I’ve been meaning to ramble on about ‘mum-herds’. *
I have an ill-formed theory that most people’s parenting styles are the result of little more than chance, based on whatever mum-herd they happen to end up in. These days, in my neck of the woods, herds are most likely to result from attendance at NCT antenatal classes and the like, rather than close-knit family groupings or small communities.
You see a lot of such herds dotted around Twickenham and Richmond, taking over half of Cafe Nero with their prams. I used to be in a herd myself before we all went back to work – and now we’re less like a herd and more like close friends who meet up sporadically for toddler-related fun or occasional nights out.
Anyway, it seems to me that, over time, herd members become like the Borg and inadvertently align themselves into a similar worldview on parenting. It’s probably something to do with solidarity and the fact that, at the start, nobody is entirely sure what they’re doing… so we tend to try out each other’s methods and fall into line and that’s pretty much that. Before you know it, you find yourself spouting off parenting opinions like someone who has a clue on matters of feeding and sleep and discipline.
If I had to come up with a name for the collective parenting style of my herd, I would probably call us the ‘Path-of-Least-Resistance-ians‘. Nobody in my little circle started out strongly pro- anything or anti- anything (apart from generally favouring things that make life easier). When our babies were born, none of us were especially opinionated about the right or wrong way to feed them or whether to co-sleep or not – we each just did the thing that suited our personal situations.
Over time, we discussed things like bedtime routines and all made similar efforts to introduce one… but not in that rigidly-adhered-to sort of way that affects the whole day. I don’t think any of us ever really bothered to read the parenting books we bought that told us our babies ought to be sleeping through the night by X months.- or persevered with manuals on difficult things like sleep-training or controlled crying. As a result, there was sometimes a vague sense that we may not be ‘doing it right’ (but, as long as we were all doing it slightly wrong together, that was fine). Even now, we’re all similarly inclined to bring our toddlers into bed when they wake in the night, if it means that everyone gets to go straight back to sleep. I once mentioned this to a Fordian and she audibly gasped.
I wonder whether we’ll all fall into Borginess again on future matters like discipline…
Occasionally I visit other friends, further afield, who are devout believers in routine and they speak so persuasively that I begin to feel the evangelical fervour creeping into my veins and I think “Right! I will definitely give that a try!” …and then, somehow, a day or two later, without noticing it, I find that I’ve slipped back into my somewhat lax approach, in which I only bother putting the boylet to bed when he is dead on his feet and ready to zonk straight out, rather than sticking to schedule and enduring the 30+ minutes of tedious sleep-fighting that ensues when he’s not tired. I wonder if, given a different herd, I’d have NAILED that routine?
I wonder also what happens if you find yourself in the wrong herd. What if a devout ‘attachment parent’ finds herself trapped in a herd of Victorian nannies, or someone who is mad for routine finds herself surrounded by laid back hippies? I suppose it only takes one person with evangelical fervour to turn the whole group…
Well, I’m sure you’re all fascinated. I shall stop now. So ends my pointless ramble of the day, with no real observations to make, other than on the randomness of human experience.
* I suppose, given the insinuation of sheepiness in this post, I should have used the word flock rather than herd. Baaa!