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DWYNTD Parenting (or Yes, I Just Learned about Natural Parenting)

Some people believe I’m a great parent.  They even leave comments telling me such, usually after I write a post where I’ve described a parenting moment where they thought I did a good job navigating the twins’ batshit insane questions or heart-stopping commentary, such as this recent post on the ChickieNob’s desire for a Baby Alive doll and our subsequent conversation about pregnancy and infant loss.  I mostly agree with them; I think parenting is a place I excel, especially explaining the world in age-appropriate ways.  I have relatively easy charges, but I still think I put in a good days’ work to warrant my usage of the World’s Best Mother mug in the cabinet.

I am also pretty much as far as you can get from being a natural parent.*

We never considered a midwife or doula or homebirth, even though we knew those options existed.  I delivered the twins in an operating room with an emergency epidural in my back, and it not only didn’t bother me, but I thought the hospital’s protocol made perfect sense.  We formula fed the twins with bottles.  We used disposable diapers.  They spent about two nights in our room in a pack-n-play, but their heart monitors were so loud that we quickly moved them into their room so no group bed.  I used a baby carrier from time to time, but not mindfully.  It was for me; not for them. (I also didn’t use a stroller from the second they could walk and beyond.  I was not going to throw out my back lugging a double stroller in and out of the car when the Lord gave them four perfectly acceptable toddler legs.  Two each, I mean.)  We don’t homeschool, we don’t unschool, we don’t free range parent.  We have a penchant for plastic toys.  We vaccinate.  And — this might be the icing on the non-natural cake — I gave into their request for Capri Sun this summer.  I’m sure if I kept writing this paragraph, I could think of more things to add.**

On the other hand, I also made all of their baby food.  And practice sustainable living.  And let them make all of their own decisions unless it comes down to safety or sanity.  And they keep kosher, which is a mindful, cruelty-reducing way of eating.  And they do volunteer work and recycle, not because we tell them but because it’s self-led and what they want to do.  And I think we’ve established that I am overly respectful of their autonomy down to not posting their picture online and clearing subject matter with them.

The point:

We can look at one person — for instance, me — and see that I embody some things that people admire and other things that the very same people would never want to emulate.  I do a fine job explaining terrorism to small children, but now you also know that even though my friends were all into cloth diapering, I purchased disposable ones.  I knew and had support for all the options out there, and these were the ones I chose.  I can be both a “great” mum and a “terrible” mum in the same breath because human beings are complex, and with few exceptions, we don’t fall neatly into categories such as completely fantastic or completely awful.  Most of us exist in this middle ground of admirable and despicable qualities, by which I mean that they are admirable or despicable to the outsider. (I obviously think all of my choices were good-enough to good choices.)

Outsiders judge, but insiders know that sometimes our decisions aren’t even really decisions at all.  I mean, I didn’t decide not to buy a Mercedes; I didn’t buy a Mercedes because we don’t have the money for that particular car.  And I didn’t decide to deliver in an operating room; that was the option given to me by the hospital where I was brought to deliver because we had an emergency situation.  But in the end, I’m happy with the car we got because we own a car; and I’m happy with the delivery we had because it brought me to these two little people (who I happen to think are amazing and wonderful) who eat at my breakfast table every morning.  Knowing the otherwise that so many of my friends in the blogosphere live every day, I don’t think I have a right to complain even if I wanted to.  But the point is that our choices sometimes have limits and those limits are our circumstances.  And sometimes those circumstances are the children we get — they don’t neatly fold themselves into the parenting philosophies we wish to follow — or the people we are — as much as we’d like to be the type who engages in babywearing, our back or work schedule precludes it.

And when that occurs, we can either feel guilty or we can laugh.

*******

One of my yoga teachers calls me the Laugher. (The unfortunate consequence is that no one in class knows my name, and I guess they feel awkward calling me Laugher outside of class because when they see me, they throw out a completely random woman’s name as if I’m Rumpelstiltskin and they’re trying to guess my secret name so I don’t run off with their children.)  When she calls out a position in class that I know I can’t do or don’t feel like trying, I sit down on my mat and laugh.  I’m not laughing at her, nor am I even laughing at myself.  It’s just a reaction instead of calling out, “oh well.”  I sit on my mat and take it as an opportunity to have a drink of water and watch everyone else fold themselves into these amazing binds and inversions.

I guess I choose to meet the concept of the Mommy Wars with laughter.  The only place I encounter the anger is here online, but that could be because I surround myself in the face-to-face world with people who support my decisions even if they wouldn’t choose them for themselves.  So I am being upfront by telling you that I not only won’t engage in arguing in my comment section, but I choose to read posts or comments denouncing certain parenting options with laughter.  Not a mean-spirited snort, but a reaction instead of calling out a happy-with-myself-and-sure-in-my-decision “oh well.”  There were choices I chose not to explore; birthing options, intactivism, cloth diapering.  And there were parenting choices that were removed as an option due to circumstances — they were Mercedes, as it were, and we didn’t have the cash.  For those, I feel sadness about the loss of experience, but no sadness over the choices we made.  I have well-mannered, happy, healthy seven-year-old twins.  I would be insane to ignore that fact in order to reach backwards.

