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Monday Morning Parenting: Finding Middle Ground

Monday, December 7, 2009

A few weeks ago I was watching Jane Goodall on The Daily Show with Jon Stewart Show, and she said something that really spoke to me. Her comment was that "any kind of fundamentalism is dangerous" in reference to a shame-on-you letter she received from PETA. The animal rights group took her to task for eating a birthday cake that had candles made from beeswax. Seriously?! In my humble opinion, this is yet another example of how our society has become so entrenched in our own little camps of pro-whatever or anti-whatever that we often go on the attack at the slightest provocation and alienate each other. This is never more alarmingly apparent than when you become parent. There are tons of parenting groups that advocate this or that, and they all want their members to follow their principles by the letter. But I have never had a group-think mentality, so I find myself on the outs with most parenting cliques just because I won't subscribe to all of their beliefs. Alpha moms?...too uptight. Beta moms?...too laid back. Me?...I'm somewhere in the middle. Call me Gamma Mom.

Like most new mommies, I read lots of parenting books and web sites and quickly realized that I didn't fit into any single category. Rather, I took bits and pieces that felt right from several different experts. For example, we did co-sleeping with Marlie until she was 8 weeks old and then transitioned her to the crib. If she is having a rough night, I feel no guilt about bringing her into our bedroom. I also believe in setting a feeding and sleeping routine, but don't believe in over-scheduling or being so inflexible with time that we'd skip a social event because it clashed with her nap time. I love the bonding of baby-wearing, but also encourage independent play time in her bouncy. I don't rush to pick her up every time she fusses, but never let her "cry it out." I believe it's okay to take the best parenting advice (defined as what works for your child) from a bunch of different sources and leave the rest on the table.

However, many of us are so rooted in the conviction that our parenting style is correct that we dismiss any other point of view. This is called throwing the baby out with the bath water. Or in extreme terms...fundamentalism, and like Ms. Goodall said, it is dangerous because it creates divisions. That hippie mom you turn your nose up at may have the perfect home remedy for your baby's chronic eczema. Likewise, that alpha mom you shake your head at may be able to help organize your neighborhood play group. We can only help each other if we don't remain so polarized.

How do you define yourself as a parent? Or, do you shun labels?


Serendipity said...

I am not a parent but I agree whole heartedly with your views on fundamentalism; variety is the key, and life would be very boring if we all fit exactly into one of a few strict lists of criteria! Visiting from SITS :)

Charlene said...

Hi SITStah! Absolutely. As with many thing, people sometimes have a hard time hearing others' perspectives and/or hold on to their own way of doing things too tightly. Sometimes it's insecurity, fear of being judged or just plain stubborness. But the reality is we're all just trying to do the best we can with what we know and raise happy, healthy kids. Nice blog!

Kimberly Grabinski said...

It all starts in high school...LOL

Like you are either in "this group" or "that group" or there is something wrong with you.

Like you, I read all the books and did what felt right for us and for each child, because yes, each one was different and different tactics worked better for us based upon their personalities.

I think in general women need to stop comparing, judging, (being envious) and worrying about what everyone else is doing and just step back realize that there is no one right answer and that we can ALL learn from each other.


The Redhead Riter said...

And that is why it is hard to be a woman...

So often women make no allowances for other women and yet they put up with FAR TOO MUCH from men. I just don't get it.

keyalus said...

I don't know how I define myself quite yet. I think I'm making it up as I go along.

I was very interested in natural childbirth and it seems to follow that a lot of those mommies are "attachment parents". I don't think that fits me 100% and maybe it is difficult because I work full-time. We do co-sleep (and strangely enough my husband is way more into this than I am!) and I like my Moby wrap but I love my swing too. I wanted breastfeeding to work but I've been pumping and doing some supplementing with formula for a long time now.

I don't have anything to say to any other mommy for doing what works for her. I don't presume someone is ignorant because they do things a certain way. I can't stand that mentality.

Stesha said...

Great post! I don't think I fit into a particular mold either. As you stated we can all learn something from each other. By "sticking ours noses up" at each other we are missing out on not only great advice, but possibly great friendships too!

Hugs and Mocha,

Anonymous said...

Love your views on parenting. And your post is very well written as always.
Every situation with babies is completely different.What to do or don't it depends on how the mother feels.
Much love and hugs hugs

Radical Selfie said...

Great post! Very though-provoking. I am whatever "type of parent" I need to be, and that fluctuates with each situation, and each child. Parenting is a dynamic responsibility that requires just as much flexibility as it does consistency. If we try to box ourselves (or other parents) into categories, we create a slippery scope for judgmental natures, little room for mistakes, and more. Where would that leave our children?

Unknown said...

Good one on Marlie and Me - it helps a lot!

We clearly share similar parenting experiences and views.
I've been reading one that I'm hooked on - http://todayscliche.com/.
I have a feeling you'd get a lot out of it.

Incredible job on your blog; keep it up.


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