Thursday, July 18, 2013

My parenting philosophy... that I don't have a parenting philosophy. At least in the way that "parenting philosophy" tends to be discussed these days--a catchy name, an approach to the most common needs of infants, and an insistence that your way is the "One True Way" to raising a happy successful child.

Certainly I have priorities. I know what I consider important, things I want to spend my time & energy on for my kids, things I want to teach them...but none of that really falls into a "philosophy" that you may find a book or blog about. I make important decisions deliberately, but feel free to pick and choose whichever things happen to work for me, my child, my family. Unmedicated, epidural, formula, breast, cry-it-out, co-sleep, baby-wear, daycare, purees and chunks ("baby-led-weaning" I believe its called)...I did those things, still do some of them. And I suspect the coming years will continue in the same vein, driven even more by my children's unique needs.

This post (read it, its great) sums up my discomfort with clinging to a philosophy---each kid is different, each developmental stage is different, how can you be so sure about what you're going to do? I find it particularly...eye-roll-inducing...when a pregnant woman announces her parenting philosophy*. I love the part in the linked post when she mentions how newborn/tiny kid-centric many of these "philosophies" really are: "you can't "babywear" a ten year old, you know? You can't breastfeed a teenager".

I understand...I see the appeal of having a One True Way to follow, knowing with certainty that this is the best way. It takes away a lot of the inherent uncertainty involved in parenting. I consider it akin to organized religion in some ways---follow our rules and everything will work out OK in the end. And by attaching yourself to a label, its easy to find others who will applaud and support your parenting choices...your parenting congregation where you sing the hymns of breastfeeding or preach against the evils of co-sleeping.

The problem, of course, is that if your One Way is right, then all the Other Ways are by definition wrong. And that is where every mean-spirited internet comment thread, every headline-grabbing Mommy Wars feature, and many a lonely, isolated, and fraught mother are born.

Can we all admit that there is no One Right Way but just The Best Way for This Kid and This Parent at This Time? And acknowledge that the parent who just as thoughtfully and deliberately chooses different than you most likely does love her child just as much**? And that we really don't know how our kids are going to turn out in the end, but we are all just doing our best and hoping it all works out in the end?

Maybe that IS my parenting philosophy.

*and smugness-inducing when she realizes she may have been wrong...either immediately or commonly when child #2 is born

**should go without saying, but certain things ARE excluded. 


  1. I had a friend ask me if I was doing "baby-led-weaning" when we started giving Dylan solids. I think she was asking me for my opinion as a health care professional. I told her I didn't know what that was. She was shocked and horrified that I didn't know. I still don't think I really know what it is.

    And yeah, I kind of wish some people would control themselves better when faced with the urge to take a giant dump on other peoples parenting or family size or use of childcare (don't even get me started on that one). Amen, sister.

  2. Totally and completely agree.

  3. Love this post. I've written similar posts about the critical way experienced mothers talked to me even while I was pregnant, and how we all need to calm down and accept that every parent/child relationship is unique. I think you said it more clearly than I did, though, and I'll be directing people to this post. I'm a first-time mother, and I'm just making decisions as I go. Some I'd go back and do differently, but that's life. I think the best thing each mother can do for her child is to just get to know him/her as a person, and figure out what is needed from there. When you come down to it, it's all about parental instinct combined with lifestyle preference. If more people recognized that, there would be fewer incidents of mom-on-mom bashing.

  4. One of my favorite books of 2011 was Bryan Caplan's Selfish Reasons to Have More Kids. It really should have been called "Nothing you do as a parent matters." Within a range of middle-class norms, parental actions have a lot less to do with outcomes than we might imagine. This is based on twin studies -- looking at twins raised apart, fraternal vs. identical twins, etc. Even something like cavities -- which would seem to stem from how vigilant you are as a parent about sweets, toothbrushing, dentist visits, etc. -- has a lot to do with genetics. All you really have influence over is how happy children perceived their home was. So focus on that.

  5. Yep. I get a little foamy at the mouth with One True Way types, but then I have to realize that Not Being a One True Way Parent is in fact my One True Way. You know, moderation, picking and choosing, being flexible, blah blah? I'm pretty dogmatic about it. And that's why the OTW people piss me off. Because the don't see that my OTW is RIGHT.

    Anyhow! Doing our best, hoping it works out, and keeping our mouths shut if we can't avoid judging--that's a powerful message.

  6. Oh yeah. I was an AWESOME parent. I had it ALL figured out... once upon a time... before I actually BECAME a parent. I'm a smart woman, though, and learned my lesson in a huge hurry once my daughter was born. Everything I thought I knew was thrown out the window in a microsecond. Nowadays, I just smile and nod at the 'My Way is Best' types. Yeah- your way is best for YOUR child. G-d forbid you have another one, and his/her temperament is completely different. I've discovered that parenthood is truly about adaptation and survival. We truly ARE all just doing the very best we can. And our kids will be just fine.

  7. Here's ours:

    My main source of irritation with parenting things these days is when someone says that parents who do X (when X is usually something like sending their kids to daycare or hiring a night nanny) shouldn't have kids and then talks about feeling guilty/brags about for doing Y (which is usually something like using formula or letting their kids watch hours of tv). Like dude, no parent is "perfect" for any person's definition of perfect, and it is so hypocritical to say that someone else's "wrong" thing that isn't going to make any difference long term is horrific whereas your "wrong" thing that's not going to make any difference long term deserves praise or sympathy.

    And what's really irritating on top of that is that these are stupid "battles". All that wasted energy that could be spent helping to prevent true child-abuse, or to actually fight the patriarchy. But I suppose it's easier and more entertaining to snipe at other women from the safety of one's own home than it is to go out and do things. These stupid battles still hurt women as a group.

  8. I find that usually new parents of easy babies are very, very judgemental. And very rigid in their opinions. Perhaps because they have been parenting a screaming, pooping loaf of bread for 30 minutes and obviously, they know everything. I hated it when people gave me assvice about George's poor sleep, as if I had been a moron, without reading abilities, without reasoning skills and in general, just an excuse of a holding unit for the baby and complain aout sleep deprivation. Dude, the child was not usual! He really, REALLY had a problem, and their telling me to ferberize him or cosleep or control crying or ostheopat session or whatever else psychopoopoo bullshit they were telling me - I had already tried it, and it obviously did not fucking work! As long as ou have not been in my shoes, jusdgemental parents who thought it was my fault my baby was not sleeping, you have no right to tell me anything! Because mainly, those who knew what I was talking about, they hugged me and told me it would get better in time. The rest, oh, lord, I wanted to bitch slap them seven ways till Sunday.
    Sorry for the typos, the fricking tablet freezes when I comment on blogspot, so here there are to stay.
    So yes, obviously, every child makes the parents adapt to him or her, hence there should be no parenting style wrong or right. At least parents should adapt, and not force preconceived ideas on children, breaking their spirit and moulding them into mini-me-assholes ready to perpetuate this ignorance and disregard for other people's needs and desires.

  9. Coming from Mel's Friday Round-Up. You hit the nail on the head with this post! I have a 14 year old boy and a 5 year old girl. My son has ADHD/Aspergers. Certain parenting "tricks" just don't work for him, never will. Each of my children are individuals and I treat them as such.

  10. I love this. I'm a new parent and my philosophy changes daily and based on what we're doing. Stroller or baby-wearing, disposable or cloth, etc., etc. Turns out it doesn't have to be an "or" situation, instead do it all, depending on what works in that minute in time.

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