So in the proverbial Mommy Wars, I’m meeting angry comments or self-satisfied sanctimony with kind laughter.

*******

I don’t have a name for my brand of parenting.  And I’m going to be honest since this is simply my truth (as it should be since this is my blog).  I don’t believe in parenting philosophies with names.  At all.  Period.  I don’t believe that parenting ideas should be akin to religion and that we should worship at the altar of parenting deities.  I don’t believe that parenting books are Bibles.  That is what works for me, though maybe this eschewing of parenting movements doesn’t work for you.  And that is fine; I fully support other people buying into full, prix fixe ideas rather than approaching parenting a la carte.  Neither way is better than the other, though my heart can only feel comfortable on one of those two paths.

When people attempt to convince me otherwise, I meet them with kind laughter since the only person whose opinion about my parenting matters in my life is my own (the twins and Josh are a close second and third); I am the only person who knows whether she feels like she can hold her head high and drink from the World’s Best Mother mug.

And yeah, most days I think I can drink from the World’s Best Mother mug without the ground opening up to swallow me for my hubris.

If you made me summarize my method of a la carte parenting, I would probably label it: Do What You Need to Do parenting (DWYNTD).  And I would describe what I do as such:

  • It’s an a la carte approach where you look at the multitude of options before you; weigh them against your emotional capital, financial reality, support system, physical landscape, time allotment, and actual child in hand; and then make a decision that works for you and your family.
  • You remove all labels, all external pressure, all judgment, and simply parent.
  • You look to parenting books for advice and then shut them the moment you find something that resonates with you.
  • You do things because they work for you and not because they work for someone else.
  • You think before you act, and you turn inward instead of outward to check your parenting compass.
  • And you do all of this without guilt knowing full well that the majority of life is outside your control and that so much of prix fixe parenting philosophies is simply about trying to believe there is a way to control a chaotic world.  That there is anything we can do to guarantee that our child will not only grow up to do something amazing and be healthy and bright, but they will still want to hang out with us when they’re adults.  DWYNTD parents make the best decisions they can make and try not to fuck-up enormously, and trust that if they build a happy home, their kids will probably want to return to it.  But nothing in life is a guarantee.
  • Worrying about the future is totally acceptable in DWYNTD parenting, but regrets about the past should be kept to a minimum.  We make the best decisions we can make in the moment and move on.
  • And absolutely, without a doubt, DWYNTD parenting is not the best for all children, though it’s definitely the best for mine and it could be the best for yours too.  But I wouldn’t know about your kid because the only kids I know are the ones that live in my house.

Why don’t I believe in parenting philosophies with names?  Because they create as many problems as they solve.

I know that some people need to label things in order to bond together, to find their niche or support.  And while I think that is well and good on one hand (and it can certainly be beneficial), it can be dangerous on the other when people stop asking themselves what parts of a certain parenting philosophy work for the family and the children they have, and change it to be what more can they do to fit a certain parenting philosophy.  I think this is especially dangerous when you have a child who doesn’t fit with the average child who could benefit from that parenting idea.  Children — like the adults they become — are not one size fits all.

I spend a lot of time reading blog posts where people are stressed beyond belief over an aspect or two of a parenting philosophy, and I don’t understand why they continue on a path that isn’t working for them or their child except the constant refrain comes back to the idea that this is something they have to follow if they want to be part of X movement.  I also don’t really understand how people can choose how they want to parent before they have children.  It makes no sense to commit to a certain type of parenting before you see if the type of child you have would benefit from those parenting ideas.  It would be like committing to a college as a five-year-old without any idea of what you want to study or what school would fit your learning needs best when you’re eighteen.  Every single baby is different simply because every single person is different.  Not every baby likes to be held and not every baby can handle the gel used in disposable diapers.

People asked me what I thought about “natural parenting.”  I can’t get up in arms because there’s another new parenting philosophy on the block that insists it’s “better for parents, better for babies and better for the earth. It really IS a much better way!,” especially when we all know that parenting philosophies are here and gone in a New York minute when we consider the scope of parenting from 65 million years ago until now.  Natural parenting is an eye blink on the continuum of parenting philosophies to be replaced by something else or the exact same thing with a new name come the next generation.  The parenting item industry cannot exist if people don’t switch ideas every few years and require a whole new slew of books and gadgets in order to keep up with the Jones’.  This isn’t to diminish the validity of natural parenting, but instead to put it in its place.  Aspects of all these parenting philosophies can be found all over the world and throughout different moments of time, sometimes even with the exact same elements but a different name, and they’re repackaged over and over again by people saying they want to give you guidance, which they have to state is the best guidance or else you might not follow them.

