On Mommy Wars…

This about sums up the first year…

I think the “Mom Enough” controversy pretty much paused with a truce, with everyone raising the white flag and calling for peace on all sides. Including me.

Now there has been a minor eruption over a parenting philosophy which, correct me if I’m wrong, seems to have caught on with a significant portion of the Parenting After Infertility crowd? I had never heard of “Natural Parenting” before, and suddenly the term was everywhere.

Specifically, this graphic was everywhere. I’m not going to comment on the graphic, as I think others have covered it in detail.

Like for others, the term “Natural Parents” immediately stuck in my craw. By calling your philosophy “Natural,” you are by implication saying that other parenting philosophies are “unnatural.” But, I wanted to go over and review the blog on its merits and see what the fuss was all about.

What immediately struck me is that many “Natural” parents who’ve posted on the blog feel persecuted and underground. Which, that’s rough, and I feel for you. Where I live is probably one of the only areas in the world where attachment parenting (breastfeeding, midwives, babywearing, extended breastfeeding) is mainstream and “mainstream parenting” (strollers, disposable diapers, bottle feeding) is not mainstream at all. (See also: Park Slope, the Upper West Side, Berkeley, Notting Hill, and probably other areas with a strong liberal political bent.) I have to admit that “pottying”, ie: potty training your infants, hasn’t caught on yet here. But I’m sure that it’s just a matter of time.

The “Natural Parenting” blog has a much more pleasant tone than I was expecting. Mostly, if I can simplify, the tenor seems to be attachment parenting is the ideal but if you try your best, no judgments. Am I right about this?

Attachment Parenting isn’t about ‘shoulds.’ It’s about connecting with and loving your baby. There are some practices that foster those connections, and some of those practices, though intuitive, aren’t mainstream. Therein lies the problem, and a harvest-ready field for media looking to stay alive with stories.

OK. I mostly get this.

Here’s what I don’t like:

I have a dream that one day, babies will be birthed in peace, and spend their first hours in the arms of their loving, capable mother. One day, we will respect the birthing mother, and remember that birth is normal, and has been the primary exit route of people for millennia.

I have a dream that one day, mothers will have the resources and support they need to nurse their babies for as long as they both desire. I have a dream that one day, Americans will see breasts as primarily life-giving and nourishing.

I have a dream that babies are carried instead of pushed, cuddled instead of prodded to be independent. One day, we will redefine spoiling as dying from disuse, rather than strengthening from love and closeness.

I have a dream that one day babies will sleep safely, close to their mother, as her breath regulates baby’s temperature and heart rate, ensuring his survival. One day, we will move beyond scare tactics and onto education.

I have a dream that we will relearn the lost art of gently responding to our baby’s elimination cues. One day, diapers will be optional.

Yeah, I DON’T like this. It strongly implies that there is one way that ALL babies should be birthed and parented (with co-sleeping and babywearing) and to do otherwise is bad for a child. (I don’t like the phrase: “ensuring his survival.” Talk about scare tactics…) Am I wrong? Did you pick up that tone, too, or not?

And ultimately, “Mommy Wars” are caused by those who feel their way is best and that everyone else should adopt their ways. The media helps to fan the flames, sure, but ultimately it’s doctors pushing C-sections, hospitals not allowing midwife care, or someone who says she has a dream of babies being carried not pushed.

We ALL need to be careful about the language we use, and I don’t want to single out this particular site as a main culprit: they are just suddenly ubiquitous, so a lot of people are looking at them. On another front, this book is inflammatory as hell.

Is it possible to remove judgmental language from parenting advice altogether? Or are we doomed to conflict with one another? And feel free to call me on any judgmental language I have ever used about parenting, too.



