Somewhere around 16 weeks into my first pregnancy, a friend gifted me the holy bible of all things pregnancy, “What to Expect When You’re Expecting.” Dutifully, for around the next three months, I poured over the book week after week, trying to understand the changes occurring in my body and attempting to give my baby the healthiest start possible. I further scoured the Internet, following tips and advice to give my fetus as much of a head start as I could manage (playing Beethoven to my child in utero and imbibing some awful green juices come to mind). After seven months of pregnancy, I was quite frankly exhausted. Being pregnant had become my second full-time job. Around the same time, I began my quest to find a daycare center, taking tours and interviewing prospective directors. At the daycare center next to my work, one I ended up choosing more for the convenience factor above all else, the director sat me down and began to share the ethos and philosophy of the center. At the end of her well-rehearsed speech she asked me, “And what is it that you wish to get out of your daycare center?” I deadpanned in response, “Harvard.” Fully expecting a hearty chuckle, she barely blinked and immediately began to explain their cache of educational toys and activities they organize in order to engage the six-week to 12-month-olds in their infant care. I can only assume that this was not the first time a parent had hinted at Ivy League ambitions.
It was at that moment, somewhere between a well-meaning daycare center director explaining how they turn six-week-olds into future mathletes, and attending a parenting class where I witnessed a doula demonstrate the labor pain management technique of slow dancing with the mortified pregnant lady whose husband was late to class that evening, that I decided enough was enough. It was time to put down the books and back away from my vigorous Internet research, and adopt a new philosophy. And from that day on I have been in the “Whatever Works” school of parenting. Fancy a natural, drug-free childbirth? Looking forward to the comfortable option of the epidural? Whatever works! Want to breastfeed your baby well into toddlerhood? Consider yourself more of a formula-and-bottle sort of mama? Whatever works! Think you want the challenge of staying at home taking care of the babes full time? Prefer the challenge of managing a job and parental duties? Whatever works! Want to slow dance during your labor? Want to start prepping your baby for Harvard in utero? Whatever. Works. There are so many choices presented to us as parents from the moment the strip first turns pink. To breastfeed or to bottle feed; to co-sleep or not to co-sleep; to work or not to work; to give the pacifier or take it away; to swaddle or not to swaddle; to daycare or not to daycare; to cry-it-out or not to cry-it-out; to make the babyfood or buy the babyfood; and this is just in the first three months. And there are so many conflicting opinions and contradictory information out there, that whatever choices you end up making with regards to your own children, there will always be a voice telling you that your choice is wrong. I don’t mean to suggest that we shouldn’t be doing the very best we can to raise happy, healthy, adjusted children. Look, I’m going to teach my kid to read and all. I only mean to say that you should do so in whatever way that works for your life, your family, your children. The fact that we even stress out about the choices we make in the process screams loud and clear above the white noise and peanut gallery the most important thing: that we love our children, and love is the best place to start. So, with love, whatever works! Now, if you’ll excuse me, I have to get back to practicing SAT words with my 17-month-old.