Parenting Perspective: The Surrendered Mommy

October 1, 2009 5:29:02 AM PDT
Years ago, when I was a magazine writer, I profiled a woman who claimed she saved her marriage by "surrendering." After years of constantly nitpicking and berating her husband, she decided to take a whole new track. However he wanted to handle the family finances, resolve marital disagreements, or deal with the children, she decided to just say "Yes, dear." She argued that this made her husband more empowered and responsible and brought her more peace and tranquility. Interesting argument---but she lost me when she counseled that even if your husband was driving a hundred miles in the wrong direction, let him figure it out on his own. I have yet to meet a woman who can handle the wrong direction for more than 10 blocks, let alone across state lines. But I've found myself thinking about her concept in the last month as we get use to a newborn.

All the commercials make life with an infant look like giggles and bunny rabbits. The reality is often more like life with a really cute terror who speaks no English.

And, in such moments especially, as with all first time parents, the focus is often on doing things the "right" way: Do you burp every ounce, half way through the bottle or when he's done? On the shoulder, across your knees or with fingers gently pressing his tummy? What's the best way to swaddle? Which room to sleep in? Does he need pants and a cap or is he too warm? Powder or liquid formula - how many drops and should you add gas drops? While the questions seem so minor, the answers seem major, the difference between a happy, placid child and the wailing debacle another new parent friend of mine likes to call "Eraserhead baby."

All of which quickly threw me into a dilemma. My husband's "right way" is often different than mine. I burp every ounce over the shoulder; he likes the fingers on the tummy. I handle the baby like the finest wedding china; He pretends to box and do baby aerobics with the little guy. I get worked up and want to call the triage nurses at the pediatrician for every question; he likes to give things time and not worry. So who is right? Is it worth the nagging and snipping between us to try to get us to do things the same way?

My answer came from the sweet soul who answered the phone earlier this month when I called to make an appointment to get the radiators checked. Turns out she'd been a nanny earlier in life and now was an aunt and babysitter to many. "It doesn't matter, dear," she said. Every child is different, every parent is different and daddies are different from mommies. As long as what you do works and the baby seems happy, there is no one "right" way.

So, I've decided to be a "surrendered" mommy. As with other parts of marriage, I'm learning it's okay for Roc to have his own way, and sometimes it's better than mine. It's great to watch him develop his own little routines and jokes with his son. And it's great to have more cooing rather than potential carping between us adults. Now if only we could get such sweet sounds from our little man instead of operatic screams in the middle of the night...


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