The more I am working on the revival of this blog, the more I realize that I want it to be more about the experience of being a parent than the nuts and bolts of parenting. So, I offer you my experience, because it is the only frame of reference I have, and I invite you – through comments, emails, etc. to share with me your experience.
When I was pregnant with my first child, my daughter Brady 5 years ago, I remember feeling the anticipation of joining the sisterhood of mothers. When I had a baby, I would hang out with other people who had babies, and we would enjoy each other, and each other’s babies, and then we would live happily ever after. I remember the first moment that dream was crushed. The exact details are unimportant, all that matters is that I had shared an intention I had in parenting my children, and was told by someone that it was “wrong.” Whoa. Hold the phone… WRONG? Really? The baby had not even entered the chill of this cold world, and I was already doing something WRONG??? I had read the books, gone to the classes, done the homework, and here I was, already failing the test.
I am sure that it says something about me (and I am not ashamed of this), that I had (and still do have) faith in the sisterhood. That we are all mature and confident enough to recognize each other as intelligent and thoughtful people, all of whom are able and obliged to gather information regarding our parenting decisions, and then make those decisions based on what is right for us and our families. Isn’t that what we’ve been fighting for since the dawn of time? It appears that, for now at least, this is not entirely so, and I can’t quite (still, 5 years later) put my finger on exactly what it is that makes this not so.
I suspect it is something like this; as parents, we take our job seriously (let’s face it, it is the most important job we’ll ever do). Is it possible that when we see someone else doing it differently than we are, our gut reaction is to defend “our way?” The flaw in this is that in our desire to affirm for ourselves our own path, we are in essence critiquing the path of another. The fall-out of such behavior is the exact opposite of a sisterhood, whether that is the intention, or not. I have seen it, and I am raising my hand, because I am guilty of it. (Seriously, I think we’ve all felt like a victim here, but I am admitting to also having been the perpetrator). Now, I want to be very clear that I don’t believe that we set out to alienate each other, but I see it as a by-product of our need to identify with parenting “camps” (as I call them). Whether it’s those who choose to breastfeed, those who choose not to, working moms, stay at home moms, those who send their children to school, those who choose to homeschool, cloth diapering, disposable diapering, sleep training, or not… just to name a small few of the boxes we separate ourselves into. We naturally flock to those who do it “our way” for support and advice, and (whether intentionally or unintentionally) alienate those who do it differently. We are passionate about our decisions, because again, it is the most important job we’ll ever do.
I am so troubled by this, because I see such a wide margin of good parenting. I wish we could move to a place of celebrating each other for making thoughtful and knowledgeable decisions about what works best in our own unique positions, rather than acting from a place of defending our decisions. I am afraid that the “mommy-wars” are not a myth, and I am sad.
My personal solution to this (and believe me, it is intensely flawed - I would even say that it sucks... you'll think that's funny in a second) is what I call “Hoover Parenting.” Parenting in a vacuum. It is isolating. I have consciously made a choice to not do parenting groups (like ECFE, or less structured “mommy groups"), I generally avoid “playdates,” and often will opt to find activities around the house rather than journeying out to the park. For me, any time I am exposing myself to others who could potentially judge me, I am vulnerable. Church is very difficult for me. I am a firm believer that children BELONG in church, and in order to learn how to behave, they have to be exposed to worship, but I am constantly aware of the faces of my fellow congregants when my pre-schooler is misbehaving, and allow it (and yes, this is my responsibility) to affect my own worship experience. I LOVE being a parent. I LOVE my kids. I HATE (and I am not quick to use that word) the mommy-wars.
I am aware of a website called “Moms Like Me.” I like the website, I like what it’s trying to do – connect moms, form a community, yes, please! However, I will take a small issue with the name. I propose that we don’t need to find the moms like us, we need to actively seek out moms that are NOT like us and seek to understand rather than be understood. This is a challenge (especially for a Hoover parent like myself) because it requires us to be vulnerable, and put aside our desire to satisfy others, but I have always believed that nothing about parenting should make you feel like a failure – because again, this is the most difficult job we will ever do! Imagine what it would be like if our first reaction to someone who did something differently from us was, “hmmmm… tell me more,” rather than, “well, that’s just not right?”
We’re all in this together, trying to raise good, productive members of society. Each of us is using our own unique gifts to work with our children’s unique gifts. So, for today, find a friend, and tell them what a great mom they are (without the sub context of playing down your own parenting), and let’s support the great work that we’re all doing – whether we’re doing it alike, or not.
(And as for myself, I’m going to try to get out of this parenting vacuum every once in a while – it’s getting a little messy in here).