But I don’t need guidance because I’ve got my own internal compass.  And when that fails, I have family and friends to support me — which is what the majority of cultures practice; the passing of parenting information from family member to family member or elders to youngers.  And when that fails as it sometimes does with the modern nuclear family, I know where to look for answers to my individual questions.  And when all back-up systems fail, I sit down and laugh.  Or I cry.  Or I do whatever I need to do to get through the moment.

Perhaps I don’t buy into the idea that you need a label in order to get support because the parents I respect the most, the ones I turn to for advice, parent differently from Josh and myself.  I gather support and advice from them simply because I think they are smart.  They are sensible and have a good head on their shoulders and often point out something I missed.  My parenting tribe is made up of breastfeeders and bottle feeders, cloth diaper-ers and disposable diaper-ers, cry-it-outers and never-cry-it-outers, stay-at-homes and work-at-homes and work-out-of-the-homes, parents and non-parents.  I’ve had breastfeeders give me advice on weaning the bottle.  I’ve had cry-it-outers point me towards Elizabeth Pantley’s books.  And I’ve gotten some of my best advice from people who aren’t parents but are simply intuitive about my particular children. The reality is that we all contain knowledge that we can give away to others, some that we used ourselves and some we collected along the way.

People can judge me all they want, but if they can do that, I also have the choice to ignore their judgment, and yes, laugh.  At the end of the day, I’m just a fallible parent like all parents.  There is nothing I can do except use my intuition and give my best effort.  If you’ve ever read Stirrup Queens and thought that I’m a good parent, I hope that you can balance that thought with anything you learned about me from this post.  You may not be quite as impressed with my parenting now that you know the choices I made for them from birth until now (including the Capri Sun).  But that fact alone is why I choose a la carte parenting over a prix fixe idea.  Because people rarely fit into the neat boxes others create for us.  And when we try to squeeze ourselves into those boxes, we do so at the expense of our selves — our sanity, our happiness, our confidence.

You are a great parent or parent-to-be who can pick and choose what works for you (and perhaps that choice coincidentally includes every option within a certain parenting philosophy).  I am also a great parent who can pick and choose what works for me.  And just as we don’t all sit down in the cafeteria with the same meal, and we don’t judge each other for picking the spaghetti option vs. the chicken sandwich option, I’d like to believe that all humans can sit down in the same cafeteria (parents of living children, parents of deceased children, parents of not-yet children, and people never to be parents) and respect each other’s decisions without having to make anyone else feel like crap for their choices when they don’t directly impact us.

It is fine to judge me when my choices affect you; for when my children accost you with their nipples.  Don’t judge me for the fact that I put a bottle nipple that never affected you into my child’s mouth.  Or, actually, fine, go ahead and judge.  But the only thing you’ll hear is me laughing; again, not a mean-spirited snort but a gentle reminder that the world is hard enough without making it harder on each other by trying to diminish each other’s self-esteem or in pushing ourselves to do something that makes us uncomfortable or frustrated.

* I am also non-natural in the sense that I lost five pregnancies prior to creating the twins via completely unnatural means, but I’m going to guess that isn’t part of the definition of natural parenting, nu?

** For the love, I’m going to say this once, loud and clear, which I say all the time on my blog: I respect and sometimes even admire your choices, even if they’re not choices I’ve made for my kids.  So yes, I am fully supportive of unmedicated childbirth, breastfeeding, cloth diapers, family beds, babywearing, homeschooling, unschooling, free range parenting, banishing high fructose corn syrup and eschewing plastic toys.  My friends and family members, who I personally believe rock as parents, have chosen some of these things and can vouch that from holding their breast in order to help with breastfeeding (you know who you are…) to buying them baby carriers, I fully support all the other roads not taken.  The roads I didn’t take weren’t taken not because I negatively judge those choices but because they didn’t fit with the children we got. (Or the parents they got… by which I mean Josh and myself.  Damn that was awkwardly worded.)

Photo Credit: Simplyla via Flickr

38 comments

1 Tio { 06.04.12 at 8:50 am }

“turn inward instead of outward to check your parenting compass.” I want to paint this on the ceiling above my bed so that can’t forget it. Best. Advice. Ever.

2 jodifur { 06.04.12 at 8:52 am }

One of my best friends is a rabbi. And she once told me that most people pick and chose what aspects of religion they want to follow. For example, someone may keep kosher but not shabbat. Someone else may keep kosher inside the house but not outside.

I think the same is true for parenting. My big thing is food. We eat all organic, no food die, no HFCS INSIDE my house. But when we go to a birthday party, I let him eat the cake. I have also always been really nutty about bedtime. Bedtime is bedtime and that is just the way it is. But I’m lenient about other stuff. he probably watches WAY too much tv and plays too much wii. Like religion, we all probably pick and choose what is important to us.

Sorry for spitting up all over your comment section.

