How to Maintain Friendships While Staying True to Your Heart When it Comes to Parenting: TBSTP Perspective

This has been a major struggle at times for me but I think coming at all humans with empathy and respect is a great place to start and to follow with the grand old saying ‘to assume makes an ass out of you and me’.

I am surrounded by mainstream parents who sleep train, maintain strict routines, exercise authoritarian parenting. Some of these people are my dearest friends. Some, I see daily, others weekly. It is in my face.

I started out parenting in much the same way.

I did so, not because I am/was in any way uncaring, unloving, neglectful or stupid.

I simply followed the lead of what I saw before me and trusted in the advice of those who knew ‘more’ about things I felt I knew so little of.

I trusted my midwives, Child Health Nurses, GP and family and friends. They loved me and my baby.

I followed their tips, their ideas with only heartfelt intentions for my baby.

I wasn’t a cold mother. I wasn’t trying to distance myself. I was trying to get this mothering business ‘right’ and not just for looks … for my baby. They said he NEEDED me to do things a certain way.

I trusted and believed them.

How I found my way through and the completely opposing ideals that have been left in me a deeply ingrained in both knowledge and heart.

I believe with my whole being that it is in every single person’s best interest that we end this Sleep Training culture.

I believe that we who know better and therefore can do better, owe it to the world and the voiceless beings subjected to parenting practices that dishonour and disrespect their basic human needs, that we raise our voices and advocate for change.

How do we do this in this day and age of ‘the mummy wars’ and ‘don’t judge me’?

Through being the change we wish to see in this world and parenting out loud and proud.

Through not making the assumption that other parents are making decisions out of fully informed choice or through some notion that they are less loving, caring or that they even felt they had/have any other choice.

Through nurturing other nurturers and instead of engaging in combative or hardline lectures which will no doubt see backs up and hearts and minds shutdown, we gently advocate for alternative ways to view their baby or ‘problems’.

I have found this has evolved over time for me and it’s effect is blossoming slowly before me in ways I never dared hope to see-

Most of my friends are onto their second babies now and though many were extremely rigid and by the book with their first and not one of them has openly come to me for advice or ideas, I have steadily weaved in to our day to day conversation gentleness and empathy for their babies. From hearing about a particularly crappy patch of sleep that had a mama very angry and tired, I could help her get some rest and cuppa while I cuddled her babe and we talked about where her darling was at with teeth and crawling. She kept responding. To another mama asking how to get comfy while nursing with babe in the bed (she’d NEVER considered letting her first in bed and the cot in another room was the only location). Just last week, another mother let me know that she was enjoying the night feeds so much more just knowing how quickly her baby will grow and won’t need her so.

Everyone in my circle knows my values, where I stand and I mother out loud- warts and all. I am not perfect and I don’t pretend to be, but I ALWAYS strive to understand my babes and meet them right where they are at.

I have not told a single one of them NOT to do a particular thing. But, I always advocate for options.

A friend who has come a very long way from very intense sleep training of her first, to much more responsive parenting second time, was discussing with a group of us at the park all the things she’d tried to ‘fill up’ her 9 month old because he was feeding ‘excessively’ at night. I pointed out that babies don’t just wake out of hunger so no amount of food may stop the waking and she said, ‘well he can just cry then.’ I flushed Red and walked away with tears as I heard a couple of others say, ‘he must be just using you as a dummy.’ I stayed away while I regained composure but the mother came to me and said, ‘I wouldn’t let him cry long, just a little.’ And I said, ‘you know me, I don’t see why he needs to cry when he just needs you. There are soooooooo many reasons he may be waking right now and all of them are as important as being hungry.’ She gave me a hug and said, ‘I know, I’m just tired.’ I hugged her back and said, ‘can I take the kids for a play this arv while you have a snooze?’ And she agreed.

I don’t know exactly what she decided to do at night in the end but I do know she was still night nursing when he turned one.

I love my friends and I love their babies.

I KNOW they are good people doing their very best.

I don’t have to question that. I don’t have to question their motives.

That does not mean I stand idly by and say ‘to each to their own’.

I don’t believe any good comes from silence.

I also don’t believe much good comes from writing people off as lost causes.

We are all doing the best we can with the knowledge and support available to us.

I believe there is enormous importance in ‘judging’ parenting practices. How else will we ever improve?

Judging a practice is different to judging an individual person.

We can keep it separate.

Just as we strive to do with our children, there is always a reason behind a behaviour and when we can see through to the whole struggling, perfectly imperfect person underneath, suddenly it isn’t so hard to soften and meet them with the empathy and support they need. Let’s work to look gently on those parents around us.

Change comes from within and change will come organically the more hearts and minds we can reach, not those we shutdown in an argument over what is ‘right’ or ‘wrong’.


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