A mother of four and a daughter of ten...
Yesterday afternoon I interviewed my mother - who raised four girls. She was also the seventh child in the line of ten kids. Having never been a parent, I've been quite fixated on how first time parents actually learn how to parent and what their experience is like. Here are few vignettes of her responses:
Me: What were some tips that you got on parenting?
"Things you're brought up with, things I remember seeing Tataie do… like covering the baby's feet, I didn't want my baby to die so I'd prop them sideways when they slept. You're taught how to wrap a bundle at the hospital, but, you have to learn how to do it again... To take care of myself... feelings you're having are normal."
Here are some anecdotes that I've clusterd into different groups.
Importance of engaging with the baby:
"You have to nourish the brain, if you don't hold them it… There were kids who you'd go to day care with who were abused or neglected."
"If you don't smile at a baby, hold a baby."
"Your grandmother (paternal) gave me a book on parenting and signed it, 'love Pat'"
"Tataie (maternal grandparent) would drive from Edmunston and stay for a while to help out. Once, when I was gone she fed Tess formula because she wanted Tess to sleep through the night."
"nothing replaced the grandparent's help."
"Your Dad or Grandma would bring me to the Dr.'s"
"It hasn't changed - it's the family, neighbors, best friend. You know many birds prepare the nest."
"I knew that you had to sleep and eat, a lot was instincts."
"I truly believe instincts."
"The prenatal experience makes a big difference. There is a lot of stress prior to being born. It's so important before how parents feel about themselves... while the baby is in the cocoon."
"I remember feeling emotional about putting on some weight. Dr. Mazzerol tapped me on the knee. We're going to worry about that once you've had the baby."
"I was pretty self sufficient, we had our little jobs - it was more traditional. Tataie would come to help out."
"Your father learned - you feed pregnant women."
At the end of this interview I can't help but think that there is something about...
- Understanding and valuing the importance of engaging with a baby
- Support for the parents (family, neighbors, friends)
- Instincts playing a role in raising a child
- Parents' experience matters
How might we give parents the support they need when raising a child?