3 Marianne { 06.04.12 at 8:53 am }

Oh I needed this post. I feel the same way but it’s hard when many mothers I talk to have specific parenting philosophies they follow. We inadvertently follow many attachment parenting philosophies because that’s what my daughter seems to need and it truthfully has made life easier. To each their own and may we all support each other!!! Thanks Mel!

4 Lacie { 06.04.12 at 9:19 am }

” I don’t believe that parenting ideas should be akin to religion and that we should worship at the altar of parenting deities.”

You are spot on. I loved this post. I actually researched the hell out of cloth diapers while I was undergoing fertility treatments. I was absolutely positive that I would use them. I secretly judged those who were using “sposies.” While my friends and family were so very generous with the gifts I received for my son, not one person purchased the cloth diapering supplies on my registries. Instead, my great-grandmother surprises me with a case of Huggies now and then and my mom takes me to Costco for diapers and wipes. I have yet to actually foot the bill for diapers. So, disposables is what we are using because it makes perfect sense for us right now. I’d love to try cloth, but not if things continue the way they are going. This along with many, many other facets of parenting, I am learning as I go. A big part of it is learning to let go as well.

5 Chickenpig { 06.04.12 at 9:29 am }

I parent this way also. I bought all the baby books I could find, read them, and did what resonated with me the best I knew how. I still read parenting books to get ideas, especially creative ones. But if what I try with my kids doesn’t work, even if I thought it would be awesome, I don’t do it. Parents identify with a style of parenting because it says something about themselves. They want to be a [fill in the blank] parent, so they are. I have problems with that because it reminds me too much of high school. Kids sit over there because they’re jocks, kids sit over there because they’re nerds…but what if you’re just trying to eat your lunch? When push comes to shove, babies don’t care. If they are being fed promptly, they don’t care if it’s formula. If their diaper is being changed, they don’t care if it’s cloth or paper. If your child is healthy and your child is happy, you’re doing a good job. I know what a bad parent is, and if you’ve taken the time to read books, observe other parents and their children, brought your kid to a doctor and a dentist, and tried to make informed decisions then you’re not a bad parent. Bad parents don’t think, bad parents don’t care, and bad parents don’t have healthy, happy kids. Bad parents put their kid in a closet so they can play video games and feed that kids nothing but raw hot dogs. (true story)*. Those are the parents we need to be judging.

*Thankfully, those parents put their child in pre school, where my mom was a teacher, who found out about how the boy spent most of his evenings/weekends, and reported it.

6 loribeth { 06.04.12 at 9:54 am }

Love this, Mel. I can never understand why people get so worked up when others make different choices — about anything in life — especially when they’re not hurting anyone else with their actions.

7 Cece { 06.04.12 at 9:56 am }

I’ve been thinking about this a lot lately. When I very first gave birth to my son (after years of ectopics and m/c and IVF) I was a wreck. Like you, I was one of the few people that didn’t have my breast milk came in, and I struggled so hard with the decision to formula feed. My husband finally sat me down and said YOU know what is right for YOUR son. No blog or book or website or LC is going to know better than you. YOU are his mom.

And as the years go on, and you see the kids and parents who parent very differently – all these kids turn out fine. Yes, different quirks, maybe some have more issues than others, but if they are in a loving environment, they are ok. And I know that I offer unconditional love. And yes, freeze pops. Sue me.

8 Sunny { 06.04.12 at 10:25 am }

Amen! A friend and I were talking about this the other day. There are some aspects of our family that fall into a category (such as attachment parenting: co-sleeping, babywearing, extended breastfeeding) but I am not an attachment parent by any stretch. It’s just that those things work for us, and other parts of that particular philosophy don’t. Hell, I have four kids under the age of five, my overall parenting philosophy at the moment is LET’S ALL TRY TO SURVIVE THE DAY. It seems like some people who adhere to rigid parenting doctrine and look down at the rest of us are hiding their own insecurities. To each his own!

9 HereWeGoAJen { 06.04.12 at 10:28 am }

That is exactly my philosophy for parenting too. Whatever Works. And I used those cloth diapers in that picture, but I do not care if other people use disposables at all. Why should I? I have never understood why people think other people’s decisions influence them.

10 a { 06.04.12 at 11:04 am }

Amen, sister!

I am sometimes a good parent. I am sometimes an awful parent. I rarely worry about what other people are doing…except for activities. I am totally conflicted on the activities idea. We could send our daughter to anything she’d like to try, but I’m not interested in carting her around all over the earth. If she’s in daycare, her days are long and adding things at the end of the day would be too much (for me and for her). And we have stuff to do on weekends. But I wonder if I’m holding her back from being some sort of superstar at something. Oh well, she likes her swim lessons and she enjoys adding, so I keep buying her workbooks. She’s got her whole life to figure it out. Why add pressure now?

(I think I do most of my judging when people are being clueless or smug. I don’t generally care how you raise your kids unless a) they’re mistreating mine, b) you’re complaining about their behavior while feeding them candy or caffeine, or c) you’re sneering at me for giving my girl M&Ms as you feed your child organic fruit snacks (which are still candy).)

