Don’t read the books…

Don’t read the books…

I’ve been doing more decluttering lately. I love it. It’s become my thing. I’ve been ruthless. Clothing, handbags, kids toys, the bathroom cabinet…. all decluttered. Without getting all woo-woo on you, it really does feel like energy flows much better in my uncluttered home. If only I could convince my children of that fact…

So yes, decluttering. I’m a convert. But like anyone, I still have my decluttering Achilles heel.

My bookshelf.

I love books. Always have, always will. I was the self-proclaimed read-a-thon champion in primary school, and I can still knock over a whimsical chick-lit novel in one day if I really put my mind to it (but only if the kids are staying at Grans.)

So I have quite a few books. Fiction, of course. But now I’m mostly buying non-fiction, work related tomes, and my bookshelf is beginning to buckle under the weight. Sure I buy a few things on kindle these days. But if I can, I always prefer to buy the physical copy. All the better to dog-ear, highlight and cover in post-it notes, I say.

So while I was perusing my overflowing bookshelf recently, trying to decide which books I could possibly bear to have torn from my possession, I came across all those baby books I accumulated while pregnant with my first. You know the ones. You probably got most of them at your baby shower, Kaz, Robyn, Tizzie… all the usual suspects. Actually I bet at least three people tried to give you a copy of Up The Duff, am I right??

This isn't all of them....

This isn’t all of them….

Seeing these titles reminded me of something my beautiful child health nurse , Tracey, said to me on one of her visits, when I, as any good bookworm new mother would, asked her what was the absolute, number one, best baby book to read to help me figure out what the heck to do with my baby.

With a sideways glance at the precariously balanced tower of parenting books on my bedside table, she simply said to me.

“Don’t read the baby books, read your baby”.

It was wonderful advice for me at the time, and it has always stuck with me. As a brand new mother, I was desperate for knowledge and advice, I scoured ALL the books, all the time, furtively searching for that one paragraph, that one sentence that would miraculously show me the way, that would cease my five week old daughter’s constant wailing and provide me with the tools and skills I needed to be a good parent. Looking back now I see how futile my incessant searching was. Instead of reading whenever I had a few moments of peace, I should have been resting, better yet, sleeping. Perhaps then I would have had a little more energy to manage the late nights, and a little extra zen to manage my own response to my baby’s crying.

So at that moment, the advice to stop reading books and start reading my baby was exactly what I needed to hear. And over time, I understood that Tracey wasn’t advocating getting rid of the baby books altogether. But at that moment, from her many years of experience supporting new mothers, she could see how much I was trying to intellectualise motherhood, and how I desperately needed to get my nose out of the books and stop looking for a written answer to such a visceral, experiential issue. I’m forever grateful to her for guiding me down a more intuitive path. And it’s one I continue to promote to the women in my programs and clinic today.

My advice: “Read the books, but read your baby too.”

I know how much we all value books. We know there are many people out there who are much smarter than we are, who have done the research, and who understand the microscopic workings of a baby’s brain and anatomy so much better than you or I ever will.  Luckily for us, these intelligent people put what they know to be true in book form pretty frequently. So yes, there is always value in seeking support from the books.

But just remember that a book doesn’t know you. It doesn’t know your baby. It doesn’t understand your connection or your family dynamics. Every mother is different, and every baby is different. There is no one-size fits all approach to parenting and babycare. What works for one mother may not necessarily work for another. And what works for a mother with her first child, may not be the answer for her second or subsequent child.

So what do we do? Use the books (or indeed the blogs, including this one) wisely. Consider them as a research tool, or a guidepost, but not as an absolute. See them as a suggestion, rather than an order. Most importantly read each book through your own lens. Read each book with critique in mind.

Most importantly, learn how to trust your own intuition a bit more. I’ve lost count of the number of mothers who have said to me “I wish I’d trusted my instincts more” with regard to their early parenting days. Mother’s intuition isn’t world famous for no reason, after all. You’ve got it. You just need to start trusting yourself enough to use it.

Until next time,