I’m going to do my best to stay off my soapbox for this one, but there are a couple of things I’ve run across lately that have got me thinking that we, as people (as well as parents, for those of us who are), need to be careful in how we discuss mothering with, well, mothers.
1. A car sticker: I’m a breastfeeding, cloth diapering, co-sleeping, babywearing kinda mama.
2. A woman posts a picture of her child sleeping in their car seat on a Facebook group asking for advice on how to keep the child’s head from flopping forward. Opinions ranged across the board.
4. Parents from the previous generations.
The first example comes from one of my many morning walks. I stumbled across this car sticker while enjoying the coolness of the early morning with my daughter. At first I thought, WOW! I need one of those! because I have strong opinions about the benefits of each of those topics. However, the longer I thought about it while walking, the more I disliked the ring the sticker had. It sounded snooty. No, that’s not what the mama who owned the car surely intended it to sound like, but I nonetheless felt that things like this help form rifts in the parenting community–and if you’ve not yet seen any of those blowups, you’re one lucky person! They get ugly. Fast.
Example two happened yesterday. As one who genuinely just wanted to help the mama, as most who posted, I put in my two cents. I’ve used the velcro strap covers to keep my own daughter’s head from bobbling around, with great results and NO threat to her safety (as I’m a stickler for ensuring the chest harness is lined with her armpits). However, I was immediately jumped on–shut down, if you will–by some other mama who said she as a child passenger safety tech (CPST), who immediately told me that I was doing it wrong and threatening my child’s life. I’m sorry to say, there’s nothing that pushes my hot button more than when someone just shuts me down. (I was nice enough to say “Thank you, I didn’t know,” and keep my mouth shut. Sadly, the debate is still raging–other mamas have offered similar advice to mine and have been likewise corrected by others who are CPST’s or who’ve done more reading on the topic.)
The Hastags idea came from a post I read just this morning. I actually really enjoyed Mandi’s thoughts on the subject and agree with her on quite a few things. My own thoughts, as they pertain to hashtags and parenting, stem from the numerous Facebook and Twitter posts of children who exhibit a certain “gender-prone” behavior at young ages while playing, which their parents brag about for one reason or another. I honestly don’t understand it at all, and it again causes unnecessary flareups that can get quite nasty. Everyone has their own opinions on gender roles and children, and that’s their own business (in my book), but why have we stopped letting kids just play without having to label it as one thing or another?
And, of course, everyone who becomes a parent inevitably runs into a difference of opinions with those who’ve parented before them. There are many stories I’ve read about and discussed with friends, including horrifying stories of people rushing over to mothers who babywear swearing that their child will fall off their backs and yanking at the baby–which is dangerous to the child’s safety and well being; arguments over cloth diapering and formula feeding; pediatricians who, not understanding different methods like Baby-Led Weaning, scoff at it and tell the parents to try something else rather than do the research and make an informed opinion. The list goes on. While I’m one to say that we’re a hearty race not prone to dying off, or else we would have done so long before now, I also believe that sometimes well-intentioned former parents ought to let us newbies find our own way (and not snort when we make mistakes). Some of the “new” ways (like those mentioned in the car sticker), which are actually quite old and time-tested, are not bad ways…they’re just different.
Parenting is as dividing a topic as it is a blessing, and it can really stress new moms (and dads) out. They’re already stressed out enough trying to figure out who to change diapers and get their kids to eat enough food to keep gaining weight (my latest challenge). The last thing any current parent needs is to be harped on for the choices they’ve made.
So let me finish by saying this:
Each and every person’s situation is unique to their family. Each parent makes the choices they do based on their specific needs. Cloth diapering? Great! But a lot of people simply don’t feel like they have the time and energy to do it, and that’s okay. Want to use a pacifier right out of the hospital because it gives you a little break from breastfeeding? You’re not alone. You’re making the best decisions you can based on your circumstances. Freaking out about car safety? Why not become a CPST? And, just so you know, I’m grateful to the lady who informed me of the risks associated with aftermarket velco straps, though I wish she’d come across in a different manner.
You, mama, are doing a good job! Don’t let anyone tell you differently. It’s hard being a parent, and while we might have past examples to help us along, our situation is still different. We’re still blind because, loving help from grandparents or not, it’s us doing the job this time and we’ve never done it before. Keep your chin up. You’re doing a good job.
Babywearing: Babywearing International, Inc., Facebook groups–Babywearing 101 and Everyday Babywearing
Breastfeeding: La Leche League, International