Miss Independent

Miss Independent 1I am fairly certain that every mother goes through a quiet wrestling of spirit shortly after she has her firstborn baby.

She feels the trifecta of terror, bliss, and exhaustion. She hears the buzzing voices of relatives, coworkers, friends, and "experts" - telling her what she should BE and DO as a mother. But, ever so slowly, she learns to listen to that tiny whisper in her own heart.

As quite a surprise to me, I started to parent my babies like this: breastfeeding, cosleeping, babywearing, nighttime parenting, and gentle discipline. (Some people might refer to this style as "Attachment Parenting," but I rarely label it. Because I don't want it to sound like: "WE do this and THEY do that.").

Part of what felt best to Tim & I was keeping our babies always with us (as in, not leaving them at all in the 1st year...with anyone). It's not like it was a "rule." We just never wanted to - and that was that. In fact - until very recently, we never left either of our girls with anyone except grandparents.

But, at age four, our oldest daughter is blossoming into a "bona fide kid." She is exceptionally independent.

As in...

  • we'll go to a play and she'll go to the crowded front row by herself to get a better view.
  • we'll go to a brand new church where she doesn't know a soul and she'll wave us good-bye without a bit of trepidation.
  • we'll meet a stranger and she'll clearly say her name, without hiding behind my leg or sleeve (she actually told me to not say it "for her.").

Miss Independent 2I used to sometimes wonder - Would I EVER not breastfeed her? Would I ever sleep through the night again? Would I always be changing diapers? Would she always cling tightly to me in new situations?

But now - glory be - she goes to the bathroom (and helps her sister go to the bathroom). She can get a snack and carry on a conversation and pour herself a glass of water. She laughs at jokes, puts on her shoes, and scampers off to play with friends. She takes showers, turns on lights, and goes to bed all by herself (where she sleeps the entire night).

She is capable and compassionate, strong-willed and sweet, lively and loving.

People told us a lot of things when we had our firstborn baby. They said it would spoil my baby to hold her too much. They said we needed to "teach" our baby independence by leaving her in a nursery. They said to have regular date nights away from the baby - or our marriage would suffer. They said cosleeping would hurt our sex life. The said if I breastfed my baby to "sleep," she'd never learn to "self-soothe." They said that it would be hard to transition our baby to her own room if we co-slept (it was a piece of cake, by the way). In reality, none of those things were true for us.

I think I'm writing this to say two things to anyone out there who is a new mom: (A) It gets easier and (B) it's okay to swim against the current of conventional parenting advice - if you want to, of course.

Take a deep breath, mama. You are doing just fine.

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34 comments on “Miss Independent”

  1. Loving it... again! I've gotten lost in your blog, haha. I have 3 kids myself - oldest is going to be 4 in October. I also have been subject to advice, what I should be doing, what I should not be doing. Before I was a mom I used to have all kinds of thoughts on what parent's should or shouldn't do. Now that I am a mom I feel just aweful about it and my new motto is that everyone should quit judging and just give support to the tired mama's out there! A new mom or a 3 time mom - we need support and not critisism because being a mom is hard, and really no one knows the perfect formula to raise a great kid anyway. We all just do the best we can and trust that God will fill in the gaps for us.

    Great posts by the way. Just read the one on discipline, great one too. I'm sending it to my husband as we were just having this exact discussion yesterday.

  2. Four is an AWESOME age. One of my favorites. :-) Coming from the mom of a now 5-year-old, who is a little bit sad that she'll never have a 4-year-old again, I can honestly say, ENJOY IT. It's a glorious age. And how fun to see her interact with her little sis. I love that too.

  3. A very lovely post! I wonder if many of the reasons she is confident and so sure of herself now is because of all the nurturing you did when she was younger.

  4. Isn't it just incredible to watch them grow?!! I am amazed at how independent Levi is becoming. He has been shy from day one. I always ignored the well intended advice givers who said I shouldn't hold him so much, etc. because he'd never grow out of that if I didn't. And, now, lo and behold, despite all the holding, he rushes into rooms ahead of me and starts talking to strangers.

  5. I kind of always felt that I would do what I knew was best for my babies regardless of what others thought even before I had my first. But what I never really realized was how each baby was a brand new individual whose needs might be totally different from my other children. I'm always learning!

    Now when I hear a new mother's cry for help (i.e. sleeping, breastfeeding, etc.) I like to respond: "I don't have an easy answer for you. But I will always be here to listen." Too much advice can get overwhelming and confusing!

    P.S. I am struck by how perfectly mature your 4yo looks in these photos. And perfectly lovely as well with that whispy blonde hair.

    1. That's a good answer, Jenny! I bet you make (and keep) friends easily. :)

      As a side-note, this is something I ponder often. It's hard to know when to share advice/ideas...and when to just listen. Listening is obviously a huge gift, but I also think advice can be a good thing. I've had so many awesome women speak into my life in the past about breastfeeding/birth/discipline/babywearing/etc. I'm so glad they spoke up to share their experience in a gentle, easygoing way.