11 Ana { 06.04.12 at 11:26 am }

Brilliant. I was going to write pretty much the exact same things about “parenting philosophies”, so now I can do work instead. I’ve read other posts recently saying that it is impossible to not be judgemental when people are parenting differently than you are, since you must truly believe your way is best. I wholeheartedly disagree with that, as it seems you do. I really truly do what works for MY family, with absolutely no notion that my choices are sure to lead to better long-term outcomes. Also, I rarely read/hear parents of older kids talk about this stuff—its mostly newborn/toddler moms (yes, moms…also rarely hear dads talk about it IRL, though some do write the books). So either its just not in the forefront of your mind anymore with a tween, or it all fell apart and you realize the “philosophies” aren’t all that helpful anymore.

12 St. Elsewhere { 06.04.12 at 12:00 pm }

Okay, what did I miss? Why are there mommy war posts erupting in the blogosphere?

Anyways, I found myself liking what I read. Good job, Mel!

13 It Is What It Is { 06.04.12 at 12:28 pm }

My guiding philosophy in life is to live and let live. It started when I was very young and has really been my compass. I may make different choices than you and some of your choices may even get me to cock my head in wonder, but I don’t judge you and I don’t get involved with your choices and I expect/demand the same in return. Oh, you could try to judge me for packing a store bought single serving bag of chips in my son’s lunch, but you’ll be alone in your judgement because I simply don’t care what you think.

Parenting, in particular, is hard work. Yes, work as in it is a job. I try to believe (sometimes better than others) that everyone is trying to do their best by their children and leave it at that. I would not buy my 2 year old son an ATV but my sister-in-law did for my nephew and while I sometimes gasp (audibly) at the pictures of him riding it on FB, hey, knock yourself out. If she’d asked my opinion or if it were something harmful (and this I do believe could be harmful but that is just my opinion where the safety of my son is in question) (like when she turned him forward facing at 9 months), I do chime in, but in a non-judgmental way, always taking the tack of sharing information rather than pontificating or casting aspersions.

I don’t strive for perfection nor do I hold anyone to that standard as it simply doesn’t exist in the human condition. I do try to be the best mother to my son and when I fail, I try to do better the next time. If someone is doing something that I find interesting or even admirable, I may inquire about it and see if it fits our lifestyle. But beyond that, live and let live, mama.

14 Denver Laura { 06.04.12 at 12:29 pm }

My problem with parenting comes from the fact we have kids that aren’t ours. We choose to ban HFCS, MSG and pink slime from our house knowing when our foster kids visit their family, they won’t share that parenting style. BUT we have the kids on a very strict schedule, something that works for us and the kids respond to very well. Kids living in chaos need structure. That is the one thing I wish people would know that although it doesn’t work for them, we have to deal with the reprocussions when we get the kids back to our home.

15 Tigger { 06.04.12 at 12:32 pm }

The only way I can parent is this exactly – DWYNTD. I don’t know any other way. I do better with structure, and I figured there would be rules on how to parent and when to do things and they would just happen. Children would move from 0-3 month clothing on their 4th month “birthday” – ha! Mine didn’t move until he was a little over 6 months. I have had to learn how to be flexible in a lot of things and adapt quickly. Granted, some things are not acceptable: We don’t throw fits in public (I have a feeling this isn’t going to hold as he gets older, but I can try!), anyone who feeds my child soda with HFCS in it is going to be in deep poo. There are ways of parenting that are appealing to me, but that I know without a doubt I could never do or that simply would not work for this child. There are parenting ways that I would never even consider…again, because I couldn’t/won’t do them and they probably wouldn’t work for him anyways. That doesn’t mean that others can’t – just as I’m doing the best I know how to do, so are they. They want to raise children to be a certain type of adult, and they are doing what they can to make it happen.

Beyond that…I ask for advice frequently. I”m new to this whole parenting thing, I have no idea what I’m doing. I have friends who run daycares, have their own children that are older (and younger) than mine, and have a variety of experiences with parenting. They’re a good source of information and only rarely do they judge the choices I make (usually the older friends, like…my parents age).

I guess my overall thought is this: Do what you need to do, do what you wish – so long as children are not being hurt/damaged, it’s all good and well.

16 Sharon { 06.04.12 at 12:41 pm }

Love this post. It would be nice to think that there would be one book/source/expert who has “all the answers” on how to raise children (because, let’s face it, it’s a tough job made tougher by the fact that there aren’t a lot “right” answers to many of the questions it raises) but I agree that there is no one-size-fits-all approach. For parents or for children. We are all individuals, and what works for one family, or one child, may not work for another.

I don’t judge others’ parenting choices (unless they are clearly abusive, like the stuck-in-a-closet-eating-raw-hot-dogs story shared by chickenpig above), but I do sometimes judge myself harshly. (Two examples: not being able to breastfeed and not cloth diapering for the first four months of my sons’ lives.)

