Friday, January 13, 2012

The Elusive Parenting Expert

Several days ago, we took our youngest son to file for his birth certificate. A nurse looked him over to confirm that he looked about the correct age to match the birthdate on our paperwork. After she passed my baby back to me, the nurse asked, in kind of a concerned tone, if I had gotten along okay at home. I told her that I had. Once she learned that he was my fourth child, her tone totally changed. I believe she called me a "pro." It felt good not to be condescended to for once, but it also struck me as funny. I don't consider myself a parenting expert--far from it! If anything, with every new child we welcome into this family, I realize just how little I know.

So what makes someone a parenting expert? There are some people who have achieved celebrity status for their "expertise." Maybe they have a few strategies (like the infamous "naughty chair") that work with most kids--or least seem to work through the magic of television. Maybe their books come with glowing recommendations from your religious group. Not all famous experts got there by touting time out or the switching of babies, either. In the natural parenting community, we have our own celebrities. Our favorite authors might have wonderful, research-based things to say about fostering attachment, and listening to our kids, and loving them unconditionally. This makes them excellent resources, but does it make them parenting experts? I would argue that it doesn't. In fact, I don't think that such a person exists.

If you are fairly confident as a parent, you might take offense at my last statement, but bear with me. No one, no matter how many degrees they have, or how many books they have published, or even how many children they have raised has ever raised your child in your situation. Your body grew him, birthed him, and nourished him. You know his quirks, his cues. You understand how his personality plays into your family dynamic. If you have multiple children, you know that this is different for every one of them. You are the only one (except maybe your partner) who possesses this specialized knowledge.

I am not saying that you don't need support or that you should stop doing research. I'm just encouraging you to listen to your instincts. Don't follow a piece of advice, just because it is popular or dispensed by a so-called expert. Weigh everything against your own expertise. While there is no expert in parenting, there is an expert on your child, and that expert is you!


Hybrid Rasta Mama said... [Reply to comment]

I love this! I actually ranted about "experts" in a post I wrote. That term drives me nuts. The only experts out there are the parents of their own children just like you said! Not trying to spam your comments but here is my post if you wanted to check it out! Love yours! Everyone needs this reminder!

Mandi Spencer said... [Reply to comment]

I just now saw your comment. Sorry I didn't respond sooner. I love your post! You don't happen to be a member of the Unplugged Mom discussion group (or whatever they are calling it these days) do you? There was quite a thread about this topic there a while back.

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