Holiday parties are in full swing and with them, the attendant judgment of parenting decisions both overt and more subtle. I really believe that in many cases the sidelong glances or offhand comments come from a place of love and genuine concern, but there’s something deeper at play here that I feel needs to be addressed.
At the moment someone finds out that they are expecting, the list of rules grows exponentially. Rules about what to eat, how to sleep, what activities are and are not considered acceptable, how much weight you may to gain while gestating a frigging human life- I could go on, but I won’t. This paternalistic attitude extends to birth (so many of my clients wonder if they will be “allowed” to birth in a particular way and I gently remind them that they are the bosses of how that baby comes into the world) and into parenthood. But who does it serve, and where do these rules come from?
As a doula, non-judgement is my jam. What I think, what I have done as a parent, is irrelevant. When a client asks me about a particular option available to them or way of doing things, my job is to provide them with evidence-based, up-to-date information and then support whatever choice they make, even if it’s not in line with that information.
Because my clients are adult humans and I respect their right to make whatever damn decisions they please about their bodies and their families. If they choose to ignore the five studies I have described to them in detail and do the other thing anyway, I support that choice, because it is theirs to make.
This is a spirit that I encourage all of you to carry in your interactions with new and expectant families (and really, all people) through the season and always. If you feel the need to offer advice, be sure that advice has a solid foundation in fact. A lot of the “shoulds” and “should nots” common in our culture come from outdated information. For example: according to Canada’s foremost breastfeeding expert, drinking while breastfeeding is totally fine! Be guided by the assumption that the folks in question are doing what works best for them. If you’re hoping to help, a great way is to ask lots of questions and let them tell you about the joys and challenges of the parenting experience from their perspective. And of course, “What night is best for me to bring dinner over?” is always a welcome query.