I never really took note of my anxiety levels until I was pregnant. The influx of unsolicited advice was so overwhelming – I struggled with it then, and knew it was only going to get worse once baby was here. I tried to imagine every comment I would get, every scenario I would be in, and try to create strategies where my actions wouldn’t upset anyone. This didn’t help at all, and further perpetuated my anxiety levels.
I have very strong opinions on how I want to raise Ayaan and sometimes those closest to me may not agree with it or think they know better. Do I have all the answers when it comes to parenting? Ha! Far from it. Sometimes I feel I am in over my head, and like every parent I sometimes second guess whether I am making the right decisions. I am met with criticism and doubt when I need encouragement and reassurance the most.
I am hesitant in trusting others with Ayaan, especially when they disagree with my beliefs. Here is why – I have found that people will act on what they think is best, irrespective of my wishes. Do I need them to agree with me? No. Do I need them to understand my choices? Not really. What I need is for them to respect me and not undermine me. It does take a village to raise a child – but a village that respects the parents’ decisions and commits to collectively achieving their goals. I find it difficult to reach out for help because it is, almost always, conditional or results in strong feelings of entitlement.
There is a difference between genuine advice and criticism cloaked as advice. The latter is often justified as tradition and culture. There is immense value in learning from the experience of others, but often the way advice is usually imparted through generations is more importunate rather than supportive. We have often heard our journey described as modern parenting. It’s not modern parenting, it’s just parenting. You make the best decisions for your child based on the information you have at hand. Information is constantly developing and as a result parenting techniques evolve. Different isn’t bad or wrong its just, well, different.
If you can’t respect me as a mother then you don’t get to be around us. It really should be that simple. But it’s not, unfortunately, especially is our culture where there is a sense of entitlement from all angles. Everyone thinks they know what’s best for your child and there is very little support in allowing you to figure it out on your own by trusting your instincts and letting your baby guide you. It is also for these reasons that I research everything – my husband calls it google-itis. I feel like I have to justify my decisions with evidence, hoping for acceptance and understanding.
These comments may not necessarily come from a place of malice but it is self-serving to not acknowledge the detrimental effects it can have. I am, with much difficulty, learning to be unapologetic of my decisions. I struggle most when those closest to me, who are supposed to be the core of my support system, make passive comments that make me feel inadequate. Being assertive may portray me as rigid, ungrateful and controlling but I would rather that than succumb to doing something I am uncomfortable with just to avoid contention.
Boundaries are important to ensure mutually respectful, caring and supportive relationships. I can only hope that setting healthy boundaries from the start, will allow us to raise Ayaan with the values that are dear and true to us.