Monday, April 16, 2012

PAIL Theme Post: What Kind of Parent Are You?

I’m an accountant. Most people think that this means I love numbers, and can do all kinds of math in my head. This couldn’t be further from the truth. Sure, numbers are ok, but if I don’t have my calculator, I can’t function. But there’s a different kind of accountant than those that most think about – the research kind of accountant. A large part of my job is to research accounting rules, figure out if my company is in compliance with those rules, write memos about why the company is in compliance with the rules (or how to fix it if the company is NOT in compliance), and then present my position to auditors or the board of directors. I enjoy doing this job – researching the rules, and then applying it to my company. It’s like solving giant word problems every day. I used to be an auditor, and auditors use something called a workprogram. It’s basically a giant to do list for each section of the audit. The workprogram is something that gives me comfort. I like the idea of going through each section, checking off what is complete, and knowing that once all the steps are checked off, I will be done.

I tend to apply this analytical process to the rest of my life. When I started trying to conceive, and it wasn’t going very well, I researched the problem, bought and read every book I could find, talked to many people, and pushed to solve the problem with my mind and analytical skills. As many of us IF veterans do, I gave myself medical training so I could speak with my doctors intellectually. I wanted to be a proactive and informed patient, and I believe that my eventual success is due to this. I could have just listened to what my doctor said, and keep trying, but I searched for better doctors, and insisted on additional tests, and then applied my new knowledge to insist on different treatment, which eventually led to my baby girl Alex.

When I finally became pregnant, and then started feeling a little more comfortable that I wouldn’t have another miscarriage, I realized I was about to embark on a new endeavor: parenting! I’ve never done this, and just like anything in my life, I did what comes naturally to me: I hit the books! Here is a list of parenting and baby books in my Kindle app (all of which I have read), in no particular order (not including the pregnancy or trying to conceive books): The Moms on Call Guide to Basic Baby Care; The Baby Whisperer Solves All Your Problems; Baby 411; On Becoming Baby Wise (Parts 1 & 2); Bringing Up Bebe; The Working Gal’s Guide to Babyville; Healthy Sleep Habits, Happy Child; The Happiest Baby on the Block; What Babies Say Before They Can Talk; The Breastfeeding Mother’s Guide to Making More Milk; The Womanly Art of Breastfeeding; The Baby Book: Everything you Need to Know About Your Baby from Birth to Age Two; Baby Basics. Goodness, I didn’t realize I read that many! This is a bit absurd, I know, especially because there are about five others that are at home on my nightstand that weren’t available in Kindle form…

The Baby Whisperer book talks about different styles of parents, and one of them is called “by the book”. I guess this is what I am, as I’m always searching for that perfect book, the one that will make me feel like I know what I’m doing, and feel confident in my choices. This is different from another style of parenting: “confident”. I wish I was more confident in my parenting, and could rely more on my instincts. I wish I had more instincts! I hate that I’m like this, that I feel like I don’t know what I’m doing most of the time, but reading books and relying on the “experts” makes me feel more comfortable, and more confident. This is the researcher in me: I’m a rules-follower, but I don’t feel comfortable making the rules, I only feel good following somebody else’s rules. When I put it that way, this isn’t something that sounds very good…

As far as parenting method, after reading and researching everything from Dr. Sears to Ferber, we have implemented a somewhat loose schedule on baby Alex, and it seems to be working very well. We use a lot of the techniques in Baby Wise, at least the structure aspects, but we don’t follow the clock as much as we just keep the routine in her life. I guess this is more Baby Whisperer than Baby Wise. I personally can’t stand to hear my baby cry, so I couldn’t do real cry-it-out like Ferber would suggest. But we do let her cry for 10 minutes max, as Alex really seems to need some time to roll around in her crib and settle down before sleeping. Up until about 10 weeks, she was fed on-demand, but I had some serious milk supply issues, and I think I did that all wrong as she only got snacks, and never a full feeding. Once I started trying to give her full meals of both breastmilk and formula, things got a lot easier, and she got a lot happier. Now we have a 5-month little girl who regularly sleeps in her crib from 8:30 pm to 7:00 am, without waking. She takes 3-4 naps per day, and is incredibly happy unless she is tired or hungry.

If I were to stay at home instead of work, and if I felt like I could rely more on my instincts, I would really like to follow a more attachment style of parenting. I love sleeping with my baby, except I don’t ever seem to get much sleep with her next to me, and she seems to sleep more consistently in her own bed. I wear or carry Alex as much as I can on the weekends, figuring she gets plenty of time for alone play at daycare. But besides this I really like the theory of attachment parenting. I’ve spent a lot of time wondering about the bonds that babies form with their primary caregivers, and how this impacts the rest of their life. I was adopted at four years old, and prior to this I was homeless with my birth mother at times, and was in 18 different foster homes at other times. My adoptive mother tells stories of having a very hard time bonding with me, and we still struggle with this. I’ve always struggled with relationships, and forming bonds with others. I wonder how much the first four years of my life impacts my life, and now impacts my parenting skills. I think this definitely impacts my lack of confidence in my parenting skills, and my lack of instinct on what to do with Alex. So even though I like the idea of attachment parenting, I lack the confidence that I think is required for it. Attachment parenting requires the parent to be stronger and more self-confident than I feel most of the time. This is why I need something that gives me a formula, or a workprogram, on how to parent. Knowing this, I have gravitated towards establishing routines, and scheduling Alex’s life a little more than attachment parenting would prescribe. As I’m writing this, I don’t think I’m explaining myself very well, but I hope this makes sense!

