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Parenting Choices and Cultural Norms

My bloggy friend Amanda recently posted this awesome supportive photo on her Facebook page:

parenting choices

I’m sad to announce that instead of respecting other choices and praising all loving mothers across the globe, Amanda’s post was filled with judgmental women ostracizing anyone who thought differently about what was best for their child. I am well aware that tone is not always apparent online and more importantly on my blog.

As a mom of two, I’ve done the trial-and-error of a first baby and am perfecting my skills with number two (which holds its own set of trials and errors). I tend towards natural parenting and have very strong opinions about what the choices I make for my own children. But just to be clear, I want to shed some light on the four issues above. My hope is that mother-to-mother you will realize that the topics discussed on my blog are not to make you feel like more or less of a parent.

Co-sleeping

When my daughter was born we were exiled to Ohio because my first husband needed us out of the way so he could finish his degree. We spent the first 4 months of her life moving and so having a crib was not an option. I had big plans to side-car, so I guess you could say I already intended to co-sleep with her. Nevertheless, Gaia wound up in my bed. And she stayed in the bed with me until long after her father and I had separated. It wasn’t until I started a new relationship that she moved into her own bed at two and a half. Her bed was in my room until she was 3.5 when she requested her bed be moved into her playroom. She still comes to snuggle in the morning and I have no issues with that.

When Anders came along I bought a crib. Since I’m in a more stable relationship with no big plans to move very far, having a crib set up in our bedroom has its advantages. We still co-sleep 96% of the time, but every now and then Anders will sleep in his crib for a few hours. He also will sleep in the living room in a bassinet for long stretches.

I am a promoter of co-sleeping. I think it’s easier and less stressful and allows everyone to get more sleep. Side-caring is great for families who feel they need the baby to have more space and is my number one recommendation for co-sleepers. I haven’t been able to accomplish it with either situation, but I’ve heard and seen great things!

Is co-sleeping for everyone? No. If you have to take prescription pain meds, muscle relaxers, or sleeping aids then you should not have the baby int eh bed with you. If you go to bed drunk, put the baby in the crib. If you’re going insane because your bed is small and you’re losing sleep, then work out a different sleeping arrangement. I really don’t care what you do when it comes to your family’s sleeping habits. (Unless you cry-it-out. If you cry-it-out you’re living under a rock and need to read all of the research against it done in the last decade.)

If you and your baby get quality sleep and wake up happy, that’s all that matters.

Circumscision

This is the one that really struck a nerve with the natural mamas on Amanda’s page. Apparently supporting an awesome mom who decided to circumcise is the same as promoting genital mutilation. WHATEVER. I’m going to tell you exactly what I said on Amanda’s post:

“Circumcision is a cultural norm for America. I am personally against it for my children and I try to educate my friends and family, but there’s no ignoring the brutal truth that it is commonly practiced all over the nation.”

That’s really my thoughts in a nutshell. There is tons of information out there in regards to circumcision. I can even send you an informed packet from my days as a doula if you’re an expectant mother on the fence. (Email me!) I am all for promoting the future of intact men! But do I think you’re less of a parent for choosing to circumcise? Well, not exactly. I think that circumcision is a ridiculous practice that will cause no greater benefits to your son. Insurance doesn’t even cover it because it’s strictly cosmetic. I mean that alone should give you a clue as to how unnecessary it is.

However, I am well aware of the pressures involved in having a newborn son. There is so much talk about his baby penis, am I right? Most men who are old enough to be fathers in our nation are circumcised, so they often wonder what could be so bad about doing the same for their son. People think they know everything about urinary tract infections and the AIDS. You’ll hear all kinds of stuff and hear all kinds of arguments if you’re expecting a boy. You have to do your research. Even if you think you know, do your research. Involve your baby’s father in the research! As a parenting team you can decide together.

If you make an educated decision, no one can say a word to you. No one.

Working Moms

I don’t work. What I mean by that is I don’t leave the house and get paid hourly to do some assigned task. I wish I did sometimes, but I quite enjoy spending time at home. Because I have a small baby that homely feeling is intensified, but I imagine once he’s older I would gladly return to the grind for a change of pace. I like having money (duh!) and the truth is we could use more of it. We make ends meet as is, but life would be less stressful if I worked a part-time hourly job. Once Anders starts eating solids on a regular basis I plan to go back to work part-time. I’m talking like 10-15 hour work weeks, nothing big.

I understand that the option to stay home is not available for everyone. I grew up in a single-parent household where my mom was working two jobs or double shifts for a majority of my childhood. We struggled and she was never home. I know that some parents have to work to keep their sanity. Children can be overwhelming, I know. Sometimes working gives parents that break they need to be better parents. I’m all for that!

Whether you work or stay at home, you’re doing the best for your family. I’m not sure what argument there is for that.