  6. Big smiles here- We had much of the same experience. So glad to hear of parents following their heart and reaping the rewards. I started out with a copy of "baby-wise" ( I DON'T recommend this one!) given to me by a friend. THEN, my first daughter was born and it was all down-hill from there. Great advice (in your so great not-too-much-advice-kind-of way...!).

  7. This is just wonderful. I am going against everything that anyone else in my family did and I'm so glad. I have an amazing, shy, polite, smart, happy, cosleeping, breastfeeding 25 month old. I am not worried at all that she will never sleep through the night or not ever stop nursing. I know she'll do these things when she's good and ready. Our lifestyle and choices are working out so well for us and our daughter and I wish more people listed to their hearts.

  8. I actually do want to go out with my husband on a date night. I think we did it a couple of times in the past 4 years. Maybe we will do it this year :)

    On nursing and weaning.. I have everybody telling me my baby is too old to nurse. But I just cant go through the stress of weaning right now. So she is two. She still loves to nurse. Especially at night. Maybe in a few months she will decide to wean herself? I guess I will come back to thinking about this sometime this summer.

  9. About what age did she start going to sleep by herself? My oldest is VERY independent, always has been, even when she was a baby.... but my youngest, she is VERY dependent. She is almost 16 months old, still nurses to sleep every night and for her nap (she fights sleep SO hard, always has, wouldn't take a pacifier, etc., she will only nurse). We are pregnant with our third (yay!), and I don't know if I could handle co-sleeping with two kids that are both nursing full time! I won't mind if they both still co-sleep and only one is nursing, or they are both nursing but one is co-sleeping, but I don't think I could nurse both babies to sleep simultaneously! lol! I'm a little scared for October!

    1. Perhaps around age 3 1/2? I weaned her at around 21 months. She started sleeping through the night shortly thereafter...but I still laid down beside her at bedtime for many months after that. Sometime after age three, she started telling us when she was tired and going to bed all on her own.

      Our 23-month-old still nurses every night too (and through the night also). (We co-sleep from about midnight onward).

  10. Love this post! I remember co-workers telling me what I "should" do... some didn't even have children, interestingly enough. Everyone needs to find their own way and what's best for them.

  11. Fun to find you! A friend on twitter (GirlyMama) tweeted your link and had to jump in. Your site is awesome!
    I am Philadelphia TV Host but most importantly a MOM! I love how you mention to take things basically at your own pace. I went through MAJOR post partum depression. It was awful.
    Love that you are spreading the words to show that it's normal to have those thoughts on life!

    Have a wonderful day!
    Joey Fortman
    http://www.JoeyFortman.com
    Real Mom Media & Moms On The Spot

    1. Nice to meet you, Joey! I just stopped in over at your blog to "get acquainted." I look forward to getting to know you better.

  12. This is really great, Stephanie! We've made some different choices than you guys, but that's the point, right? Just like Rena comments above - we all parent a little differently from each other & that is good & okay!!

    And, your point (a)... that feels so fresh right now with my newborn. Realizing how short this stage is makes me a little sad already!

  13. Yes! Thank you for saying this! Sometimes even when you know you are doing what is right for you and your child it really helps to hear some sort of confirmation of that.

    I'm still finding my stride with my 6 month old (and learning so much about myself in the process.)

  14. Thank you so much for this encouraging post. I am making sure to share this one with many of my new mommy friends. I think there are so many decisions and it is such a gradual process to tease out what is right for each mommy, child, and family.
    We went out for an incredibly romantic :) Valentine's dinner tonight to a BBQ place with girls in tow. It was great. We love family dates.

  15. Thank you, again, for your shining example! Knowing that someone I admire made the same choices my instincts were guiding me toward made (and still makes) a very positive difference for me!!! It was easier to 'defend' our parenting style when we were questioned because I knew we weren't the only ones. I can't tell you how much I appreciate the way you openly share your experiences!!!

  16. Quite honestly the BEST parenting advice out there, Stephanie. I often swam against the current and still do, but it feels right to ME and their dad, so that is how we do it. Moms and Dads SHOULD parent differently because we are all different. That is what makes our world so beautifully diverse! I second your advice to "follow your own heart and do what is right for you and your babies, Moms."

    1. Agreed. All families are different. All children are different. All circumstances are different. It makes sense that parenting styles and decisions would be different too.

  17. Stephanie, wonderful post. We've been raising our daughters similarly (and are also planning to honeschool)! I was wondering, now that our older daughter is 3, we get a lot of "advice" about how she needs friends her age and activities to go to. What's your take, especially given that your family will be on the move for a year? My daughter is really social now, but her peers are all in preschool and she's also happy playing on her own.

    1. Both of our girls are intelligent, imaginative, compassionate, confident, and communicative. They love their family & friends...and are excited about interacting with other kids.

