parents scoff and say, "we'll see" and “none of that is practical”. It made me feel like I had lost before the game even started. Well, here we are, 4 years later and about half of those parenting goals were met. Both my husband and I were happy with our choices and so we will be doing them again with baby #2. This time around we more aware we probably wont reach these 100% of these goals, but that’s ok. Here is a breakdown of how each of these goals worked out for us.
We couldn't fight the screen time battle. When she went to other homes they'd have the tv on and she became infatuated quickly with shows and characters. Friends & family would give her phones and tablets and share videos with her. Let’s face it, I’m on my phone, tablet and computer a lot for business and for fun. She wanted to see what I could see. It just didn’t feel worth the fight. So, we embraced screen time and have found our daughter learns a lot from the Youtube videos that we show her (have you followed my channel yet?), Netflix, PBS and different educational apps. We're fine with how it worked out. We have learned some lessons along the way on why and how to control what she is watching and which apps to remove from our devices completely ( YouTube kids being an example). We make sure there is a healthy balance between screen time and play and have rules around screen time. One very important rule for me was, “No screen time when we have company”. I felt it was best to start the habit of putting our devices down for friends sooner than later. So all in all the idea of no screens was good in theory only for our family.
No Sugar or Food Dye
Healthy Eating & baby lead weaning felt necessary to us, but in the end it just worked for us. Instead of buying or making baby food we just fed baby the healthy foods we were eating. Our daughter had zero added sugar for the first 2 years of her life. She ate foods like black beans, egg yolks, beef, chicken, sweet potato, squash, green beans, Greek yogurt, berries, etc... we were able to take a little off our plate, mash with a fork when necessary and even mix in a little breastmilk with some foods. She’s 4 now and has sweets and other treats in moderation. I’ll be doing this again with baby #2. I’ve seen our daughter make healthy choices and I attribute that to her healthy start.
A Limited Amount of Educational Toys
The reality is, she gets whatever toys she is handed down or gifted and she has a plethora to choose from. We find as she plays with toy after toy, she is learning new motor skills and nurturing a strong imagination. We don't fret the toys. The battle I have with the toys is simply not letting them take over my house. Now, four years later, I’m ready to purge a lot of toys. She is at a developmental stage where a lot of her toys aren’t age appropriate anymore for her and she is graduating to more intricate toys with smaller pieces. I feel I need to clean out the old to make way for the new. I also struggle with new toys constantly showing up and nothing leaving. So, I won’t say my feelings about our toy situation is 100% positive, but I am ok with not policing the toy room as I first planned.
Learning Sign Language
Baby sign Language was fun for the whole family! I really enjoyed learning Signs and it was such a relief to be able to communicate with my baby before she could speak. We used several different resources to learn signs, but by far our favorite was Signing Time.
Cloth diapers were easy to use, saved money, reduced rashes/irritation for baby, and were honestly a lot of fun (all those cute diapers!). There is no way I could ever go back to disposables. The wash process wasn’t as scary as some had made it out to be and by buying secondhand diapers the start up cost was minimal.
Elimination Communication (EC)
We didn't practice EC. I was just too tired and overwhelmed in early postpartum to think about it. We did however use some of our EC knowledge to potty train easily and successfully at 18 months. So that research was not a waste of time. I’m thankful for learning about reading my child’s cues and having the confidence to introduce the potty so early.
“EC is a practice in which a caregiver uses timing, signals, cues, and intuition to address an infant's need to eliminate waste. Caregivers try to recognize and respond to babies' bodily needs and enable them to urinate and defecate in an appropriate place (e.g. a toilet).” - Wikipedia
Baby Led Weaning and Breastfeeding
Breastfeeding wasn’t without its struggles, but we were grateful for the support and knowledge to reach our 2 year goal. In fact, we continued to breastfeed for over 3 years! There are many known health benefits and I’m thankful we never dealt with ear infections or colic and generally had a very healthy happy baby. My favorite part was the closeness and bonding our breastfeeding relationship provided us. This time around, my goal is to breastfeed as long as baby and I are both enjoying it.
Every reader may have a different story about what worked and what didn’t. Which choices they made and which ones they’d make again. This isn't a "they were right. Don't set your expectations so high" post. No. This is a "set your expectations as high as possible post". I didn't hurt anyone by having those goals. I did a ton of research and worked hard on those decisions. Just because "no screen time" didn't work for me, I won't scoff at a mom willing to try. If she succeeds, I won't be jealous or think she has an elitist attitude; I will congratulate her. If she finds in practice it wasn't the best for her family, I will appreciate her willingness to bend. We need high expectations. Support new moms who are researching and trying to make the best choices for their family. Sure, they may find half of it is better in theory, but that is for them to find out.
In the Comments
Healthy eating, baby sign language, cloth diapers, baby lead weaning and breastfeeding became primary goals for baby #2. What were some of your early parenting goals and expectations? How did these change as time went on?