In the end, I think those who note that most kids seem to turn out OK regardless are spot on. We’d all do well to remember that and to be kind to ourselves.

17 Trinity { 06.04.12 at 1:10 pm }

I dunno, your description of DWYNTD parenting sounds an awful lot like natural parenting to me, friend. (Or at least my personal take on natural parenting.) You’re doing what feels natural to you, you’re listening to your mama instincts, and you refuse to feel guilty for it. I respectfully disagree that natural parenting is a “blink” in the parenting canon; following your parenting heart and listening to your children is what precisely what parents all did before there were parenting tomes out there forcing doubt into our sleep-deprived brains.
(And, yeah, I absolutely get that labels are reductive and not necessarily helpful.)

18 Esperanza { 06.04.12 at 1:58 pm }

Wow. You are incredibly sure of yourself as a mother. I admire that greatly. Maybe if I felt that sure of myself as a mom I could laugh at those who say the way I parent is second best. I guess I just suffer from low parenting self-esteem. I’ll have to work on that.

The one thing I always wonder about in these discussions is if how we diaper is really “to each his own” because the waste of disposables (which I use along with cloth diapers) is something that affects all of us in that we all have to live on the planet where all those thousands of diapers are buried every year. I guess it’s the same question of whether it’s the world’s business whether you recycle, because you not recycling affects the world. Most parenting decisions don’t affect others but diapering does. And I’m not saying CDing is the better way, with all the water to wash and electricity to dry, I really don’t know. Obviously EC is the least wasteful and I know I can’t manage that, so I’m not trying to judge others with this comment, it’s just something I’ve always wondered: do the decisions that affect everyone by affecting the environment belong to each of us, or should they be discussed as a community? I mean, I know we could never tell others how to diaper their child so maybe this is a mute point, it’s just something I think of from time to time.

19 Lollipop Goldstein { 06.04.12 at 2:05 pm }

Esperenza — Every single thing we do affects other people, so I differentiate between direct and indirect impact. Making someone deal with my child’s feces is direct impact. How we diaper is indirect impact. If I drop a soda can in your yard, that’s direct impact. If I drop my soda can in the trash instead of recycle, that’s indirect impact.

I think we can only use indirect impact as our argument if we’re willing to have that argument turned on us for every other thing that other people hold as important. And it’s also hard because everyone is holding onto a different set of standards in terms of better-ness or impact.

20 Amy { 06.04.12 at 3:19 pm }

Oh gosh. Here I am a third of the way through my fourth pregnancy and I’ve never even heard of most of the things you mentioned in your blog. I’m an Engineer. I read manuals for every single device I own, cover to cover, including our cars, computers, and alrm clocks.

I started out my first pregnancy with a similiar approach. Learn everything. I picked up all the pregnancy books and started reading them (understanding they were opinions, not manuals, but you get the point.). After my first miscarriage, I read every books I could find on miscarriage and loss, in the same way, but after my second, I began to realize that pregnancy (and I presume parenthood) simply doesn’t fit into a neat easy package. During this pregnancy, I tried to pick up a pregnancy book once, gagged at a section about miscarraige being ‘incredibly unlikely after a fhb is detected” and closed it forever. I will research the things I believe are necessary for me and my child and be as informed as I can. I will find a doctor I trust and trust him, without second guessing every single thing he says. Mostly, I will rely on the fact that I’m an intelligent, well educated, logical thinking person and I will do my absolute best to trust my instincts, use my resources and not beat myself upside the head with every new peice of information I see.

Thank you for your post which, while temporarily making me feel completely lost and confused, led me to what I believe are some solid conclusions about how I hope to parent my child!

21 Sarah { 06.04.12 at 3:24 pm }

Lovely post….When the mommy wars began, I simply said I’m parenting by instinct. Doing what is best for my kid as I see fit. It may not be what you think is perfect, but it’s working for us. I’m guessing my style so far is similar to your idea of DWYNTD parenting…thanks for sharing a common perspective. To this day I haven’t read a single parenting book…I’m just going strictly by instinct.

22 jjiraffe { 06.04.12 at 3:55 pm }

I like your philosophy: it’s mine as well.

I guess the main difference is that I am insecure as a mother. Like Esperanza, I have low parenting self esteem. Who knows why: a lack of support, a genetic predisposition? So these discussions effect me more and I feel judged by those making those sweeping claims.

In my heart of hearts, I think I am doing MY best. But it’s hard in the blogosphere and world at large, with its lionization of “perfect mothers” and these proponents of philosophies claiming to be the
the “best” universally, to not be suspectible to guilt. At least, for me.

