Wednesday, May 11, 2011

Meta Decisions

Lately I've been contemplating the process I use to make decisions. I've found that the process is similar no matter the scope of the decision. Whether I am deciding if I should buy a different kind of trash bag or determining how I plan to approach parenting, I go through the same basic steps.
I can't think of a better illustration of how I approach new things than the path I took to create my birth plan. I started my pregnancy out assuming without much thought that I would get an epidural. I ended up, as many of you know, with a planned non-medicated birth.
The decision was a slow one, which is probably unfortunate because babies do not stop growing in utero while you make decisions about their arrival. Getting pregnant was the catalyst for further exploration. Ideally, I wish I'd done this exploration before getting pregnant, but it's just not practical to research every thing that I may encounter in the future, so I don't typically put much thought into a thing until I'm experiencing it. But what I lack in foresight, I like to think I make up for with obsessive fervor.
Once I realized I might want to put a little more thought into the whole giving birth thing, I read and read and read all kinds of books. Some I agreed with; some I didn't. Some seemed redundant and unhelpful; some were eye-opening. I catalogued some of the most impactful ones on this blog.
Even once I agreed with the research behind the preference for a non-medicated birth, I didn't make a firm decision for myself. I started talking. I talked tentatively at first, saying to friends and family things like "I'm thinking about maybe trying it without the epidural, if everything goes okay." I slowly dropped equivocators, morphing the phrase. "I'm thinking about trying it without the epidural if everything goes okay" "I'm going to try it without the epidural."  I didn't drop the "try" until I was actively in labor, repeating "I can do this" to myself like a deranged cheerleader.
I am quick to open up to new possibilities, but slow to commit myself to any of them. I think this is because I am pretty loyal to decisions once I've made them. I've never been a job hopper, and I agonized over the decision to switch from being a biology major to an English major freshman year (and, as you can see, I stuck with that one for quite some time). Even in high school my romantic relationships tended to be (relatively) long.
The reason I'm thinking about this now is because I'm starting to explore (a little late, I know) some different theories of parenting. The start of this formal exploration comes with reading Our Babies, Ourselves by Meredith Small.
The book, which I'm only a few chapters into, was published in 1998 (and it is interesting to see how the culture of parenting has already shifted) and, purportedly, "hope[s]--by presenting the natural history and biology of human babyhood and by offering a global perspective on parenting practices--to be able to give some parents, and any other adults who are interested in human society, more ways to think about childrearing."
"More ways to think?" Yes, please! Decisions make me anxious, and the only thing that calms that anxiety is information.
But this, too, comes with complications. There is much too much information to consume it all, so we are left to make decisions about the information we will use to make decisions. It has the potential to be a deadly loop. Do I let my child sleep in the bed with me? If I try to read everything there is to read, talk to everyone there is to talk to, get all of the opinions and make a really sound decision, she'll be in college, and she'll probably have her own bed there.
So, my question to you is two-fold
General:  How do you decide? What influences your life decisions, big and small?
Specific:  If you're a parent (or versed in theories of parenting), what sources of information do you recommend to help make decisions about parenting?


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  2. "Decisions make me anxious, and the only thing that calms that anxiety is information." <-- so true..

    I make my decisions by thinking a lot.. Probably too much...
    I tend to be a little impulsive sometimes, but my impulsive decisions are about things that I still have plenty of time to think about and back out on.. I don't know if that's a good or bad thing.. Anyway, I tend to be pretty loyal to my decisions as well, so I think things through (as I said, possibly too much). It's less about a "big" or "small" decision than about a "now" or "later" decision. And I'm not sure if that's good or not..

  3. I agonize, I put off, I ask others their opinions or try to con them into making the decisions for me, I make a mental list of pros and cons, I make a decision, I second guess, I go back to agonizing....

    And that's just when I'm ordering at a restaurant.

    Parenting? Whew. I don't know. We don't have kids, but Mark (who gets more and more terrified of kids every time he sees one acting out in public), has starting male friends who he respects for advice on how they parent. This makes sense. If you want good advice, talk to people who you admire.

  4. To my friends who commented on this post: I did not delete your comments; Blogger ate them. They said they were giving them back, but they haven't yet. I just wanted to let you know that I'm not censoring you!