When I was a new mom, I read a lot of parenting books. I read the super crunchy attachment parenting books, the super conservative books, the what-to-expect books, the sleep books, they this-will-solve-all-your-problems books. I even went to a seminar or two.
I can sum up what I learned during that time that I still use in a few sentences. Consistency and structure are good. So is flexibility and spontaneity. Follow through.
I needed those books and seminars when I had them. I needed to be told again that I had to be a leader to my children and so I had to let my "yes" be yes and my "no" be no. I have be consistent in what I say to them so that they know that my word can be trusted. They also operate better with some structure when they are little and they need to be taught to create their own structure as they grow.
There, I've just saved you a lot of reading. As much as I loved my persona as earth mother with my cloth diapers and my slings and all the breastfeeding, most of that wasn't really about the baby, it was just how I was getting through the infant years. The real work starts when your cloth-diapered-breastfed-home-birthed baby says "NO" to you and sprints toward traffic.
We can drive ourselves crazy of those externalities of raising kids. Between the sunscreen that will kill you or the occasionally raised voice that's going to give your kid anxiety or the spanking that will permanently damage or the lack of spanking that will damage them another way or the sleep training that will kill them or the the co-sleep that will also kill them. None of this is the actual problem!
The real thing that keeps parents up at night, the real things that makes us crazy, the thing that has us so worried we mask it with all these other small fights is our own lack of control. We can't control how our kids will turn out. Let that sink in for a minute. We cannot control how our kids turn out. They will leave our homes and make their own decisions that we wont have a say in and that shit scares us. So we'll dither about sleep training or sunscreen because those are small problems that we can feel some small amount of control over and fool ourselves into thinking that if we just do the right things in the right order, everything will be alright.
Of course, we have some influence and lord knows we can screw up our kids if we want to. Look around and see the whamy that absentee, addicted or abusive parents put on their kids. But a lot of those kids, the ones from parents that seemingly did everything wrong, they're finding better ways to do it all today. I know many of them and I am one of them. I also know more than a few who had parents who did more right than wrong who still went down some dark and scary paths that no one wants their baby going down.
Our babies will go down those dark and scary paths through their own decisions and that's what keeps us up at night, that's the thing that's so terrifying that we have to invent other, smaller problems to occupy us so the big problem doesn't drive us over the edge of our dwindling sanity.
So go ahead and read those books and do your internet research if you have the stomach for it. Breastfeed your baby until they turn 3 and tie them up on your back even though you both sweat like crazy. Do whatever it is that lets you sleep through the night. Do your best, whatever that looks like, and love the children you've been given for as long as you can.