Culture, according to Merriam-Webster is “the beliefs, customs, arts, values, etc of a particular society, group, place or time” and in Cambridge Dictionaries is “the way of life of a particular people, especially as shown in their ordinary behavior and habits, their attitudes toward each other, and their moral and religious beliefs.”
The larger adult-world culture certainly helps shape who we are, what we do and why. In addition, we know there is a sub-culture surrounding all things baby. Every parent glimpses it with the gifts and advice that come prior to delivery and experiences it first hand afterwards. Did you ever think your body would belong completely to someone else or that you would talk about bodily fluids so freely in public?
So, how exactly do our babies fit in our culture? Do our culture and infant sub-cultures support maternal and paternal instincts? Are there things happening that excite you? Frighten you? Intrigue you? Confuse you? You are NOT alone. I know, because I’m writing about it….
We are living in an age of measurement, scientific inquiry, outcomes, and reporting. Technology has made it easier to track, motivate, evaluate and analyze and give anyone hard data results at the click of a “buy now” button in the app store. And these results mean something to us all. We want it. Our culture values it. It compartmentalizes life into neat, simple packages that we can understand.
However, in baby-land, things aren’t so neat and easy. “Routines” change all the time, behaviors seem to come from nowhere, and we stress over the color of baby’s poop. We are constantly wondering… Is baby getting the right amount of sleep? Nursing enough? Eating the right foods at the right time? Meeting milestones? Getting enough and the right type of activity?
And then there are the competing philosophies of experts in the field from whom you seek answers in classes, on forums and Google searches (of which I am admittedly one). There are endless bookshelves (if you are so lucky to still have a bookstore in town) that compile really good supported ideas and information to answer your questions. But, you read them too late…. Ever pick up a new book that gives you an outstanding routine to follow for potty training…three months after you finished your own personal hell of you-know-what all over everything ALL THE TIME!?! Pick up a book on adolescent behavior only to find out you should have started working on various things when your teenager was only two years old? I know I did/and do…at first I stressed about it, felt a bit defeated and then, when I realized there was nothing I could do to change the past said, “Well, there’s always the next one.” By #3 all things should be perfect, right? Ha! We aren’t having any more, so all I can do is look forward now and hope I remember some of the things I read.
So, where am I going with all this? The digital age has connected us to so many more people than our parents had to support, question, share and, yes, criticize; our community is truly the world if we want it to be. And there is so much more information available 24/7 at our fingertips. It is enlightening, at times a saving grace, and often very anxiety producing.
It is our culture. And it is ever changing. What we did with rearing our babies and children 100 years ago was very different: practices that at times are horrifying to imagine, but others that are brilliant and simple and connected. What will it look like 100 years from today? We take ourselves so seriously, bogged down by the minutia of compartmentalizing and analyzing and questioning. What if, instead, we just allow ourselves to be present in the here and now? Enjoy the moments with your baby and family without allowing yourself to be pulled in 1000 different directions. Do what makes sense for YOU and your family no matter what the experts say. I think our children will be all right as long as we love them and stay connected with them. Big breath….relax. They are going to be okay. And…so are we.