The Parenting Paradox

paradox is a seemingly true statement or group of statements that lead to a contradiction or a situation which seems to defy logic or intuition. The word paradox is often used interchangeably with contradiction. Literary and other artistic uses of paradoxes imply no contradiction and may be used to describe situations that are ironic.[1] Sometimes the term paradox is used for situations that are merely surprising.

I have a reputation. One I am completely aware of, despise more than a little, and yet continue to reinforce. I am “that Mom”. The crazy one who posts really “weird” articles on Facebook, who tries endlessly to “connect” and “communicate” with her 12 month old, researches concepts like Unschooling, Gentle Discipline, Attachment Parenting – and then tries to implement those concepts in her life, despite the great difficulty inherent in doing so when coming from a strict, authoritarian upbringing. The one who chooses to spray poop off of cloth diapers despite the fact that we live in a time when disposable diapers are completely accessible to most people in developed countries, and who openly admits to CHOOSING to share a bed with her child from the day he was born . The one who worries about the damaging effects of forcing her child to express emotions he doesn’t feel, even for the sake of an adult’s feelings, who doesn’t like people grabbing her child if he doesn’t want to be picked up. Who would rather see her child make a difference in someone’s life than make a million dollars. The one who will breastfeed until the day her children are ready to stop. None of these parenting choices are easy. None of them are popular. All of them have been ridiculed, questioned, disputed and flat-out disrespected – by  family, friends, medical professionals and random strangers.  And I’m getting more than a little fed up. Just because I’m making unusual or different choices, why does that make me less? Less respected, less intelligent, less capable. With less of a “right” to share my thoughts and beliefs about parenting? It’s started to feel like I’m locked in a never-ending battle to justify my parenting  and defend myself against a constant barrage of “mainstream” views on child-rearing, all while biting my tongue and stifling MY views and opinions. Because that’s the kicker. While most parents delight in advising and judging others, and discussing THEIR parenting principles in great detail, very few of them are willing to respectfully stop and listen to anyone else’s. Especially when the other parent’s views are different, non-mainstream, unpopular or unheard of in the area they live in. Every time I’ve had a problem as a new parent and vented, asked for help, or even just mentioned my issues in passing, online or off, I’ve been inundated with comments from everyone from close friends to relatives to distant acquaintances suggesting that my parenting choices are the cause of my problem. My son’s sudden sleep issues? It was immediately suggested that the situation was caused because we didn’t put him to sleep in a crib. Never mind that it turned out that he’d actually contracted a double ear infection that made it painful for him to lie flat… and that the closeness of co-sleeping actually helped us catch it earlier.  His newborn colic? I was told to just let him cry it out and that it was probably caused by an allergy to my milk. The fact that at three months of age, he still woke fairly often at night for feedings, hence failing to “sleep through the night”? Probably due to us “spoiling” him by co-sleeping, and because we didn’t give him cereal and formula before bed. At three months. Our “crazy” reason? Our pediatrician AND a nutritionist told us not to. These experiences, and many, many others,  have led me to the conclusion that basically, it’s only okay for mainstream parents and doctors to preach to us “crunchy” parents about how we shouldn’t do what we do, but it’s not, under any circumstances, acceptable for us to try to explain, disagree, or heaven forbid, pass along our concepts and advice to others. “But Skye,” you say, “what about the breastfeeding Nazi’s?” “What about the “no spanking” Mama that blessed me out for popping my son’s bottom?” “What about the natural parenting playgroup that equated me feeding my son sugar with poisoning him? What about that? Huh?”  Do you remember in school, how when a kid pushed you, and you pushed back, you got in trouble too? When people judge us so often, it’s really, really tempting to “push back” and judge them right back. I’ve done it. I still do it, although I’m trying really hard to break the habit.  ALL parents have things that work for us, and things that work against us. We all meet, greet, and conquer on a daily basis situations that would make lesser beings tremble. Therefore, we are all very passionate about our victories, and very sensitive about our perceived failures. This SHOULD foster a feeling of “parenthood” between us. Instead, I often find, especially online, where faces are hidden and impulse control is negligible –  a great deal of judgement, extreme prejudice, and total disregard for the fact that EVERY SINGLE PERSON ON THIS PLANET IS COMPLETELY UNIQUE. There are no two children exactly alike, nor are there any two parents capable of parenting the EXACT same way. There are billions of variables in parenting. And I’m just not seeing people acknowledging this, when they jump to condemn a Mama who bottle feeds, or a Mama that sleeps with her baby, or breastfeeds covered or uncovered in public, or a Papa that spanks, or a family who chooses not to spank…  Why do we do this to each other? Does it make us feel SO much better about ourselves that it makes up for the harm we’re causing that other parent AND ourselves when we put so much negativity and judgement out into the world? Is it worth the hurt we cause and the message we send our children (that anyone different is “wrong”)  to “prove” how superior we are?  I doubt it. So here’s where I’ve ended up, after online drama, hours of frustrated seething and the loss of a few much-needed friendships – If you want to know how I parent, I’ll tell you. If you want to tell me how you parent, I’ll gladly listen. I will ONLY judge you if you are physically or emotionally harming your child. And I’d appreciate the same from you. Please don’t be offended if I decide to make different parenting choices. Please don’t try to shove the superiority of your choices in my face or down my throat. Please trust that as unusual as my methods may seem, and despite the fact that yes, this is my first child, and yes, I am a little “wacky” – I really do have (somewhat of) a clue. I’m trying really hard, and I know you are too. And to the person who told me I was “asking for” frustration by posting my views and struggles online – You’re right. Sort of. While I SHOULD be able to express myself freely anywhere, anytime – since some of the comments I’ve read have bothered me to the point of loosing days of my life fuming over them, my “right” to post what I want is going to take a back seat to my need for a drama free life in which to focus on my family and my future. I will no longer share most of my parenting ideas or struggles on Facebook. I will no longer go to forums full of people I’ve never met to validate my parenting choices. I will try to limit my sharing of parenting articles to positive ones, and I’m working EXTREMELY hard on respecting and supporting my fellow Mama’s out there. Mainstream or not, breastfeeding or bottle feeding, co-sleeping or crib sleeping – we all need to be focusing on what really matters – Our kids.

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