Imagine two people – let’s say one is a tattoo artist, the other is a physicist – and they’re both passionate about what they do, and they share that passion with the people they know. Perhaps they talk about it a lot on Facebook and to their friends and family; maybe they even write a blog to a wider audience. How they’re spending their days differs wildly, but they have understanding of and respect for one another because they share an avidity for their lives and their careers. The physicist doesn’t need to think tattoos look good on people to appreciate the artwork itself, the tattooist doesn’t have to be interested in science to appreciate the value of what the physicist does, and they can both admire the dedication and care the other is investing in their jobs. These hypothetical folks co-exist happily, sharing and flaunting what brings them joy, and never bumping egos.
So why isn’t the same true of parenting?
Much of the online parenting community is rife with self-validation, which is fair enough, and in part why I write myself. What I don’t understand is why that self-validation often comes at the expense of other parents’ decisions and choices. I can’t think of anything else that is competitive in the same way, and it’s horrible.
I’m proud of my parenting and I’m proud of the changes I’ve made to my lifestyle since becoming a mum. Motherhood has healed my heart in a way no medication ever could and my son has touched me more deeply than even my husband or closest friends. And yes, I want to shout from the rooftops about babywearing and baby-led weaning and cloth nappies and cosleeping because those things are all part of my journey as a parent, and I think they’re wonderful. Through this blog I’ve connected with like-minded people, shared advice with those seeking it, and educated family members about my mental health and daily struggles (hi, Mum!). I’ve also helped myself reorder my thoughts which is a powerful tool when I’m sleep deprived and adjusting to changes in my meds.
What I’m not doing here is putting down anyone else’s parenting methods. I’m an expert on my child, not yours. Unless there is abuse or mistreatment involved I have no criticisms to make. I might analyse here or privately why I haven’t made the same choices, but that’s out of a desire to understand myself and my child better rather than a need to bash anyone else.
I don’t know whether as parents we find it difficult to accept the concept of ‘no right or wrong answer’; we invest so much energy and time into raising our children the best way, the right way, that to admit that it’s possible we could be doing it all differently is deflating. I know for my part one thing I find most difficult is that there is never the opportunity as a mother to sit back and admire my day’s work. My son is beautiful and it makes my heart sing to watch him sleep after a busy day exploring and growing, but the old adage “a mother’s work is never done” is true. Little T hasn’t finished so to speak, not in the same way Big T might complete a design project or I published an article before I was a mum. Parenting isn’t a job well done, it’s a job well doing, so it’s natural at the end of a difficult day to want to validate the whys and hows by talking about them, by giving yourself a pat on the back, by showing the world how hard, how thoughtfully, and how tirelessly you work to keep your child happy and healthy.
I’m sorry if anyone reading my blog feels that its content is an implicit attack on their choices. It honestly isn’t. It’s the ramblings of a new mother who for the first time in her life is doing something that makes her feel proud (and scared). If you don’t cosleep or babywear I won’t try to convert you. Even if you practise cry-it-out with your baby, my saying here that I won’t isn’t an attack on your choice to. It’s true that I struggle with it as a concept and if you want to have that debate with me that’s why my page is open to comments and email, and perhaps rather than boost our egos by stepping on each other we might actually learn something.
People should be able to disagree without it resorting to all out war.
Or maybe that’s just the new earth mother hippy in me talking. 😉