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?