I had to go to the doctor last week for problems completely unrelated to my son. The doctor asked how much sleep I get. I laughed. "Oh, five hours maybe."
When he asked why I got so little, I tried to explain that I work from home and that part of my work time has to be when my son is asleep. That means that I wake up before him and work and stay up after him to work.
The doctor started railing away about how I have to take charge of my son and make him sleep. First of all, just saying that is ludicrous. Making my son sleep is not going to happen because he is way to feisty to allow it and because I think it is wrong. I know that my baby needs sleep, and he does sleep. I am not just going to force him to sleep, however, because I am tired. Second, the doctor clearly has problems listening to his patients because my son's sleeping patterns are not the cause of my five hours of sleep a night.
Still, the incident got me thinking. Yes, I will admit here that I am cynical about doctors, probably overly so. This doctor does not have any special training in childhood development, and my son's sleeping, unless he has a problem, is not a medical issue. It is a cultural decision for me to permit my son freedom in his schedule, even at this early age. I have read up on child-rearing techniques, and my partner and I have made what we believe are the best decisions for our son based on our overall parenting philosophy.
I did not say anything to the doctor at the time other than, "I don't believe in the Cry It Out method." It was for strategic reasons. I needed a referral to a specialist and didn't want to jeopardize my request. Still, I left furious.
Who appointed doctors as cultural guardians? Or little old ladies for that matter? I cannot tell you the number of women who told me during the summer months that my son needed a hat. I want to say, "No, lady, his head will sweat then."
I even think of being more polite. "Thanks for your suggestion, but we don't think he needs a hat."
Then there's, "I'm sure you raised your children the way you want. I'll do the same."
I say none of these, however. I just let it pass, but it stays with me. In nine months, I have learned how to be more confident in my parenting decisions. I hope more parents will do the same. Yes, we do know how to raise our children. Each generation makes mistakes and gets plenty right; we will be no different. So the next time someone tries to give you child-rearing advice, you can nod politely or you can tell them to back off. Either way, know that you are making the best choices for your baby.
By Julia Mercer