Meredith Barth is a contributing blogger for our Conscious Family series. Meredith is a work at home mom to two boys under 3, who is openly and authentically blogging her way through her mothering journey at The Positive Parenting Challenge. A writer, food editor, leader of her local Holistic Moms Network chapter, and active member of La Leche League, she’s passionate about holistic living, community building, and all things birth, breastfeeding and baby.
Growing up in Christian fundamentalism has left me with many an issue to work through in my adult years. Now as a mother, intuition has come to top the list of recovery priorities.
To be fair, I can’t place all the blame on my puritanical upbringing. The truth is that, religion aside, our culture places little to no value on feelings. We hold up intellect, logic and reason as the only suitable decision-making tools, and belittle emotions and intuition as unreliable, useless, and even dangerous. Because of this we look in books, on websites, to “experts” and other parents for guidance on our parenting journey.
It’s this self-mistrusting attitude that keeps harmful practices like cry-it-out and scheduled feedings alive, along side Babywise sales. You read the simple steps and rationalizations, you hear accounts of successful “Ferberization” from fellow parents (who look rested), and voila: you reason yourself into something that couldn’t feel more wrong.
I cringe when I hear mothers touting miraculous results and promoting a sleep training method, while simultaneously explaining that it didn’t’ feel right, that they had to lock themselves in the basement out of earshot to keep from rushing to comfort their crying child. That we have discredited feelings, especially the feelings of a woman and mother, to such a degree that she will physically restrain herself from responding to them is astonishing. And heartbreaking.
We are emotional beings because we were created that way. We weren’t given feelings as a handicap or to lead us astray. On the contrary, we were created in God’s image, and to reject any part of that creation would be foolish.
We’re born following instincts, but as we grow up in this culture, we’re directed to turn our attention to things external. Re-learning trust in this inner guidance is a long process, but one worth undertaking, especially as a parent.
As I strive to embrace a new, more accurate view of God and spirituality, I’m also coming to see my feelings for what they are: God-given tools for direction. When my intellect fails me and reason doesn’t provide answers, my instincts, my emotions are always there, always accessible. I don’t always have to know why a choice is right, only that it is.
There is no parenting tool more valuable than intuition; there is no greater gift you can give your children than parenting them according to your inner guidance and protecting them from a culture that strips it away. This is what I earnestly (and imperfectly) try to offer my family, and what I hope more mothers will come to embrace.