Nobody’s thinking about you is the name of a section heading in Big Magic, by Elizabeth Gilbert. I am just setting out on a writing course. One of the recommended texts is said Big Magic, which happens to be sitting on the book shelf behind me. A short while ago, I picked the book up, had a casual flick through and ‘Nobody’s thinking about you’ jumped out at me.
Nobody is thinking about you
That’s quite a powerful sentiment and it got me wondering…
How many women (and their partners) write birth plans, or choose how to feed their babies or how to raise their toddlers and older children with a subconscious drive, or fear about what other people are thinking?
Will the midwife think I’m weak if I ask for an epidural?
Will my peers think I don’t care about my baby if I formula feed?
Am I a rubbish parent if I give my toddler chocolate?
What will school think if we decide to respect our daughter’s decision to opt out of the HPV vaccine?
As Elizabeth Gilbert says, we spend our 20s and 30s (hello – prime child-rearing time) worrying about what other people think. This eases as we enter our forties and basically, by the time we hit our sixties and seventies, we realise that no one actually gave a monkey’s what we were doing anyway! That isn’t to say that our friends and families don’t care or that health care providers don’t want the best for us or that social services aren’t safeguarding ‘at risk’ children, but what they’re not doing is spending their quality navel gazing time thinking about US! They’re actually thinking about themselves.
I do occasionally find in my line of work as an antenatal teacher and mentored postnatal doula, that people (most often mothers admittedly) tell me about things that have happened or decisions they’d made with an apologetic tone:
“I had an epidural…but I was in so much pain I didn’t feel I had a choice”
“I breastfed for a couple of weeks but then I got so stressed that I decided to give him formula”
At no point have I said that they shouldn’t have an epidural or formula feed their babies nor have I expressed any opinions either pro or anti such things. I feel sad that they maybe didn’t have the support that they needed at those crucial moments, and although I care about my clients and I want them to be happy and feel empowered, I’m too busy to spend any time in the judgement zone. My thoughts are consumed with my own children, am I being a good-enough parent myself, the day to day running of my home or planning the next antenatal course.
In fact, it’s this lack of judgement that is a prerequisite of postnatal doula work. My role is not to go into someone’s home and tell them how things should be done lest they fail to meet some arbitrary Successful Parent Criteria. I’m just there for support and guidance, it’s their way or…their way!
As Gilbert goes on to say, embrace this freedom
You, parent, are granted the freedom to do things your way, like nobody’s thinking about you.
For details about Elizabeth Gilbert’s books and other information http://www.elizabethgilbert.com/