Whatever we’re doing, I think it’s working, because Alex seems to be doing really well. I think the routines that we’ve established in her life seem to help her know what’s happening next, and they make me more confident as well. The days when she is at her best are the days when there aren’t a lot of changes to routine, and she has plenty of time to play and cuddle. She smiles almost all day long it seems, and her smile just melts my heart. I want to do the best for Alex, and so far, at least I know I’m trying my best! We’ve accomplished the early baby stage, and she’s sleeping well, seems happy, got over her first big illness, and is now learning new things every day! I love watching her explore her toys, and her fascination in everything. Speaking of, I want to learn more about how babies learn, and the best way to teach her new things. Does anyone have any good suggestions for books? :)


  1. This was super interesting-- i couldn't be more opposite! It's not that I'm all instinctual and confident, it's just that I am cynical! I assume that people writing baby books are total ass-wipes who are just trying to make money off of their one-off, haphazard ideas about things, and are more interested in what ideas will sell than in what is really best for the baby.

    I hate rules, but I love data, and those parenting books tend to have NONE! And I basically just don't buy claims that aren't backed up by good data.

    The 2 books that I liked were The Womanly Art of Breastfeeding (because I felt a it guilty about the lack of structure in P's life, and this book assured me that it was ok for me to be lenient and haphazard in my parenting) and I also liked The Vaccine Book (as I posted about), because it did provide references to a lot of good solid data (which I cross-checked and did further reading of the scientific literature falling on both sides of the argument, of course).

    I think that you are being a bit hard on yourself-- no one who researches things as well as you do is someone who "just follows the rules". Obviously, you are weighing all of the opposing opinions and making an informed decision about what to do with Alex (whereas my blanket cynicism is also laziness!). She is a very lucky little girl to have you as her mom!

    I'll check back to see if anyone swears by some books on learning. I think I'd be more interested in those than in books on nap schedules...

  2. As a child psychologist and a mom, I must point out that the title attachment parenting is misleading. Attachment parenting is not the only theory of parenting which results in children developing a secure attachment with their parents or caregivers. Many other theories of parenting result in secure attachment relationships. The only reason attachment parenting is given this title is because it was based on the principles in attachment theory. There are multiple other theories available as well that are just as effective in developing well adjusted, loved, and happy children. I recently addressed some of the critiques of attachment parenting here if you are interested:

  3. I loved reading about this, Alex! Very interesting coming from your unique perspective and profession. It sounds like you've done an awesome job. I hope that you can feel your confidence grow as a parent as time goes on. You are so well researched, i know you'll be prepared for whatever comes you way.

  4. Hi Alex, Thank you so much for stopping by my blog. I love to research too. There are so many opinions out there (and always differing) on how to best parent, it can drive you crazy. I'm so jealous that Alex sleeps throught he night, and naps. Bubba has only slept through the night 3 times and doesn't nap barely ever. Have a great day, KIM

  5. You are doing a great job! Alex is healthy and happy and it sounds like she is a GREAT sleeper. Lucky ;)

  6. So interesting! My sister just adopted a little girl, 2 year old from Ethiopia, and they've had a bit of difficulty with attachment... and in my mind's eye, you were my niece as a grown up. LOL. I like the idea of attachment parenting to a point... but I think that most all theories go a little overboard one way or the other. I can't handle reading books because they just depress me more, about not being perfect and make me feel like I'm not making the right decisions. And I think that every mother doubts herself. Even the ones who seem "confident" ... I simply can't believe that they aren't secretly falling apart inside. LOL.

  7. I think you hit the nail on the head - "wahtever we're doing, it seems to be working because Alex seems to be doing pretty good". And THAT is what's important!

  8. I so wish I was more analytical like you- I think it would help me be more organized and purposeful in what I'm doing with my kid. And yes, you are doing a GREAT job. I've been reading your blog for a long time (sorry to be a lurker, I'm just insecure like that)and you obviously love little Alex to pieces and are doing what's right for her. Thanks for your comment on my post :)

  9. You amaze me with your ability to balance your career and your baby. Hats off to all the women out there like you!

    I work full-time too, but I feel like I don't have time to read/research anything unless I can google it and find a quick answer. Although I would love to hear about any books you find on teaching babies/toddlers.

    I just try to do the best I can with reading to my baby and teaching him the basics (for now). He is soaking it all up.

    Again, Alex is SO lucky to have such a smart mommy. You rock!