23 Esperanza { 06.04.12 at 4:36 pm }

I totally understand where you’re coming from and I want to make clear, that I’m not trying to use “indirect impact” as my argument, I just wonder about these things. I think right now we can get away with not asking these hard questions because enough people on earth still live in relative poverty and are not creating the waste that we as a country create, but when that changes (and it will), or when we have created so much waste ourselves as to arrive at that critical tipping point, we will need to have difficult conversations about these things. I wouldn’t be surprised if it happened in my lifetime and I’m curious (and terrified) to see how we handle it all. And when I say this I’m not just talking about disposable diapers but all the waste we create on a daily (heck, hourly) basis.

As for the real meat of your post I totally agree, I am doing the best I can under my circumstances and I don’t care at all that others are doing what works best for them, in fact I’m supportive of it and curious about it. My only issue is when people try to tell me that what works best for them is just the best way, period. That is what bothers me. But what I have learned from being a part of this online “discussion” is that we should just laugh it off, as you say, and not let it bother us when people preach that there way is the right way. I don’t know why I have such a hard time with that. It’s something I’ve been thinking about a lot since I published those posts. Probably just low parenting self-esteem. Or just low self-esteem in general. Perhaps it’s more. Maybe some day I’ll figure it out.

24 Lollipop Goldstein { 06.04.12 at 4:44 pm }

Maybe it’s just a love of Michael Jackson/Paul McCartney’s “Say, Say, Say” video or Jim Dale in Pete’s Dragon, but I see people who declare a method of living as “best” — whether it’s a parenting philosophy or religion or pick your ideology — without any ability to back up that statement with actual fact as akin to snake oil salesmen. If it truly were best, they wouldn’t need to push quite so hard, make you feel quite that crappy. But snake oil salesmen only move their wares if they show you how much you need what they’re selling. They tell you that you look tired so you’ll buy their tonic which will fix your exhaustion. Though maybe you were never tired to begin with. They just create that doubt so they can fix that doubt.

And perhaps that is what you are responding to more than low parenting self-esteem. Or maybe I’ve been parenting longer so I’m not as taken in when the snake oil salespeople come through town.

All I know is that it can be really hard to tune out statements when they are made loudly and are aimed at your heart. So I think it’s more a statement of humanness — how we react to the concept of the Mommy Wars — than it is a statement of our individuality. If that makes sense.

25 Mud Hut Mama { 06.04.12 at 4:45 pm }

I needed to read this post about three and a half years ago when I was pregnant with my first. I didn’t need outside criticism because I was my own worst critic. After wanting a child for so long and struggling to conceive, I put so much pressure on myself to do it the right way. I wanted a natural birth and ended up with a emergency c-section. I was devastated that I’d already messed up. I wanted to breastfeed and tried so hard but it never happened for us and I felt like I’d failed her. I read all the books in the beginning but a few instances where I followed the book instead of trusting my gut as I should have taught me that I do actually have a pretty good maternal instinct when it comes to my own kids so now I do “turn inward instead of outward to check my parenting compass.” That has made parenting much less stressful and much more fun. Lovely post but I have to wonder what you read that got you so riled up? My favorite line from your post, “At the end of the day, I’m just a fallible parent like all parents.”

26 Lollipop Goldstein { 06.04.12 at 4:49 pm }

Did really read anything in particular that riled me up (though I read a post while writing this about NP) but people kept sending me emails asking what I thought about the term natural parenting. They can call it anything they want. They could call it golden wonderful perfect parenting and it still wouldn’t change that it isn’t best for every adult or child and it isn’t the worst thing for every adult and child. It’s just one option out there that works for some adults and works for some children. And if it works, great, keep doing it. And if it doesn’t work, let it go and find something else that does.

27 Io { 06.04.12 at 5:13 pm }

I am pretty sure that you are indeed an awesome mother…
I wonder how much the mommy wars really exist except as something online. It’s kind of like the comments on the online newspaper articles…if you read them, none of them are well thought out, lots of them are racist or sexist, people say mean things. And yeah, you do deal with those people in the real world, but not that much, generally they have the sense not to say it to your face, and they are not people whose opinions matter to you anyways. (So go on and brush your shoulders off…)

28 cece { 06.04.12 at 5:30 pm }

you got me all fired up. I wrote a post in response.

: )

29 oliviacw { 06.04.12 at 7:08 pm }

I have a friend who was pregnant at the same time as me – her daughter was born 9 days after mine (the girls are about 15 months old now). However, we are far apart in age – I was 42 when my daughter was born, and she was 28. While we were pregnant, my friend asked me what parenting philosophy we were going to follow (we were both having our first children). I laughed at her and then immediately apologized for laughing. While this is my first child, I’ve seen enough and read enough to know that you do the best you can do given the circumstances you end up with. So I explained to her that some of my natural inclinations were more towards attachment parenting, but I would do whatever made sense. I don’t think she understood at the time, but now she gets what I was talking about much more.

30 Justine { 06.04.12 at 10:55 pm }

I’m also coming to terms with the fact that even if I have a parenting “style” or guidelines, that each child requires slightly different parenting, too … that is, if we’re going to treat every child as a person, with integrity. My daughter is not the same child my son was at her age. I try to listen to her and give her what she needs (which is not always what she wants!). It’s tricky, and it’s hard work. But it’s what I need to do.

