When I read Phyllis Rippeyoung's paper for the Canadian Centre for Policy Alternatives and wrote my post about it, something was bugging me. Rippeyoung's paper highlights what she sees as an immense societal pressure toward intensive motherhood (in other words, attachment parenting). At first, I thought it was just a tinge of defensiveness that was nagging at me. After all, while I don't think anyone should be pressured into a parenting style that doesn't work for them, attachment parenting was a style that worked well for us and I certainly didn't feel that it subjugated me as a woman, since we went down that path together as equal parents.
But after I while, I realized it wasn't just my defensiveness that made it not sit right with me. It was the fact that I felt an entirely different kind of pressure.
- "Put him down, stop spoiling him"
- "Don't you know that bed sharing could KILL YOUR BABY"
- "You have to let them cry, it is the only way they'll learn how to self soothe"
- "Don't you think it's time to start thinking about weaning?"
- "So, when does she start day care?"
- "Is she sleeping through the night?"
- "Maybe it's time for some tough love."
- "A 3 year old nursing? That's disgusting."
- "Time to get her on a schedule."
- "If you don't get that child out of your bed, you're going to destroy your marriage."
- "What do you mean you don't use time outs? If you don't punish your child, they won't learn who is boss. They'll walk all over you."
- "He'll never learn to walk if you keep carrying him."
- "She's nursing AGAIN. She just had a feed one hour ago."
Those were the words, but there were also the glares, the eye rolling, the blog posts, the books, the mainstream parenting magazines and websites. Plenty of resources out there to tell us that we were doing it wrong, that our children were going to be feral wild beasts incapable of doing anything on their own and still sleeping in our bed and suckling from my breast well into their teens.
It was more than enough to make people feel judged and even make some mothers fear going into mainstream public spaces where they thought they might be judged for their choices. In fact, it was a friend facing that exact fear as she prepared to go to her husband's company picnic, that inspired me to write Flaunt Your Crunch. That post, which was intended to give my friend a confidence boost, instead got me lots of flack from people who thought it was meant to put down others' parenting choices...and the circle continues.
It doesn't matter if you use a sling or a stroller -- someone will judge you. It doesn't matter if you breastfeed or formula feed -- someone will judge you. It doesn't matter if your child sleeps in your bed or if they are in a crib in their own room -- someone will judge you. And even when people are not judging you, you'll probably assume that they are.
While the judgement and the pressure is probably most intense during infancy, exacerbated by parental insecurity, it doesn't end there.
- Send your kids to school or homeschool?
- Sign them up for sports and arts or purposely avoid scheduled activities?
- Allow them to wander the neighbourhood on their own or protect them fiercely?
- Let them have candy on a regular basis or ban candy from your home?
- Put them in French immersion or don't?
- Let them have screen time during the school week or don't?
- Allow them to start drinking at home before they've reached the legal age?
- Let them have a boyfriend or girlfriend sleep over or have strict curfews and "the door always stays open and the feet on the ground" policy?
- ...and more.
Someone will always think you're doing it wrong. That is a guarantee. And the media will continue to take what they consider to be "extreme parenting" and put it on display, tear it apart, and pit us against each other.
The question is, when (or maybe more importantly HOW) will you, me and everyone else get the backbone to say "who cares?". When will we become confident enough in our well considered parenting choices to be able to look criticism in the face and either calmly refute it or shrug it off?
We're never going to get everyone to stop judging, ever. It won't happen, and to some extent I think that is a good thing. But we can all find a way to be confident in our own choices and open to the choices of others. That's not such a hard thing, or is it?
Photo used with permission from Kasey at Powersfullife.com