So I had woken up with a whole different post in my head that I just had to get to the laptop to get out. First I signed on to Facebook, and at the top of my newsfeed I see a good friend has had the pleasure, again, of being verbally assaulted because of the way she is abusing her child. Now I can’t even remember what my initial post idea was.
Do you want to know the horror of what she’s doing to her child? Brace for it..
She breastfeeds. She nourishes her 13-month-old son in the most natural, health-beneficial way she possibly can. She is fortunate that she is able to. There are a lot of mothers out there that try and try but what is natural doesn’t come so naturally, for whatever reason, and so they pump or moves to formula – which is the best they can do for their child. And these mothers, too, are constantly receiving remarks that basically boil down to “Well, didn’t you try?” Surely, they must not have tried hard enough. Clearly, as onlookers, these people freely passing out comments, advice, and downright commands that whoever the mother is stops what she’s doing and start following the guidance of someone who obviously knows much more about the situation than the mother, who spends every waking moment caring for and thinking about what’s best for her child.
People. Stop. Just stop.
It breaks my heart that there are so many souls out there who would rather make a parent question themselves, make them feel that they’re doing anything less than what is the absolute best they can be doing for their own child, that no one else can ever imagine how much is loved by them.
I myself have been on the receiving end of quite forward judgements made by others. Both strangers and familiars alike have been sure to tell me what I’m doing wrong, and how I should be parenting.
I co-sleep. Don’t I know how terrible that is? Don’t I know that my little one will surely be smothered to death (despite the fact that millions of people for many, many years all over the world have carried on the tradition of the “family bed” without incident)? Oh, my child will never leave our bed now. Yes, as a teenager, my little love will surely be texting and calling her friends, snuggled up to mommy and daddy. What have I done?? If only I could have raised a baby that wanted nothing to do with physical contact and snuggling up next to me and her daddy, safe and letting all of us rest much easier. We never need to leave the bed in the middle of the night, and hardly wake-up. What was I thinking? Clearly I have made a grave mistake and these downers of advice-givers would know more about this than me. After all, SOME of them did have children many years ago, too. That pretty much makes them saints.
I breastfeed. At a bit over a year, I whip out my mummeries whenever and wherever I am to quickly and easily nourish, comfort, console, and calm my little one when she’s hungry, upset, afraid or tired. What a poor excuse of a parent I am. I’d go into all the details about why breastfeeding (if you can) is the best choice for babies and toddlers alike, but this post on Nine reasons my child is not “too old to breastfeed” is the BEST article I’ve ever read on the subject. I suggest everyone who ever has a fleeting thought about breastfeeding one way or another should read it. Go right now. I’ll wait.
Did you read it? Are we on the same page now? Great.
Another place I get a HUGE amount of flack from others about my parenting choices is the fact that we only intend on having this one. Back in my family-planning daydreaming days I just knew I’d be having 3 lovely children, at least one of each gender. Then 3 became 2 – a boy first, then a girl. Then we found out we were having a girl, and when she did come, after everything my body went through and the uncertainty and fear that I wouldn’t recover and would require intensive surgery to fix the very weird and scary things that were happening to my body even 7 months after giving birth, we changed our minds. Besides all of the reasons why we didn’t want to risk my body going through any more trauma it might not fully recover from (and I’m not talking about stretch marks or cellulite here), we love our little bean an incredible amount, and really have no desire to complicate that with another child, not now, and likely not ever. We’re happy and very content. Shouldn’t that be our choice? Wouldn’t we know best what is in the best interest of our family?
No, no. Other people are quick to point out that, despite this being our life and our feelings and our bodies and our goals and dreams for the future, onlookers should have first say in what happens for the rest of our parenting lives. It would be a HUGE disservice to have an only child. Never mind that there are many, many only children out there living happy, healthy, full lives, it would be abusive to not give our babe a brother or sister. Never mind the fact that our first would get less of our time and attention, never mind the fact that our stress would increase for the demands of another child and the financial strain that would bring with it. Never mind that our dreams of travelling with our little bug would be virtually impossible if we had to buy 4 plane tickets rather than the already expensive 3. Never mind that I wouldn’t get maternity leave again, we should be trying to conceive again already. And most important, never mind that we DON’T DESIRE another child. People don’t have children because they want and love them, right? They have them because others tell them they should.
Everyone has their own experience – their own mind and body, their own environment, their own surrounding influences on their lives. It is impossible to separate our own experience from the way in which we see the world, and what is true for us. I tend to agree with poststructuralist thought on “truth” – many different truths about the world are possible, and what is true for one person may not be applicable to another.
What we see as important, as fact, as true for us is dependant on the frame from which we view our own worlds. Just because something is truly the way it is in our world, at a specific place and time for us, does not mean it will be true for another person living a different experience. There is no one “right” way to do anything. What is labeled as “good” or “bad” is constantly changing. I see this most evident when it comes to parenting. For example, consider how at one time it was common fact that babies should always be put to sleep on their stomachs – not their backs – or they will die. Now the given advice from health professionals is that infants should ALWAYS sleep on their backs, or they’ll die. Simply because it may be true for one mother that it is best to follow a consistent bed-time routine at 7 o’clock each night, where the child is left to fall asleep on their own, does not make this true for every parent. We’re all just doing the best we can to do what we feel is “right” for our ourselves and our families. Right in the here. Right in the now.
There is no one “right” way to parent. Pointing out what another mom or dad is doing and saying it’s the “wrong” way (barring actual abusive situations), purely because it wasn’t the right choice for their own parenting journey, isn’t helping anyone.
I never want to make another parent feel that they are inferior, that they are doing anything less than the best way they can for their child and their family. Instead of offering unsolicited advice for what a parent should do, offer a pat on the back and an encouraging word for what they are doing. Building confidence in young parents is going to do a lot more good than making them question themselves and doubt that they do, in fact, know best how to care for their child.