When The Whole World Is Telling You How To Parent

Being a new mom is crazy, amiright? From that first moment the pee stick told me I was going to have a baby, I had so many questions. Can I eat this? Can I drink that? Can I play bumper car basketball? (Answer = no. Boo. I had to sit on the sidelines and keep score.)

I was grief-stricken when my midwife said I should stay away from lunch meat. Tell me I can't have it, and it's all I can think about. I think I asked her every visit to clarify this restriction. Can I still eat at Subway? What about lunch meat from the deli? C'mon woman, I need a sandwich!

When you're pregnant or parenting, everyone has something to contribute regarding your lifestyle choices. Throw cross-cultural family or neighbors in the mix, and you'll get a beautiful potpourri of contradictions, wives' tales, and advice. It's overwhelming sometimes. Okay, all the time.

We found out we were pregnant about a couple days before we were going to Guatemala for a family visit. Everyone was over the moon about the news. And then I horrified some folks by jumping into the ocean. Apparently, pregnant women aren't' supposed to swim as jumping belly first into oncoming waves could be seen as a little rough for the little one. My father-in-law was all, "That baby is going to be tough." Oh, how right he was...

Do you know what I'm talking about? Have you ever had people react to your parenting in shock and horror when it seems perfectly normal to you?

Once I had my little bundle of joy and wildness, it almost amused me to watch cultural traditions about all things baby. It could be 95 degrees outside, and some folks are just never going to feel comfortable around a baby with no socks on. That baby looks cold. Don't you have a blanket?

When we carted our 5 month old around Argentina, the world's most beautiful people could not get over how chunky she was. I must have heard the phrase, "Que gigante!" a thousand times. You would've thought my baby weighed two hundred pounds.

At the pediatrician's office in the States, though, she was measuring just above average. And when I pushed her in a stroller through our neighborhood? One of my African American neighbors peeked in the stroller and said, "That baby is thick." And that's a compliment, I believe, because who doesn't love an infant with some thigh rolls?

But you know, I think it's wonderful. Everyone giving their opinion or telling me what to do. I find it freeing.

I think this peace came to me in a moment with some strawberries. I was holding one while my infant daughter waited. I was confused and debating. Is it here that they say don't give babies strawberries? Or is that in Mexico and here they say it's fine?

Well, in one of those countries, babies are eating strawberries. And they're doing ok. So here we go! She loved the strawberries.

So I find pregnancy no-no's and parenting debates oddly comforting. Because people all over the world may be doing different things, but babies continue to grow up. So I hope you are encouraged raising babies in this global world. If you're getting advice from family members and neighbors who all love your baby, hear their love.

And if you ever find yourself considering whether or not to blow dry your baby's hair before bed, my general conclusion is that it'll all work out.

NOTE: If you're interested in a book on global parenting, you might enjoy How Eskimos Keep Their Babies Warm: And Other Adventures in Parenting (from Argentina to Tanzania and everywhere in between).

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