I was totally on board with this post, until I got to this line:
There are some parents who can do all of this. They are those superhumans who can also knit clothes for their baby and pump gallons of milk from their own body. I envy them (and despise them!).
Blogger Rachel Engel writes about how she made all these plans for what life would be like after her baby came, and then came to find out none of those really worked for her. A classic scenario, and I think I can safely say we’ve all been there. Heck, I’ve written that post myself.
What were the things she wanted to do? Cloth diaper, breastfeed, no-TV-watching, make homemade baby food.
The trouble is, that’s what we do in our house. I am currently knitting Teddy a little hat. Our cloth diapers are drying out on the clothes line. I nursed him just before I left the house today to write, and there’s frozen milk in the freezer. I don’t “make” baby food, but Teddy eats regular, homemade food, not from jars. We don’t have the TV on when he’s awake.
And I resent being called “superhuman.” To me, it implies that I don’t work hard to make these things happen, and instead that I’m just somehow naturally gifted in the laundry department or something. don’t have any problem with the way Engel chooses to parent her little girl. But why does she have to dump on the way I choose to do it? Or rather, on me?
I brought this up to Liz. We pondered it together. She agreed. What we both wanted to say was something along the lines of, “I’m not a superhuman. These are just the ways I choose to do things, and I work hard at them because the reflect my priorities.”
But then we agreed on something else: there is really no way to say that that doesn’t make you sound like a douchebag.
It’s so hard to talk about parenting because anything you say about how you choose to do it seems to also be saying, “If you don’t do it this way, you suck.” Even if you try really hard not to say that. Even if you don’t believe it.
I parent the way I parent because I believe its the right thing for me and for my kid. It may not be the right fit for every family. It’s way more important that something works for a family than doing anything the “right” way. “Right” is a sliding scale.
I can say this out loud and believe it, but somehow, it never fails to come out awkward.
Like last week, when I visited an old friend of mine who has a young baby. My friend, a wonderful, caring, thoughtful and well-educated woman, has made very different choices than me as a parent. She follows a feeding schedule with her son and puts him to sleep in a crib, when we feed on demand and co-sleep. Maybe I was making it up, but I couldn’t help feeling the tension during our visit.
A lot of it stems from my own insecurity. Am I making the right choices? They’re working for us. But there’s always that latent fear that something you do as a parent will make your child into a monster. And while this dear friend didn’t say it to me, I’ve been told by others that follow her parenting philosophy that mine will do so – that Teddy will be a manipulative, needy egomaniac/sociopath because I feed him whenever he’s hungry.
So, these thoughts are lurking in the back of my mind while I see said parenting book on her coffee table. Later, she asked, “So, does Teddy still sleep in your bed?”
Oof. The answer to that question is yes, but I couldn’t help wondering what she was thinking when she asked it. Because while I don’t have any reason to believe she’s judging me, I still fear it. I firmly believe that what we’re doing with our kid works for us and works for him, but there’s always the nagging doubt that I’m wrong. That things could be better.
I think I made some passing comments about how each family does it differently, and whatever works for you is the thing that matters.
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