I have a friend who is currently 7 months pregnant. A little while ago we were talking, and I mentioned that there’s some advice that recommends dummies not be introduced until breast feeding is established. “There are too many rules” she declared, clearly annoyed.
I was a bit taken aback by this. I’m not the fondest of rules for the sake of rules (I’m more of a questioning the lines person), but I’ve been a mother for 12 weeks now, and pregnant for a long nine months before that, and I’ve never really thought of motherhood as something with a lot of rules. After all, if there were clear rules we’d probably agree on more. But then, there are a lot of people telling us what to do – even if it is contradictory.
It made me think a bit about how I regard motherhood. Becoming a mother is a bit like start a new job. I’m awkward and uncomfortable most the time and there’s people (or in this case, a person) relying on me. I really need to get my head around the job as quick as I can, and I need to think quick on my feet. And I can’t get the photocopier to work.
Then someone steps in to give me a hand. They may not look particularly friendly on the outside, but then again, they might immediately become my best friend. But the important thing is they have knowledge that I don’t have. They can tell me how to win over the demanding people relying on me. They can tell me how to make sure that the whole office doesn’t fall down around me. They know the photocopier codes and how to use it so it’ll work forever.
There might be more than one person helping me, and sometimes their advice will be contradictory. But I listen to them anyway, consider what they’re saying and follow the path that best suits me.
When it comes to motherhood, I can really only think of a couple of ‘rules’ and these usually involve life and death matters – like putting your child into a car seat. But there is a lot of advice out there, and I do need to take the time to think the advice through, think about where the advice comes from and follow the advice that feels best for me.
The advice can be essential though, especially when it comes from authoritative sources. The advice that’s been given to prevent SIDS, for example, has changed the way people think about infant sleep and has prevented further deaths. The advice on establishing breastfeeding means a lot of hospitals have adopted breastfeeding friendly practices. If we never hear different advice, we might never learn about things that can enhance the lives and safety of our kids.
But is motherhood full of rules? I don’t think so. Instead I think it’s a brand new job, filled with people – helpful and otherwise – who are here to help us learn the rules.
And they make the photocopier work.