Breastfeeding

You guys know I’m a lactivist, right? If you don’t, where the hell have you been?! I am like 100% pro-breastfeeding and I wouldn’t even bat an eye at choosing to do the same for your child. I’m very sensitive to formula speak though, and I’ll tell you exactly why…

I think that the problem with formula is not with parents; it’s with marketing schemes, hospitals, and American culture. I think that by making formula a choice we’ve ruined one of the greatest, most suitable, convenient ways to nourish our children. Ideally formula should be reserved for special circumstances and situations where supplemental nutrition is medically necessary. Instead what we have going on is parents just say “I tried breastfeeding once, but she wouldn’t latch so we just used formula.” That is a fixable problem that should have been addressed at the first feeding. You find your breasts to be sexual and for your man only? That is a personal problem and you should consult a psychologist. You had triplets and are struggling to get your supply up and juggling three babies? Well that, my friends, is what it’s there for! Do you see the difference?

But American culture has us thinking that formula versus breastfeeding is an either/or decision. It’s sad, but it’s not the formula mom’s fault. And yes, I’m aware some formula-feeding mothers try really hard to breastfeed first. To them I say “YOU GO GIRL!” Formula feeding moms feed their babies with love, too. I know you guys work hard! So although I’m upset with American culture and am quick to roll my eyes at pro-formula statements, it’s a choice you had to make as a parent. And I wasn’t there so what do I know?

If your baby is happy and healthy and loved, you’re doing it right.

So let’s take a step back and embrace motherhood. The information is all over the place and confusing, the choices are hard, but the outcome is worth it all. Whether you’re a co-sleeping, breastfeeding, no-circ, stay-at-home mom or a crib using, formula-feeding, circumcising, working mom your attitudes and the way you treat each other will rub off on your kids. And they’ll play together. Isn’t it about time we all learned to play nice?

Please note: This post is entirely based on my own experience and opinions. In no way am I suggesting my way is the best way or that my choices will work for your family. I apologize if my statements offended you. You may comment your reactions or concerns, but I suggest you take a moment to compose yourself before doing so.

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Comments

  1. Tara Cockrill says:

    Well said! Everyone is entitled to their opinions, but mothers should not be abrasively bashing one another for the decisions they make for their children. Its hard to believe a strong group of women who have the gift to bear children and care for them in different ways would criticize another woman for her actions. If we’re all loving and caring for our children and they are happy and healthy; that’s what counts.

    • Exactly. There’s so many opinions on the market, who knows what’s best. I say, leave each decision up to the parents. Only they can decide what is best for their baby.

  2. These things and many more are a huge trigger of debate between women. No mater what we do we will always be judged by others. From my rather dramatic solo birth to co-sleeping to breastfeeding and not giving cereal to my 3 week old I have herd it all. I really wish women would realize that unless we are beating or starving our children nothing else should mater. We need to support each other.

  3. I think this line sums it up “If your baby is happy and healthy and loved, you’re doing it right”

    I am not a mother, and I would not berate or talk down to any mother for her choices even if I was a mother myself.

    Great post!

  4. I commented on that same post. I wasn’t offended by the picture, but rather the idiots…yes, idiots…who commented on it. There are those of us with medical conditions that prevent us from EBF and people need to get over it. I’m 100% a supporter of breastfeeding for as long as mom and baby want it but sometimes, it just cannot happen. It’s estimated that 5% of women don’t have the tissue to exclusively breastfeed for two years like it’s recommended. It’s not fair to make others feel like crap if they’re in the 5%, like I am. I just wish more LCs were aware of this. Maybe I wouldn’t have been depressed and killed myself for a year with my firstborn if someone had told me. It doesn’t have to be “all or nothing” to be effective. AND you don’t even have to produce milk in order to have that breastfeeding relationship. People just need to be educated.

    Now, I know that way more than 5% don’t EBF. I wish more would, but frankly, that’s not anyone’s decision but the mom. I appreciate those that SUPPORT breastfeeding instead of telling us that feed our kids formula that we’re “killing them.” (Like some responders did on that FB picture.) Pretty sure my kids are alive and well BECAUSE I fed them formula. So…there. 😛
    (directed at those ladies, NOT you!) 😉

    AND while we’re at it…I totally don’t see how my sons’ penises are anyone else’s business but ours? I don’t even bring it up unless someone asks and even then, it’s no one’s business, so I don’t have to get into that discussion. We made the best decision for our family and I don’t question other parents’ decisions. Ridiculous.

  5. I completely agree with everything said here! I know I am passionate about my parenting choices, but how do I know that if I had another mother’s life, I wouldn’t be making the same choices she is? I think in the end, we all need to realize that we all love our babies, no matter how we parent them. Focus the hate on the parents who are actually abusing and neglecting their kids, you know?

  6. first of all, i actually really like that photo! secondly, i love how you were able to share your opinion without disgracing anyone else’s ability to have one. we are all moms and we all do make different choices for our families and i hate when i see our community of strong women being pulled apart by the idea we fought so hard for – the freedom to choose.

  7. I absolutely love this article. It makes me really sad when I see moms getting all upset because an opinion is different from theirs or they decide to get offended by someone (and sometimes it’s even meant to be offensive, but most times not). It all seems so incredibly insecure.

    My favorite part was this:

    “So let’s take a step back and embrace motherhood. The information is all over the place and confusing, the choices are hard, but the outcome is worth it all. Whether you’re a co-sleeping, breastfeeding, no-circ, stay-at-home mom or a crib using, formula-feeding, circumcising, working mom your attitudes and the way you treat each other will rub off on your kids. And they’ll play together. Isn’t it about time we all learned to play nice? f”

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