Why I flipped my lid at baby tamers

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Clearly I have upset people with my late night  rant about baby tamers.  My tongue was firmly in my cheek when I let fly. I am sorry if I have offended you, especially if you are a desperate mother. You deserve an explanation:

For more than thirty years I have been kind, gentle, accepting. I have written thousands of articles and columns for magazines, websites, newspapers. I have written gently in my books. I have spoken gently to parents, especially new parents.

I have argued on radio and TV about the rights of babies and children – to be heard, to be nurtured and to be treated with respect.  I have also advocated for parents to be supported.

But you know what – it feels like chipping away at an elephant with a toothpick.  I am sick and tired (literally) of seeing parents who are being responsive to their babies needs being hammered by everyone around them – from peers to professionals. These parents get crap every day about their gentle, responsive choices to follow their intuition. They have lucky babies but their confidence is shot to pieces by everyone around them telling them they are doing something wrong.

Last night  my cork popped! I had been doing a phone consultation with a truly lovely mama from the UK (yes I work beyond office hours and across time zones). This beautiful, intuitive mother who was meeting her baby’s needs simply needed some gentle tweaking and a big dose of support – without being told she was creating ‘bad habits.’  This mum had it tougher than most – as well as a lack of support for her nurturing from friends and family ( apart from her loving partner), this mum had been through the pain of her first baby dying. She had become pregnant soon after, so imagine her anxiety and concern for this precious child (please don’t read into this that there are parents who don’t think their baby is precious). She didn’t need her confidence undermined.

This triggered flashbacks for me. We have lost babies in our family too. My beautiful brother and sister-in-law also experienced the sudden death of their first baby. One day I was cuddling and playing with baby Ryan and the next day he died.  At the time I questioned – why do such amazing parents who have never ever left their baby to cry, who  would do anything for their baby without complaining about the ‘inconvenience’  have to go through this?

I am a mum of five and I have grandbabies. I DO know what exhaustion and desperation feel like. I have been there with babies – and with teenagers.  My husband was often away for work for weeks at a time. Many times he was on the other side of the world.  I did a lot alone .  I have experienced nurturing against the popular tide –I have been given hell because I wouldn’t leave my babies to cry, I wouldn’t ‘smack’ them , and now I find myself swimming against the tide because I won’t  accept baby training.

Maybe my frontal lobe is shrinking with age – maybe that’s why my filters are off. I am no saint nor have I ever pretended to be. I have always said what I believe – I know swearing offends. I don’t like to pit mothers against each other but I am truly concerned that ‘being nice’ isn’t working to turn the tide against the huge push for ‘convenient babies’. Where does it end? If you name call your baby at 4 months old and you aren’t prepared to learn and listen then, what happens to the next generation of teenagers?

I have 18 years between my youngest and oldest  ‘kids’. And I can vouch , there are a LOT of disconnected kids out there –and it seems to be getting worse.  My youngest went through a stage of bringing homeless kids he met at the station to stay at our place. These kids had been kicked out of home –at 14, 15 and 16. I won’t collude with kids who may have had an argument with parents so my rules are, if you are going to stay here, I need to speak to your parents.  I found myself speaking to parents of these kids and saying  it ‘damn straight’, “you have a duty of care,”  because, sure enough , the parents had kicked their kids out.  And no, these parents weren’t without resources to get support– I drove one kid home to a mansion. I hooked others into a local housing support organisation. I drove a few to appointments at a youth drug and alcohol counselling service. I took a car load to a youth family planning centre so they could all have a chat with a counsellor about ‘safe sex’ after one had asked about the ‘morning after pill’.  It turned out this 14 year old had had unprotected sex.  Her own mother had kicked her out and a phone call didn’t make a difference, so I took this kid to a doctor.  I took one who was self-harming to a community psychiatric unit for help and I have sat in emergency wards with others – whose parents were just ‘too busy’ to drive them to hospital (one had been badly cut and needed stitches through tendons in his leg and another had acute appendicitis).  I could go on….

My daughter is a psychologist in a school (a nice private school in a good area). She sees kids who have been kicked out of home too – at 14, 15 and 16.

I have experienced ‘the bigger picture’. I don’t get angry very often – ask my kids. Last time I flipped my lid was over a year ago – After a yell, I stomped off to my bedroom with a cuppa and very soon I saw one kid go to the clothes line with a basket of washing and another took the bins out.

Lately though I have been feeling utterly frustrated and at a complete loss and I did need a vent. You see, no baby or child deserves to be treated like an inconvenience – at any age. Ignorance isn’t an excuse.  I don’t care whether you sleep with your babies, baby wear or breastfeed – or not. You can nurture responsively without adopting labels or following any particular dogma or philosophy.   This is YOUR child and you do know your child best – if you listen and trust. ’Your feelings might be fragile but so is your baby. You are the grown up in this picture. You chose to have a child.

Nurturing your baby – you don’t have to be perfect – does matter.    Your baby will be making a difference in the world – he needs the capacity to form relationships, to show empathy and to experience JOY!

While I understand that parents who I have labelled as ‘tamers’ are reaching out. I feel upset that their ‘reaching out’ emails are disrespectful to their babies. They are also disrespectful  of my time. These are not parents requesting consultations – they are expecting me to email a ‘quick fix’ and some even get angry that I don’t post their requests on facebook or that I don’t answer their emails.

I don’t have endless time and energy –I have provided a wealth of information to read and listen to. I have interviewed leading international experts in child health and development as well as parents well-being. I have recordings of the latest evidence based information available. I spend many hours posting information on facebook so parents can feel supported and educated. I offer seminars and I do voluntary sessions with young, migrant and disadvantaged  parents.  I used to offer scholarship consultations but found that some people (not all –others were truly in need and appreciative) took advantage of these. So I stopped offering them.

I don’t know what the answer is to see that vulnerable infants and children are respected and responded to, but if my rude rant gets such a reaction, perhaps it’s at least making people think.

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