31 Lindsey D. { 06.05.12 at 7:28 am }

Thank you so much for writing this! It’s exactly what I needed to read today. I’m going to post a link to this post on my blog. :)

32 Tiara { 06.05.12 at 7:58 am }

This post really resonates with me, especially when you say, “It makes no sense to commit to a certain type of parenting before you see if the type of child you have would benefit from those parenting ideas”…I made this error & have spent the better part of a year feeling like a complete & utter failure because I couldn’t get my daughter to “conform” to what the “experts” said she should or shouldn’t be doing etc…it is only recently that I have taken a step back & learned that it’s okay to take pieces of the miriad parenting options & use what works best for me & my daughter. In the last few months, since relaxing & cutting myself a break, both my daughter & I are much more content.

What I didn’t expect, in becoming a parent, was the force with which people would insist I should/shouldn’t be doing such & such…& the indignation if I made a different choice. I think if I don’t take their advice (however unsolicited) they think I am saying their choice is wrong when all I’m saying is that it’s not for us.

Great post, Mel!

33 Trinity { 06.05.12 at 8:44 am }

I read this article today, and felt these statements really relevant to this post (and much of the recent “wars” and self-described parenting insecurity, frankly):

“So, for the purpose of distilling this complex and passionate debate to simple clarity, I would say we are all attempting to love our children well, so they can move forward into the future and part the red seas for us, while being as connected, functional, resilient and healthy as possible. And our understanding of the journey they take, with us as their guardians, is one that requires us all to blend our sensibilities of nurturance, love, guidance and protection. Using both heart and knowledge. Something, upon looking around me at my fellow parents, this generation seems pretty darn good at.”

From: http://www.huffingtonpost.com/alanis-morisette/attachment-parenting_b_1563667.html

34 The Mommy Psychologist { 06.05.12 at 12:14 pm }

Love this! You handled this topic beautifully. My favorite line was that you can be a horrible mom and a great mom. I think many times we have a hard time wrapping our heads around the idea that those two things can co-exist, but the truth is that they can. I say it over and over again that I’m the “kind” of parent who practices doing what works.

35 Jendeis { 06.05.12 at 2:34 pm }

YES! So with you.

(tried to add something about the people who ask you if the twins are natural and you tell them, no, they have robot bodies under their skin, but I couldn’t add it succinctly. Anyways,you know what I’m talking about).

36 Lori Lavender Luz { 06.08.12 at 11:14 pm }

There are so many things I love in this post. The comments, as well, are fantastic.

The DWYNTD philosophy is a brilliant one, and not just for parenting.

37 Kristin { 06.10.12 at 2:17 am }

Brilliant…you describe the way I parent perfectly. I’ve long subscribed to the “you must do what works for your family” school of parenting.

38 Bea { 06.26.12 at 9:40 am }

So now I’m laughing because what I think of as “natural parenting” is pretty much what you’re describing as “DWYNTD parenting”. (Although I am aware that it is used in a different way by some.)

I had a conversation with a stranger in a park the other day who suggested it would be about time to remove the training wheels on PB’s bike. I disagreed in a gentle, small-talky way, explaining that it was his *first ever time* riding said bike, like, he literally got on it for the first time about ten minutes and two hundred metres ago, although I prefaced all this by agreeing that I was sure it “wouldn’t be long” before he was ready for that step. So that could probably have been that. But this guy had to explain to me how they’d bought their boy a balance bike as his first bike and did I know the ones? Oh sure, I said, we considered getting one of those, but ended up getting a traditional one instead. I think they’re a brilliant idea, I assured him. So that (surely) should have been that.

But no, he had to explain to me at great length that balance bikes were superior in every way to bikes with training wheels. And I said that I thought balance bikes were a great idea, depending on the child, but that after much consideration (I really wanted to go the balance bike route) we had decided that PB would learn faster with the traditional model (he’s cautious – he has only just begun the ginger use of a scooter, which vehicle he finds terrifyingly tippy). The guy looked at me with this sort of hesitant look as if he was trying to decide whether to point out that I was batshit insane and spend further time and energy convincing me of the Truth About Kids Bikes or just let me go my harmless way until some closer family member suggested medication.

Um, I don’t know quite why I’m telling you this story except I must be still irritated about it and it fits the theme. I wanted a balance bike, probably one made of eco-friendly wood, but I bought the metal one with training wheels and a handle at the back because that was the one PB was actually going to willingly ride on between now and kingdom come. And in that vein, when kingdom comes, I’m not sure anyone’s getting into heaven faster because they rode a two-wheeled bike at an earlier age. So, yeah, maybe I should just take up laughing.

Someone said you should either read all parenting books or none of them. Couldn’t agree more. (I am slowly wending my way toward “all”.)

Bea

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