      That said, neither of them have ever been enrolled in any kind of class or sport - ballet, daycare, soccer, gymnastics, piano, etc. I don't feel that they're any worse off because it. Of course, I do want to encourage hobbies and I want my girls to master skill sets...but I'm not particularly concerned about that yet. They are only 2 and 4, after all. ;)

  18. I'm having such a hard time with two kids. My oldest girl is 3 and a half and the baby is 7 months. I think my oldest is going to be Ms. Independent too. She can be incredibly willful and difficult. But then she is also a love and incredibly sweet. I try and practice gentle discipline but will fly off the handle sometimes! Its awful. I appreciate reading these types of posts because it means there could be a light at the end of the tunnel.

    Date nights, we don't have them but we truly do need time alone, not just at home though.

  19. I wish we could be friends in real life! This is the kind of thing I need to hear. I have two boys and I thought it would be easier the second time around, but many of the same struggles. It's just hard sometimes not having friends (on this side of the world at least) who think the same way. Thanks for sharing.

  20. I've been meaning to write you back about the date nights. I really like your view on them. My husband and I hold our evenings together as "sacred" after Ezra goes to sleep...its as if every night gets to be a date night. I really don't like leaving him with anyone...family included, although I'll be biased and say that I'm okay leaving him with my family, but they live in Michigan, so that has only happened once (and he slept the whole time). It's a really hard current to swim against though, I feel like every direction I turn people are offering to babysit so that we can "finally get out and go on a date". I have been thinking that perhaps I don't want to leave him because I know he'll miss us and cry (which I would hate to know he was crying the whole time we are gone), but then also the person babysitting will think that he is a really fussy baby, which is not who he is at all. Wow, I'm really babbling, this is obviously something I've been thinking about A LOT lately. I do really like going on family dates though (to the park, coffee shop, art museum, etc...).

    As for breastfeeding, babywearing, and co-sleeping...I really can't imagine anything different. Co-sleeping has changed for us over the past couple of months. Ezra used to sleep with us all night every night, now we put him down in his own bed and some nights I go to him...other nights he joins us. I still don't know if I believe that I will ever get a full night of sleep again though. Maybe by the time he is 4. :)

    1. Many of your reasons are our reasons too. Thanks for putting those concerns into words - especially the one about worrying that other people might think your child is "fussy." I sometimes worried about that too because both of my girls were the OPPOSITE of "fussy" as babies. They rarely cried and were sweet + bubbly + bright 98% of the time. Leaving them with a stranger, however, would have been stressful for all of us.

      Also, co-sleeping has taken many different forms in our house over the years too. Right now, I sleep with the girls from about midnight on.

  21. I have done a lot more co-sleeping and baby-wearing than I anticipated, and I also nurse to sleep, so I agree with a lot of what you said. I have left her with a lot of people, because of work, but we have yet to leave her with a non-relative (well except for the church nursery, but that's only an hour).

    I disagree with the date nights though--they're imperative for us. I think in our case it's because Eleanor doesn't usually go to bed till about 10, and then we go to bed at 10:15 because my alarm goes off at 5:30 for work! 12 minutes a night of uninterrupted adult conversation is just not enough for us, so we have dates once a month at minimum, and we often try to get a second date if possible. If she went to bed earlier that might be different though.

    1. The date night thing is different for everyone. I remember feeling pressured early on to leave our baby because it would be "good for us" (when, in fact, it wasn't).

      There's a large segment of the Christian community that pushes couples to have weekly date nights..."or your marriage will crumble." I just wanted to be sure to share our experience so that people would rest in whatever works best for their family.

  22. I think this should be printed and framed for all new mommies (and daddies!) People give so much "advice" but really the only advice I believe is "go with your heart." And all new moms need to learn that it does get easier. And the biggest surprise is that you end up missing those new born baby times that you thought were so hard!

    PS - I'm so with you on date nights. Our son goes to bed at 8:00, and then our "date night" begins ;)

  23. This is my 23month old as well. She is not shy, she is very vocal, has a mind of her own and is very loving and friendly. Sometimes I wonder if I deserved her, cus I was never like that. I am so happy to hear that you contradicted every thing that some parenting advocate claims to be harmful to the child's development. I am seeing that trait too in my daughter. We Co-Sleep, Breastfed, never left her for a date night, instead we bundled her along, etc. I love my life right now with my daughter and I wont give it up for a night in town :)

  24. Sounds a lot like us! :D Andrew is 2 1/2 and this last fall was the first time I ever left him with a grandparent. He still sleeps in our bed part of the night and weaned him self at 26 months!

    1. I'm sort of hoping that my little one will do the same thing. She's 23 months now...and still nurses quite often throughout the night (which is okay with me, but I also wouldn't mind if she weaned). ;)

  25. Love, love, love this. I think this is something every new mom has to learn with time!! I'm re-tweeting and facebook sharing because I want all my mom friends to know that it is ok to do what feels right for them, despite what others are doing or saying. Thanks once again for sharing! :)

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