Saturday, October 30, 2010

His Way

I had the pleasure ( as always ) of coaching ( for labor and delivery ) a couple last week who is expecting a baby boy in three weeks. At the outset of each session I always ask for individual concerns and worries as another way to personalize this very intimate learning session about what to expect.

The mom-to-be sensitively asked how she can better involve her partner and let him parent "his way" especially since she intended to breast feed exclusively for at least the first six weeks. The question really wasn't about breast feeding, but rather parenting. A good question and I ( of course ) have the answer.

From the outset each parent will have his or her own style of parenting. It comes from how we model our own parents ( what we want to incorporate and what we don't ) and what we have learned in life and I think, even built -in chemistry. We have pre-conceived notions about how it's going to be when we bring our baby home and how we will be in touch and in control to be the perfect parent who raises the perfect person. IMPOSSIBLE. No perfect anything, and how can anyone have a clue about what a rib roast needs. If you hire me to coach you, you know that I liken a newborn to a seven pound rib roast.

The real issue, as I interpret the original question is: " How do I get my partner to do the right ( my way ) thing with our baby? ". You don't. If you insist on your way, you are going to get to do it, your way, all the time. If the product doesn't meet your expectations, over a very short time, your partner is going to be a failure, in both your minds, all the time and you will do all the work ( that's what parenting is ) all the time.

When I teach Baby Basics, I stress that there is no right way to change or bathe or swaddle a baby ( sorry Dr. Karp ). There are many styles and approaches to simple tasks and even more complex ones. Please know this from the outset and then when one of you does it your way, it's perfectly okay. With the rib roast and with your partner. We do our best work when we figure it out ourselves and aren't criticized (or directed ) from the sidelines. That's why I think the grandparents and other experienced, well-meaning friends and relatives should butt-out when you bring your brand new baby home.

You'll figure it out and he will do it his way and probably do it your way if over time, it IS the better way. You might be interested to know that dads make much better swaddlers and that there is no way they can ever breast feed. You will each have your strengths and weaknesses and opinions and preferences. There is no right way to do much of anything, in the beginning of this journey called parenting. Later, you both should realize that the support you give to each other, even if you don't necessarily agree, is the best way to raise a secure and healthy human being.