In light of the recent TIME magazine cover stirring up so much talk about parenting styles I have found myself feeling inclined to defend my parenting choices. But I have remained quiet. Once you start to defend yourself everything goes to shit. How I choose to feed my kids, or where they sleep or how I discipline isn’t really up to the woman behind me in line at the grocery store that tries to strike up a conversation. And while it is not really up to my friends and family either I am fortunate enough to have trusting and understanding people around me that respect our decisions to parent our children in the best way we see fit.
I have tried to avoid the comments online. I don’t really need to know that strangers think nursing your toddler is disgusting and that bed-sharing is appalling. I am confident in my beliefs. I read. I researched. And then I listened to my heart. So far, so good. Em is almost seven. She loves me. She remembers nursing and speaks fondly of those stolen moments at night before she fell asleep as a nursing toddler. And she sleeps in her own bed now. Lucy will do all of those things, too.
I try very hard not to judge other mothers. “Mommy guilt,” the “mommy wars,” pretty much any descriptor that begins with “mommy” makes my skin crawl. They all seem to set up a divide. You’re in or you’re out. While I have dear friends that parent very differently than I do I know they love their kids. And that’s enough for me. And the Mommies that I don’t know personally? I try not to judge them, too. I try to assume (and yes, I know what happens when you assume) that they love their kids, too.
But don’t get me wrong. I do judge. Silently. On the inside. I try not to. I examine my instincts to question someone’s choices all while remaining indignant over the questioning of my own. Perhaps judge is the wrong word. There is not always a value associated with my thought process. Sometimes I just wonder why. Why wouldn’t you want to XYZ (insert a parenting technique that works for me.) While I do believe that many of the eight principles of attachment parenting truly do lay the groundwork for growing exceptional, kind and compassionate children I also believe that attachment parenting studies provide the research to support what I’d want to do anyway. Hold on. Tight. To that little creature that is gonna grow up so damn fast. Don’t miss a minute. And above all show and teach them loving kindness. While they eat, while they sleep, while they are disciplined. And as I said yesterday loving my people, that’s my jam. It rings my bell.
I saw a woman at the airport sitting next to her infant. She was reading a magazine. Baby had a bottle propped on a blanket in their carrier. “Bottle propping” is dangerous due to the risk of asphyxiation. There’s that. But the baby was eating. Alone. And Mom? She was reading a news magazine. There is nothing that makes you smile in a news magazine. It made me sad. Not the bottle, feed your kid what you want and how you want (unless, of course, you ask me what I think.) But the disconnect. The lack of joy.
There is so little opportunity to communicate with an infant successfully, so many moments when you wish you knew what they wanted or needed, when their crying little eyes stare in to yours and you hope against hope that they know you are trying so hard to understand and that you love them enough to walk through fire.
But the simple moment when a nursing baby (and I would assume it is true of a bottle fed baby, as well) looks up at you while they munch away with big, wide eyes and you say “You were hungry, baby?” I wouldn’t give that up. Not for a Newsweek. Because in that moment I know without a shred of doubt I am doing exactly what I need to be doing. I need those moments. You were hungry. I am feeding you. Win win. To push back to the back of my head all the moments where I thought “what the shit do you want?? You are fed and dry and rested!! Please!! I don’t speak baby!!!!” followed up with the over tired leap to “I am a FAILURE as a mother!!!!”
So, the bottle-propping mother gets a raised eyebrow. But alongside the judgement is a question. Don’t you know you’re missing it? A moment where you would be rewarded with a gold star on your Mommy Chart.
And then yesterday afternoon I was sitting with Lucy. I thought of that mother at the airport. It had been a long day. Lucy was eating. I chuckled. It’s not bottle propping if she can hold it herself, right? She is four months old and so capable and strong. Almost feeding herself, all fifteen independent little pounds of her. Too bad I couldn’t sneak away and pee all alone.