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 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!
A fellow parent who is trying her best