Thursday, November 21, 2013

I Don't Think I'm a Better Parent Than You

I wanted to set the record straight about something, since the way in which the Hubs and I have chosen to parent tends to get a bad rap in a few regards. Some of them (most of them) I can't do much about, but one I can and that's this-

JUDGMENT.

See, we attachment parent. We are baby wearing, non-circumcising, bed sharing, breastfeeding, cloth diapering, Dr Sears worshiping type folks. 

Trust me. I know. My son has been on this earth for six months and I think we've already heard it all already:

"You'll never get that baby out of your bed if you share with him now!" (For now, I think we're good, but if it turns out that he's 15 and still in our bed, I guess we'll admit you were right and go from there.)

"You...you share your bed? But...when do you have sex?!" (Not to put too fine a point on things, but we figured out pretty early on that sex doesn't require a bed, bedroom, or even being alone in the house. You get creative, which keeps things...interesting. Hey, you asked.)

"Your baby will never learn to walk/sit up/crawl/whatever if you carry him all the time!" (Wes is doing just fine with all of his milestones, thanks, and I don't have to worry about cramming a stroller through a too-narrow door when I'm out and about or trying to navigate rough terrain like festival grounds with one. My baby carriers are dead comfy and I was able to navigate two airports with Wes in my ring sling with almost zero fussing. Plus...he looks adorable in them.)

"You're still breastfeeding? You need to get that baby to learn to take a bottle!"
"I heard that there's no nutritive value to breastfeeding past four months."
"What're you going to be, one of those moms that breastfeeds until her kid is in college?"
(I love to breastfeed. Not only do I believe that it's best for my baby, but the World Health Organization, the American Association of Pediatrics, and a wide variety of other sources will back me up on that. Wes is only seven months old, so still very much a baby. I'd definitely like to think that he'll be weaned well before college age, although I'm unclear who those moms are that people refer to. I've never met one, although just for curiosity's sake I think I'd like to at least once in my life. Perhaps they'll be covered in National Geographic someday as some exotic tribe of lactationally gifted women. Dreams come true. I will say that I will breastfeed as long as both Wes and I choose to and I will not apologize for that. Who knows, we might get all crazy and do it in public. Stay tuned.)

I could go on and on. Really. When it comes to parenting, people seem to have the same boundaries as when it comes to pregnancy, which is to say "none." Everyone has an opinion, everyone has an idea, everyone's heard something from someone who heard something from someone who read something. It's all very involved and confrontational.

And I get it. Human beings are social, tribal dwellers. We believe that what's best for the tribe is best for the individual, which means that we tend to be deeply suspicious of individuals who deviate from the accepted norm. That was true of early man and it's still true in the produce section of the grocery store. So normally I try to respond to these criticisms and calls to question about my (very) personal parenting choices and then just rage about them later to my family and bestie on the phone in private. The "That's What I SHOULD Have Said" conversation is my wheelhouse.

But there is one assumption that people make about me when I tell people that we're attachment parenting that I couldn't let slide because...it hurts people. Not me, so much, but the people who are assuming that this particular thing is true about me:

I don't think that I'm a better parent than you.

Seriously. I don't. I'm not looking down on you for your choices, judging you for not doing things the way that I do them, sneering at you for using a stroller or formula, jeering at your behind your back because I think that I've got it all figured out. I'm not getting together with my other attachment parenting friends and exulting over the fact that, obviously, we are far superior parents and our children are going to grossly outstrip yours in happiness, healthiness, and prosperity. 

I have made choices about the way that we parent largely the same way that I think most people do: lots of reading, lots of praying, lots of research and back and forth, and some trial and error. I parent the way that I do because I truly believe that it's the best way to raise my child. Did you get that last part? MY child. See that? 

My philosophy on this is that I was given the children that I was for a specific purpose and you have the ones that you have for a specific purpose. I was prepared to raise the children that that I now have and the ones to come and I have been given special, Heavenly stewardship over these children. Just like you have over yours. So when I pray for inspiration or about a specific thing, I'm getting inspiration and confirmation/negation for my children. Not yours. Not all the children in my congregation at church. Definitely not all the children in the world. 

Just mine.

The answers to what will work for my children will oftentimes be different from what will work for yours. I will probably discipline my children differently, play with them differently, feed them differently, and teach them about Jesus differently than you. We may have some similarities in our approaches, but there are bound to be differences. And that's okay. You know why? Because we have different children to raise.

So, when you hear that I didn't circumcise my son and you ask why, I'll tell you. I'll tell you about the research that I did if you're interested and I'll tell you about the promptings that led to us choosing not to have it done. And I'll tell you that I feel good about that. That doesn't mean that I'm judging you if you chose to do it.

If you ask me about breastfeeding and why I'm still doing it, I'll tell you, if you really want to know. I'll tell you about the bonding that I experience when Wes and I spend that special time together, about how good I feel about being able to boost his little immune system, about how happy we both are that we have this sweet connection. And I'll tell you that I feel good about that. That doesn't mean that I'm judging you if you use formula.

If you ask me about co-sleeping or vaccine schedules, baby wearing or gentle discipline, or any of the other decisions that we've made about how we'll raise our children, I'll tell you. And if you want to talk about the research that I've done or why I ended up choosing to do what we do and how we do it, I'll tell you. But sharing that information isn't the same as judging you for coming to a different conclusion or doing something that works better with your lifestyle.

I don't think I'm a better parent than you are.
I think I'm muddling through this experience the same way that we all are.
I think that I'm having the same frustrations and fears when I'm up in the night with a sick baby.
I think that I'm scared that I'm screwing it all up just like you are.
I think that I love my baby with such an intense love that it makes me want to do the best possible job that I can - just like you.
And I think that I'm working hard at finding answers and figuring out what works - just like you.

1 comment:

  1. Being a mother means that you have a right and a gift to receive spiritual inspiration about how to raise your children. I am SO grateful for this gift. I have no idea if how I parent Seth is right, or if it's the best way in general. And I know I fail sometimes, and I don't give him what he really needs. But I know that the way I choose to parent is what Seth needs. Lately I've been noticing how others parent their own children, and I've realized that their styles wouldn't mesh with Seth's personality. YOU know Wesley. You KNOW what is right for HIM. I've just recently been in awe of this amazing gift that motherhood is, and how grateful I am to be inspired to raise Seth the way Heavenly Father would want.
    Sorry for rambling. Bottom line...I appreciate your post and I love you!

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