Some people know what needs to be done. They go forward confidently, not second-guessing their choices, actions, behaviors, or motives. They don’t vacillate wildly between items on the menu, outfits to wear, or names for their children. They might not claim to know the best way, but they know their way, and they proceed decisively and competently.
I am not one of those people.
For example, when I married the dude, I couldn’t decide whether or not to change my last name. My mother acted like it was a no brainer. Why wouldn’t I? My friends looked at my a little funny. Why would I? I read articles and essays about the history of women taking men’s names. I noticed everywhere which women had and which women hadn’t, trying to discern which club I most wanted to join. In the end, I made no decision at all. I did not change my name, but I do – sometimes – use my married name. I do this more or less willy-nilly, as I do many things.
Becoming a parent exacerbated the problem many times over. Before giving my kid Tylenol, I had to read three different books so I could get a handle on what the experts advise. When it came time for solid food, I spent countless hours trolling sites about baby food. Should I follow a prescribed method of slowly introducing mild foods? Or, should I follow a more organic, child-led philosophy? Should we wear sunscreen? Should I go back to work? Should we leave Brooklyn? Should I let Winnie wear pink? How will we stay connected as a couple? Does this bathing suit look awful on me?
For decisions great and small, I found myself turning to “experts” – writers of blogs and books who are peddling their philosophies on every topic under the sun to wishy-washy types like myself. There are so many resources out there – a great, wide, Internet-sized sea of resources! – that it’s hard not to defer to expert opinions. Parents, in particular, are under so much pressure to do things right that we often seek advice from those who claim to have the answers. This kind of dependence on expert advice, I’ve found, is habit-forming.Â When I did my week of reading deprivation, there were many times when I caught myself reaching for a parenting book or turning on my computer to consult WebMD. Surely it didn’t count as reading if I just needed a little guidance. Right?
I decided that even my well-intentioned (and, I thought, much-needed) searches for advice were off-limits during the reading deprivation. I would have to seek guidance elsewhere. Surprisingly, I found this guidance in a little-known but intelligent person namedÂ me. Turns out, I have these qualities called intellect, intuition, and reason. Imagine! Plus, I actually know myself, my family, and our circumstances better than anyone else. So, as it turns out, I usually land on decisions that suit us and don’t feel so much like we’re following someone else’s recipe for life.
So even now that the reading deprivation is over, I’m trying to break my dependence on consulting the experts. One bonus of thinking for myself is that it’s a lot quicker than trolling Google, so I have more time on my hands (time to change my mind later if I want). Plus, if I really, really, really can’t figure something out I have this other awesome thing I can use: Moms (between the kind I got the old-fashioned way, and the two I acquired later on, I’ve got plenty). They were doling out advice centuries before anyone knew of WebMD. They know some good stuff, and they feel real happy when I ask them to share.