One resounding theme which I have been struggling to express on this blog is to clearly articulate the importance, and our apparent loss of the ability to, openly discuss parenting styles and have open-minded dialog about raising children.
I am fairly new to motherhood (a 3 year old and a 10 month old) but I’m not a youngster myself (38). I was shocked to be welcomed into motherhood with a constant barrage of people’s opinions on how to raise my children. The advice (almost always un-welcomed and in the form of instructions, not really useful advice) was hurled at me very pointedly from every opposing direction you can imagine. And it was always with the intent I was somehow endangering or mis-raising my child. A small snip-it of the many examples include:
- I was carrying my son in a strap on carrier with his body facing mine. He had a bad habit of pushing his feet up against me so he could lean his head back and look at the ceiling (ceiling fans and lights are more interesting than mom’s chest) and as soon as I would adjust him back into position, he would do it again. So I gave up and began using my hand to support his head a little bit and just left him like that. While I was in a store one time, a woman came over to me and said I was carrying my son wrong and I was straining his neck and literally would not listen to a word I said nor would she let me pass until I adjusted him in the carrier.
- My son was very hot natured. I started off like any mom with putting hats on his head and heavy coats when we went outside. He started getting a weird rash on his head and neck so I took him to the doctor. The doctor said it was heat rash and I should not put caps on him. A few days later, I took him out for a walk in 50 degree weather in his stroller with a coat on. A man who coached a toddler soccer class across the street from us literally yelled at me as I started going down the sidewalk. “Put a hat on the baby’s head! Babies loose 90% of their body heat through their head. Here, let me help you.” And he proceeded to leave his class to come over to talk to me. I just walked off, I was so mad for someone to think I needed to explain myself and my parenting decisions to them.
- I took my son to an indoor playground with other toddlers. He was climbing up on a play area and fell so he started to cry. I started to get up to pick him up and a stranger touched my arm and said, “Sit down. If you get up every time they cry, you’ll spoil them and they will cry about everything.” I thanked her for her advice but opted to pick him up and she snidely says, “Your going to regret that some day.”
Instead of having open conversations to learn about different parenting styles, since as parents we are all in this together really, we treat parenting styles like we do religion and politics. The fastest way to get into an flaming argument over a small disagreement is to discuss parenting, religion or politics. Except, it’s worse when you are a parent. Strangers don’t usually walk up to you and say, “Hey I see you have a Socialist bumper sticker on your car…You can’t do that! Take it off or I won’t let you leave.” But for some reason, if you have a child with you…they feel free to say and do whatever they want to with no social stigma attached. I’ve never had a stranger approach me and offer me advice about anything…except parenting.
Furthermore, it seems to be mainly a woman thing. Men don’t seem to notice or care how other men father their children. They will discuss things on occasion (mainly complaining about their wives LOL) but otherwise, they don’t usually get up in arms about parenting. As women, we do this to ourselves. We are so worried about being perfect mothers, we are afraid to be honest. And we are so judgmental about kids being raised right, we can’t see past our own viewpoint to entertain other ideas. As women, we should be lifting each other up and giving support rather than judging each other and tearing each other down.
My best example…since the time my son was about 9 months old, I have been a member of a mommy’s playgroup. We work together to put on educational activities, play activities and whatnot for our kids. The group is actually very diverse, with lots of parenting styles, lots of different races and religions. We also have differing political views and socioeconomic statuses. But yet, this group works! Our numbers fluctuate from around 25-50 due to people moving, kids growing up, new kids on the way, etc. but the same basic group of about 20 women have stayed. The reason is because we are tolerant and as a result, we are able to openly discuss parenting and how each woman handles each stage of life. I can honestly say, if it were not for being in a group of women like this, I’m not sure how I would have survived parenting so far. I have learned and adopted into my lifestyle so many new things I would not have tried on my own had I just followed the way I was raised. It has truly been a blessing.
My worst example…there is a woman in my life whom I respect, but we have very different parenting styles. As a result, almost every time we have seen her (about once or twice a month) I hear some sort of derogatory comments about my parenting choices. They range from, “Mason is so depressed all the time, you are too hard on him” to “You’re going to break his spirit” to something about how I brainwashed my kid to think he is a “bad boy”, which I can assure you…never happened! It has been very hard on me. People tell me to ignore the comments but as a mother it is hard. We always second guess ourselves anyway and to have someone over your shoulder trying to solidify those feelings…it’s really tough.
We are pulled in so many different directions as mothers. The truth stays true, no one person is perfect and no one parenting style is without drawbacks and rewards. I just encourage each of us to remain open minded as we discuss parenting and if we disagree, do so with respect and not hatred.