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The Answers Aren't All in a Book

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My shelves are lined with them: the parenting books passed on by well-meaning friends. I’ve got books about schedules and vaccines—ones that specify bonding necessities and baby potty training, and reads committed to detailing proper infant nutrition. It seems as though there might even be a few books designed solely to tell me which books I am meant to read.

Most of these books were given to me by parents who swore by their contents. A lot of them contradict each other on fairly major points. A few have become valued references, while most have left me feeling inept or otherwise annoyed in some way.

Because the reality is I don’t fit into any of their molds.

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It seems as though these books all cater to the extremes. The attachment parents. The sleep trainers. The schedule followers. The cry-it-outers. They are parenting groups which become defined by a few key points, and are then painted in these books as people who couldn’t possibly (or shouldn’t possibly) veer from that predestined course. These books are each written to a specific subset of parents, and a few of them are quite harsh in the way they condemn “the others,” aka the parents who follow a different course entirely.

I’m starting to think the whole mommy wars start with these books, the ones that tell us precisely what it means to be a “good parent,” making it OK to look down on others who don’t move forward with the same philosophies as you. The funny thing is I don’t actually know any parents who follow the same parenting philosophies. Not to the extremes many of these books advocate for, anyway. I know sets of friends who have basically the same ideas, but they vary in small ways across the board. While two friends may be committed to helping their children gain independence, for instance, one might deem crying-it-out as necessary, while the other has no interest in even attempting it.

I am following our philosophy, as disjointed as it may be.

For my part, I’ve borrowed and blended from each of these books. I couldn’t even really tell you which philosophy I subscribe to, because my methods are all over the place. I have been an extreme baby wearer since my daughter was born, never even removing her car seat from the car. But the thought of co-sleeping never crossed my mind, and I was pleased as punch to have her snoozing through the night in her own crib in her own room at 3 months old.

Now that she is eating solids, I make all her baby food myself using organic ingredients, but she has been on formula since the day she was born, and I have never had any regrets. At 7 months old, that kid is already using sign language to tell me what she needs, but trying to potty train her before she is even speaking seems way above both our heads, and my lame attempt at cloth diapering was a comedic failure at best.

We pick and choose. I go with what feels right, and I don’t spend a whole lot of time worrying about what everyone else is doing. If anything, those books were all a blessing, because they helped me to realize there are far too many philosophies and theories out there for any one of them to be “right.” Kids are different. Parents are different. Families are different. And the answers aren’t all in a book. In everything I do, I am doing what is right for my daughter and for me. I am following our philosophy, as disjointed as it may be.

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Maybe one day I’ll write a book to share all the expert knowledge I have gained.

And it could sit on someone else’s shelf, alongside all the other books talking about how I am doing it all wrong.

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