Monday, March 2, 2009

Mothering a Cave Baby

Why Cave Mother? Well, six months on from giving birth to a beautiful daughter I have wasted far too much time worrying about how to bring her up and I have made a key realisation - millions of years of evolution have handed me a finely tuned motherly instinct. If I make my decisions based on my instinct, rather than the advice of a parenting manual, then I will be making the decision that evolution has guided me to make in order to increase my baby's chances of survival. In other words, do what a cave woman would have done. Seriously, if you ask yourself the question "what would a cave woman have done?" then things become so much simpler.

OK I know I'm generalising here, and cynics can point to many flaws in the argument above, but the fact is that parenting in Britain today is largely based on a set of arbitrary rules invented by Victorians just over 100 years ago. Before that time it was normal to feed babies on demand, sleep them in their parents' bed and carry them in their carer's arms (just like most other mammals on earth). Six months ago I was all ready with the pram and the cot, preparing to follow the accepted model of childcare just as the vast majority of mothers in this country do. But something went wrong - nobody told my baby that the rules had changed. Nobody told her how to stay asleep in a cot, without the warmth of her mother beside her. Nobody told her how to lie quietly in a pram, staring at the sky, without the comforting bouncy sensation of a human step. Nobody told her how to go for more than an hour or two between feeds. So I was forced to adopt frowned-upon practices like sleeping with my baby, giving unlimited access to the breast, and carrying her around with me. And the result? She is now a happy baby and I am, at last, a happy mum. But I have spent months feeling like a failure and it is only now that I have come to fully understand that the social norm for childcare in this country is not necessarily the best for all our children.

I know that I will continue to find it difficult to deviate from the norm without questioning my decisions, and I hope that I might be able to offer some support to other parents who can't shake the feeling that their baby was just not made for cots and prams.


Katherine said...

I love this. I was wondering, the other evening, how I was ever going to get baby #3 out of the bed and then it dawned on me, I didn't have to. He's only 6 months, of course he wants to be near his mummy and daddy, like you said, instinct takes over and when one stops over analysing "how to be a parent", I don't rely on any style of parenting, just the gut instinct that tells me my kids are happy, learning, growing, confident.

Escoveitch said...

Reading your blog is like looking in the mirror. Feels good to know I'm not alone.

Cave Mother said...

Escoveitch - it's good to know I'm not alone as well.