Filed under Parenting After IF

6 responses to “On Mommy Wars…

  1. SRB

    I sincerely believe that I was trying to so exactly what you describe in your last two paragraphs. To be careful of my language, and to foster a conversation without judgment or defensiveness. While I was disappointed in some of the things I read on *all* the posts (and I include the comments here), I did not discuss the specific things in my post. I also made an effort not to react in anger to anything I read, because this would not be useful. Rather, I was trying to point out that the conversation I was seeing in my reader (hence, people I ‘know’) were perhaps not helping the situation. My core message was that I wish we could have a conversation without judgmental OR defensiveness. I wish we didn’t have to feel like this. To be clear, I was not discussing the ‘merits’ of NP in any way, just that I see the broader point you highlighted above, and in general I like the blog and feel welcome there despite only doing a few of the things. I suppose I haven’t internalized the other bits because they don’t bother me, despite not agreeing with them. That being said, I don’t think we can remove judgment (real or implied) from any kind of discussion. I am sure my post read this way to some, however I do not regret what I wrote. I really hope(d) that there could be some genuine, heartfelt discussions about these things in our own little corner of the web since the larger one is a shitshow. I am happy that I was able to talk it out in this way via my post, their post, email and/or twitter today. I understand that not everyone is not ready to do this, and with me specifically, and I don’t expect that. But I do hope the larger conversation shifts this way, truly.

  2. I think that there will always be some judgement, because that’s how humans process things. We choose to do things a certain way because we think they’re right. For us, certainly … but also because we feel like they’re right, on a deeper level, I think. NOW … despite that way in which humans compartmentalize the world, I don’t think we need to ACT on the way we make judgements (if that makes any sense). We don’t need to proselytize, despite what we think is right (for us). We can try to be open and accepting, even when we don’t agree. And I think as parents of the next generation, that’s not only our prerogative, but our duty.

  3. I’m reading The Conflict right now. Review coming soon! I agree with you that there is a very judgmental, superior tone in that quote. And also a bit appalling that they are echoing Martin Luther King’s I Have a Dream Speech. There is a lot of smugness in NP/AP circles and even though they say they support you doing whatever works for your family, I don’t believe they really do. Language matters, people. If you call your philosophy “natural,” then the logical extension is that anything outside of that is unnatural. It irritates me when followers say they don’t mean that or we are reading too much into it.

    I’m curious if those parenting after infertility are drawn to such philosophies as a way to be the best parent possible after years of feeling like a failure as a woman.

    I also read the post that accompanied the graphic and found it laughable and painful. Where was the smidgen of research or education?

    Sorry to write a dissertation…

  4. I found it interesting what KeAnne brought up about parenting after IF and wanting to be the best parent possible after feeling like a failure for so long. Good food for thought.

    I also agree with Justine – ” We choose to do things a certain way because we think they’re right. For us, certainly … but also because we feel like they’re right, on a deeper level, I think.” Of course we choose to do things a certain way b/c it’s what we think is best. We all love our children and want what’s best for them. It’s hard to separate that from being judgmental about parenting philosophies of other people who do it different, though I definitely think that is important to do!

    Love and respect. That’s all we need 😉

  5. Mel

    Maybe I am able to look at all of this with a shrug because I don’t subscribe to any parenting philosophy — or, moreover, I would never take on certain ideas just because they were part of a parenting philosophy. I think it’s rockin’ if people want to do certain things or not do certain things. But after a head nod of, “oh, cool, you do that” I don’t feel the need to try to sway them one way or the other. To make them do things my way. Because I’m not sure my way is the best way, if the things we chose to do were best for everyone else. Or even best for our kids. They just were what we did or are what we do. Does that make sense?

  6. I don’t think I’ve ever noticed an overly judgemental tone from you. Then again, I generally agree with your point of view. 🙂 Thus far, I haven’t experienced much of this mommy war bulls*t IRL and only have witnessed it online. Sometimes I wonder if the 24 hour news cycle is what’s really fanning the flames. Well, that, and as we all know, controversy sells. I doubt a book with a title like this “Hey, I Don’t Care What You Do, This Is My Parenting Style” would get a lot of attention.

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