If you’ve hung around the mommy blogging community for five seconds or more, you know there are several hot button parenting issues that tend to drive a wedge between moms.
Intervention-free births vs. intervention-filled births.
Cloth vs. disposable.
Breastfeeding vs. formula-feeding.
Baby-led weaning vs. purees.
Attachment parenting vs. cry-it-out.
Co-sleeping vs. Crib-sleeping.
Baby-wearing vs. leaving the kid on the floor.*
It’s been drilled into our heads that these things make us different from each other. That these choices illustrate that you’re one sort of mom and I’m another sort of mom.
Some of these things seemed like a bigger deal when Ryan was first born. But the older he gets, the more I realize these things aren’t differences. They’re just details. Not any one of these things defines us as individuals or as moms. They’re small pieces of a whole. Sentences in a book.
I will celebrate with you if the first thing your baby consumes is a bowl of mushy rice cereal or a giant slice of avocado. That first bite is a milestone for every parent, no matter what is in the bowl. And pictures of kids gnawing on whole bananas are equally as cute as pictures of kids sporting pureed sweet potato goatees.
I’ve heard all the research, read all the studies, know all the benefits of this method or that choice. I get why some people think certain options are superior to others. We’ve all got to make these choices. We all consider our own specific circumstances and priorities and arrive at our own intelligent decisions. I simply don’t care how you arrived at yours. I don’t mean that in a flippant way. I mean it in a it-doesn’t-change-my-opinion-of-you way.
Somehow, our kids all grow up able to pick up, chew and swallow food. They all develop fine motor skills. They all learn, sooner or later, to sleep through the night in their own bed. Maybe your kid hits a milestone first, maybe mine does. Maybe my kid started sleeping through the night at 6 weeks old but your kid started walking at 11 months. Somehow, at some point, they all sleep and they all walk and they all talk. And if we’ve put this much thought into each and every decision, it probably means we’re present as parents, so I’m betting they’ll grow up feeling loved and safe, too.
I have friends who span the full spectrum of full-time cloth diapering to full-time disposable diapering, from exclusive breast-feeding to exclusive formula-feeding and everything in between.
My friends have had surprise pregnancies as well as struggles with trying to conceive. Biological babies and adopted babies. Boys and girls. Short, round babies and long, skinny babies. Some of them feel fulfilled within their careers and some dream of the day when staying home to raise their babies can be a reality.
This has absolutely zero bearing on our friendships. That’s because the things we do share are so much greater, so much more important and defining. The joy our kids give us.** The endless search for the perfect balance of family, friends and work. The desire to raise healthy, caring, responsible, happy kids. Our values.
And really, how boring would life be if we were all the same in each decision we made? It’s the collection of our own distinct details that make us interesting and unique.
I want to reject the labels. I want to stop thinking of myself as a formula-feeding mom or as the mom-who-couldn’t-cut-it-with-cloth. I plan to buy a baby wrap if/when we have another child, but when I do, I won’t call myself a baby-wearing mama. Because there is so much more to the way that I parent, to the thought and energy I put into it, than those few details can describe.
*I kid, I kid.
**And/or the frustration and stress our kids give us when they’re not giving us joy.