When I applied to train as a BabyCalm & ToddlerCalm teacher back in 2013 I was apprehensive, I didn’t feel like I ‘fit’ or that I was a a good enough ‘gentle parent’ to do this. And without the encouragement of one of my best friends, I wouldn't have gone. Her opinion mattered to me and because she thought that I was 'enough' I took the leap and applied.
When I arrived at training I was terrified that I was inadequate & that I everyone would think I was a fraud, rubbish at this parenting lark & certainly not good enough to go out and 'teach' other parents but I was eager to learn more, if not to teach but for myself and my son.
Because I formula fed my baby, because I had him via c-section, because I didn’t co-sleep and I’d never used a sling to carry him, I wasn’t a SAHM and my baby went to nursery for 24 hours a week from being 5 months old. I had parented him how I instinctively felt was 'right' and my maternal instinct was strong, I couldn't ignore it, not matter how much I tried or how many times people told me I 'needed' to leave him or it was 'unhealthy' to want to spend so much time with my baby. But by no means did I think I ticked the boxes to be a true 'gentle parent'.
Through 5 days of intensive training & everything I discovered, others stories and experiences I thought more and more that I couldn’t possibly be this ‘gentle parent’, most other people were passionate about baby wearing or passionate about breastfeeding and I was 'different', my parenting journey so far sounded different, maybe I actually wasn't supposed to be here, supposed to be connecting with these people?
But the more I let my guard down and stopped judging myself, I grew and I realised that being a ‘gentle parent’ isn’t about ticking co-sleeping, babywearing, breastfeeding boxes, gentle parenting is about responsive, empathetic and compassionate parenting. It’s about being passionate about raising the next generation to be kind and caring and understanding. But above all it’s about respect. Respect for your babies, respect for your children and respect for each other - regardless of their parenting choices and journeys.
In fact, I am not sure that the label of "gentle parent" is that helpful. I know we all like to use these labels to fit into a group, to identify our people and feel like we belong. But what if that process just serves to leave people out? What is it makes parents feel inadequate, like I did. The thing that I loved about the group of people I met, is that they didn't care about any of that, they just looked for a way to empathise and connect with my story and to support me.
We often get people enquiring about joining CalmFamily who don’t think that they ‘qualify’ and don’t think they are ‘good enough’. You are, just like I was because CalmFamily is about informing choice. It's about empathising with parents and children equally and understanding each other better. So what do we all have in common to make us a family? We all believe passionately about changing the next generation for the better and about informing and supporting parents so they can enjoy their children and their lives. Is this you?
Danielle Heap - Director of Community