Every day of our lives is spent making tons of choices. Choices govern the shape of; our day, our weeks, months, years and precisely how our entire life will play out. And add to that parenting. Not only are you making choices for yourself but also your child whether they approve of it or not.
This gamut of choices starts right at that positive pregnancy test and continues onward often amidst a whirlwind of dizzying advice, which is often contradictory, right from; what to eat or avoid during pregnancy, co-sleep or not, baby wearing or not, feeding styles which work best, to pre-school or not, say yes or no to TV, this class that class or simply free play and for working mums the dilemma is often more challenging.
Hence, it comes as no surprise that even the most informed and conscientious parents often feel burdened and become defensive about the choices they make, me included.
For example, I never bought a crib for my daughter and let her sleep with us, even now and she is 7. And for those who want to raise their brows at me, to my defence, when I was growing up, we all often slept as a family in one room and I certainly have no detachment anxiety when I finally had my own room. I believe that the same would follow for my daughter.
But still, in today’s age the burden of choices often weighs us down. In fact, in our society today, we even have the choice whether or not to become a parent. Whereas in recent history, perhaps a few decades earlier, the course of life was a given; you are born, you play some, you get schooled, get a college degree, get a job, get married, have kids, help raise their kids and die. But the sequence of these events has somewhat changed.
Today, we have a choice whether or not we want to get married or even have kids. So much so that you need not get married to have children and conversely you may get married and not want any children. However, the only constant here is getting a job, which unfortunately is not a matter of choice, anywhere in the world.
When I talk to people from a couple generations prior to us, as in the grandma’s and grandpa’s, their phase of parenting didn’t seem that burdensome. Primarily because theirs was a generation where every mother did what was passed on to them and the joint family scenario eased a lot of decision making. There was no choice overload. It may not be the best strategy for today’s parents, but the upside is that you are not constantly navigating through options that you sometimes don’t necessarily need.
Take for example baby diapers. Their generation had no concept of Diapers and hence cloth was the only option. Simple! But today, not only do we have a choice between diapers and cloth, but also, a variety of diapers. And what about food? I remember growing up, my working mom, had very few options apart from the regular Indian meal. Variety in food was South Indian, North Indian, Bombay street food or the every so favorite Indo-chinese. But now, we mom’s have a plethora of cuisines to chose ranging from Italian, Mexican, Mediterranean, Middle Eastern to Pan-Asian. Today, the simple process of eating has become so taxing sometimes, in just trying to figure out what to cook.
I recently attended an event in Pune that was organized by the parenting portal BabyChakra and Johnson&Johnson. What was amazing about this event was that almost all attendees, mothers primarily, were a Johnson’s baby. Our mothers used it, we use it for our kids and perhaps this tradition will continue for generations to come. Upon further study of the brand, I realized that Johnson’s had created a legacy of trust like no other brand since its inception in 1887, 130 years to be precise. And so, when it comes to baby products, the first choice for every parent, anywhere in the world and from any socio-economic background, is Johnson’s Baby.
Yet, not all decisions are as easy as Johnson’s Baby products. Back in the days, elders advised new parents on the various details related to raising children and they accepted it. This meant if something went wrong, the new parents didn’t have to bear the burden of consequences. But now a days, with the advent of nuclear families and a tectonic shift in how children are raised, making the right choice is even more crucial.
And some ways to do that are
- Tailored Choices: Give yourself less options to choose from; tailor them to suit your needs v/s wants. For e.g. when my daughter wanted a play tent, it was a want and so even though the internet offered some amazing options, I chose the one that was the cheapest, simple. It saved me a lot of time and the hassle of having to go through reviews. It was a good decision since she and her friends destroyed it in a few months.
- Tradition: Sometimes it is ok to follow tradition and cut yourself some slack. For e.g. in my family, it is customary to keep a baby’s name according to the horoscope. So be it. Fewer letters to choose from and hence less confusion.
- Time of the Day: Research has proven that as time progresses our choices regress. The best decisions are made in the morning, so for all those important parenting decisions, first half is the best time to ponder upon. Also, in hindsight, don’t you always feel that too much time was wasted in arriving at some choices? Was it worth spending a whole week trying to figure out which bicycle to get for the toddler? Learn from those experiences and manage your time accordingly in the future.
- Hunger and Bad Mood: Most bad choices are made when one is hungry or in a bad mood. So save yourself from buying that utterly useless steam sterilizer and fill your tummy instead. You might just realize that you didn’t need it after all and that dipping those bottles in boiling water would do the trick.
- Informed: And with the upsurgence of social media, making an informed decision is much easier, especially with mommy groups like BabyChakra Mom Stars, where you can get answers to a number of parenting dilemmas.
- Intuition: Many times people might ridicule the choice you make but listen to your gut instinct and stick to it. My daughter initially hated going to keyboard class, she would cry every time I dropped her. Some parents who would witness this often suggested that I should not force her, but I knew she has the knack for music and she just needs time to ease in. She is shy and takes her time to get comfortable to new surroundings. She now loves playing on the keyboard. So trust your instinct and let it hold ground.
- Proxy: When in doubt, get a proxy to help. Could be the practical aunty next door, a friend, a colleague at work, elders in the family or even your own child to help make the decision for you. About a year ago, I noticed that my daughter was getting too picky with her clothes and so this year I took her along to shop. She made her choices and was told she has to stick to them. Now, she seldom complains about the clothes she has, because she chose them.
As far as we are parents, this process might become more challenging as our children get older. Many of us may even make the wrong choice and realize it much too late. Yet many of us may make the right choices. Whatever the case, let us not forget, that each one of us may make choices that are completely contradictory to one another but ultimately our aim is to select the option that is suited #bestforbaby. Isn’t it?