Can we please stop drawing battle lines based on parenting decisions? An open letter to fellow parents

Dear parents,

I am writing you this letter, which I hope comes across with my intended utmost of sincerity, because I’ve had something swirling around in my mind quite a bit lately.

We have something pretty major in common: we have chosen to undertake the life-changing, often joyous and stressful role of parent, and the tasks related to caring for our

children’s ever-changing needs have pretty much consumed our lives.

We could have some pretty major differences going on, too: we may or may not live in a similar community, have the same interests or hobbies, and it’s fairly safe to assume that we likely check off a whole hodgepodge of different identity labels whenever we complete a survey or government form.

These differences can divide us in very problematic, deeply rooted and complicated ways – ways far too complex for me to adequately address in this blog post. Some of these differences, though, divide us in such trivial, nonsensical ways. Specifically, I am talking about the seemingly divisive nature of our varied parental decisions, philosophies and approaches.

We all love our children, want the best for them, and do all that we can to meet those lofty goals in ways that feel right for our families, given the information and means we have available to us. Being a parent is hard. So. Fucking. Hard. And we need all of the support we can muster from as many sources as we can find. To this end, can we please stop drawing battle lines based on parenting decisions?

I don't really want my child watching TV at this young of an age, and would prefer that he be 100% screen-free for a while, but I sometimes get a kick out of it. Please don't hate me for thinking my child is cute for looking at the vibrant colors on "The Price is Right" set!

I don’t really want my child watching TV at this young of an age, and would prefer that he be 100% screen-free for a while, but I sometimes get a kick out of it. Please don’t hate me for thinking my child is cute for looking at the vibrant colors on “The Price is Right” set!

I may choose to vaccinate or not vaccinate my child, put cloth or disposable diapers on my child’s hiney, home, public or private school her/him, breast- or formula-feed him/her… The list of parenting decisions that divide us is endless and maddening.

Some of my choices may surprise or even shock you, just as some of yours might for me. Please, feel free to:

  • Ask questions about how I came to the conclusions I did on the subject.
  • Acknowledge that we have different approaches.
  • Commiserate and/or empathize about ways in which our experiences relate (ex: “It certainly derails your plans when kids do something so messy and unexpected. I’ve been there!” vs. “Maybe if you chose to cloth diaper her/him, s/he wouldn’t be blowing out those disposable diapers.”).

It makes it so much easier for us to support one another and band together through the shared experience of parenthood when we don’t:

  • Make judgmental statements based on our differences.
  • Provide one another with internet resources that are clearly geared toward our way of thinking. Hell, most unsolicited advice in general is just plain annoying.
  • Pigeonhole and stereotype one another when a choice we make seems different from other choices we’ve made (ex: “You’re ‘green,’ use cloth, don’t circ and you do vax. That caught me by surprise!! Usually most folks are totally on one side with all of those topics.”).
  • Freeze each other in time by reminding one another of previous, potentially divergent decisions/approaches we’ve had, expecting and assuming that our parenting decisions won’t/can’t evolve as our families’ and children’s needs and means change.
  • Approach our relationships from an us vs. them standpoint.

Family leave may be allowed or required by law if you work at a large enough business, but it doesn’t mean that you’ll be paid during said leave. You might feel empowered and excited by the decision to breastfeed your child, but you’ll still get, at minimum, glares and side-eyed looks when out in public. If you’re perceived as a male parent, no matter how capable and confident you are, you are either treated like a novelty or buffoon. Our world can be unkind enough to us parental types. Do we really need to attack each other, too?

Instead of looking at ourselves and each other as pro- or anti- something or other, let’s lift each other up, empathize, and give words of encouragement to our fellow unsung heroes who are covered in spit-up, spend an inordinate amount of time talking about and assessing bowel movements, and are constantly juggling a multitude of balls in order to meet the needs of our families.

Also, instead of pointing fingers at other parents when they judge our choices, let’s hold ourselves accountable for doing that very thing to others. I will freely admit that one of the judgy examples above has run through my brain a time or two. Let’s be works in progress together!

Sincerely,

A fellow parent who is trying her best

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9 thoughts on “Can we please stop drawing battle lines based on parenting decisions? An open letter to fellow parents

  1. Yeah, I think it easy and normal to want to shout our choices from the rooftops. But, I try to ask myself “am I making conversation, or am I proselytizing.” I love conversations, particularly since I don’t get a lot of time to talk to other adults, I hate being proselytized to, and I’m trying to do unto others…and really there are lots of other things to talk about: Egypt, Orange is the New Black, crazies on the neighborhood listserve…

    • I really agree with what you’re saying here (especially about Orange is the New Black – haha). I feel like there’s a major difference between excitedly discussing what’s personally worked for you and giving unsolicited advice. Unfortunately, I’ve been on the receiving end of the latter far too frequently as of late.

  2. So true! There are so many hard parts of being a parent, it makes it so much worse when you feel like you need to defend your parenting choices. I so appreciate my parenting peers who support me and encourage me and remind me that mommy and daddy know best!

  3. “Pigeonhole and stereotype one another when a choice we make seems different from other choices we’ve made (ex: “You’re ‘green,’ use cloth, don’t circ and you do vax. That caught me by surprise!! Usually most folks are totally on one side with all of those topics.”).”

    This is actually something I admire. It shows me that someone is doing what they feel is right rather than just following some doctrine. That’s not to say that people who are entirely “crunchy” or totally mainstream are always just following the “rules”. I don’t mean that at all. It’s just that when I see someone who mostly parents a certain way but has made a decision outside the “norm” of that style, I really respect that…which I suppose is still judgment in a way, but at least in a complimentary form. 😉 I hope I’m making some sort of sense here.

  4. I’ve been thinking a lot about this same idea lately and agree with so much of this, but vaccination starts to become a gray area for me because of the much larger potential impact on others when parents choose not to vaccinate. That’s not to say that some parents don’t have excellent reasons for their choice (and I absolutely agree that it’s very important to avoid broad condemnation for any reason and to avoid painting everyone with the same brush since there are so many potential extenuating factors for each of us) but I’m less willing to look the vaccination choice with the same “everything’s relative” lens that I use with diapering or feeding or childbirth methods.

    • Truthfully, this one is my largest challenge as well. Given E’s recent post-vax digestive woes, it’s also the one about which I’ve received the most attacks, judgment and annoying, unsolicited “advice.” It’s honestly what inspired me to write the post.

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