If you’re a first time parent who has never really been comfortable with kids, it can be tempting to offer your baby up to someone else who is “more experienced”. Watching a nanny, your mother or your MIL handle the baby with acrobatic skill will surely put a damper on your confidence as a parent and make you wonder whether your baby might be better of in the care of someone else.
It is unfortunate that one of the biggest misconceptions about parenting knowledge is the belief that it is something that comes naturally. Perhaps it does for some parents, but it certainly didn’t for me.
I believe that parents who feel they know nothing about being a parent probably have a higher chance of becoming a better parent than those who think they know everything. If you think you know nothing, there is the possibility that you might learn something. If you think you know everything – there is no opportunity to learn. And lets face it – even the experts don’t know everything.
Being a parent is like everything else in life – a learning experience. And with all learning experiences, if you want to learn more quickly, the best way to do it is to spend more time at it. So if you want to learn how to be a parent in the quickest time possible, the best thing you can do is be the primary caregiver to your baby. If you can’t be the primary caregiver, then spend as much time as is humanly possible with your baby. Whatever your baby needs, tend to it yourself rather than letting someone else handle it.
When Gavin was born – aside from the first month when I had the confinement lady around – I did everything for him. I bathed him, I changed his diapers, I carried him, I nursed him, and I put him to bed. During that time, when I did all those things, I was learning something else besides how to do all those practical duties of a parent – I was learning about my son. Through learning about him, I was bonding with him.
A baby is born with the instinct for survival. The first thing he (sorry – we’re back to “he” now that I’ve discovered my second baby is also a boy…) looks for is comfort and security. Comfort and security comes from stability and stability is the person who is always there – the primary caregiver. If you aren’t the primary caregiver, it doesn’t mean you can’t bond with your baby, it just means it will require a lot more effort on your part.
There is a lot of negative talk about how children require sacrifices of their parents. For instance, parents have to sacrifice their free time for their children, they have to sacrifice their career options for their children, etc. I find this kind of thinking rather negative. Children don’t require sacrifices, they require investments – and the most important investment you can offer your child is your time.
With babies and young children, we’re talking quantity more so than quality. The more time you can invest in your child, the better. Why not quality? Well, let’s try to define quality time to a young child or a baby. Is it a weekend of toys and ice cream at a park that will easily be forgotten during the week? I think the more important part is being there for your child when he has a nightmare in the middle of the night, when he hurts himself during the day, or when the sound of thunder frightens him. If you aren’t around much, you tend to miss a lot of these moments.
I’ve also heard concerns from parents about babies turning into “clingy” children if you allow them to become too attached. Firstly, it is normal for a young child to be attached and “clingy” – we’re going back to survival instincts. Ontogeny recapitulates evolution and a young child has a long way to go before he reaches our understanding of the modern world. He doesn’t know that if he sleeps alone in a room that he is safe from predators because his instincts tell him to stay close to his primary caregivers who will protect him from harm.
By devoting yourself to your child’s first few years, you are creating a strong foundation upon which to build your future relationship. I believe it is the strength of this foundation that helps us raise our children to become happy, confident and successful.