Archive for November, 2011
Hi there! I’m Sarah, I’m a GP living and working in the UK, and I have two children. If you want to read more about me and my life, do come check out my general blog, Good Enough Mum.
When I was pregnant with my first child, it didn’t take me long to learn that the age-old tradition of telling mothers how they should bring up their children has reached a whole new level in recent years. At least a few decades ago it was just individuals making disparaging comments on what we should/shouldn’t be doing with that baby. These days, the do-it-this-way factions are organised into movements posting scads of articles on the Internet, complete with references to a half-dozen or more studies which (these authors claim) provide cast-iron, irrefutable proof of just how damaging and wrong parenting practice X is. And, while many of the dos and dont’s I read struck me as ridiculous enough for me to see through them, unfortunately I didn’t generalise that scepticism to the more convincing-sounding of the essays I was reading – I swallowed quite enough wholesale to spend my first child’s infancy as a nervous wreck over all the possible ways in which I could ruin him by failing to observe some all-important precept with sufficient accuracy.
Then – because my profession gives me the opportunity to get hold of journal articles to read for myself and the training to follow at least the basics of what they say and what their flaws are – I started actually looking up some of those references to research studies, and reading what they really said. And, little by little, I discovered an astonishing amount of misleading information and downright misinformation. A frightening number of these people giving their opinion as though it were gospel from on high were, in fact, downright misinterpreting research articles or ignoring contradictory results in order to make it look as though the evidence backed them up when it simply didn’t. (For the most part, I don’t think these were deliberate attempts at deception – it’s an extremely natural human tendency to make the evidence fit our beliefs, rather than the other way around. We all tend to focus on that which supports our beliefs and gloss over that which doesn’t. Unfortunately, the effect on bewildered new parents struggling to make sense of all the information out there and do the best thing for their babies is the same – they’re still being misled.)
I had the opportunity to learn that quite a lot of what I was reading just wasn’t correct – but what about other parents out there, who didn’t have access to the same information? On my blog, I started to write the occasional post dealing with one parenting-related controversy or another, explaining what I knew on the subject and giving my take on it all. Is sleep training really psychologically damaging for babies? How much of a problem is it likely to be for a breastfed baby to get the occasional bottle of formula? What did I think about the MMR? I corrected erroneous claims I’d read, commented on logic that I found faulty, and generally did a bit of debunking of some of the myths out there. Some people read them, and some people found them helpful.
After some years of this, my sister suggested, that instead of making them an occasional feature on a blog that was primarily filled with general ramblings about my own life, I should set up a separate blog specifically for posts about parenting.
“Won’t that be a bit of an empty blog?” I asked. Posts like that take quite a lot of time to write and (see opening paragraph concerning existence of two children and job, above) I’d only actually written a handful of them over the years.
My sister thought I should go ahead anyway and add other posts as and when I got the chance. So, I took her advice and here we are.
I’m copying the relevant posts from my other blog, with slight editing if appropriate, and posting them on here under the timestamp they were originally posted under (which is why it looks as though I’ve been posting here for years on a very occasional basis, in case you were wondering. This is actually the first post written specifically for this blog.) I’m not likely to have the chance to add more very often, but I’ll do what I can. If you have any topics you’d like my views on, do please let me know. Meanwhile, the most important piece of advice I’d give to any parent? Don’t worry, don’t sweat the small stuff, and remember the old saying – the most important thing you can do for your kids is to enjoy them.