One aspect of parenting that I was unprepared for was the parent wars. It all started when my husband and I attended our first (and what sadly turned out to be our only) childbirth class. We were so excited to begin these classes. In our 13th year of marriage, we were finally going to start our family. The childbirth educator began the class by asking what books we were reading to prepare us for parenthood. A few people shared some titles that the teacher gave her approval of, and then I shared a book title that I was in the midst of reading. The instructor gasped and told me that I needn’t finish that book; in fact I should just throw that book away. She said this in jest, but it was definitely apparent that she did not approve of the philosophy behind the parenting book I was reading.
The book I was reading (On Becoming Baby Wise: Giving Your Infant the Gift of Nighttime Sleep by Ezzo and Bucknam which by the way I followed after my son was born and I found the book to be extremely helpful) was one that had been recommended to me by some friends of mine who swore that the philosophy in the book helped their baby develop great sleep patterns. I really wanted to try the practices recommended in the book. I was disappointed by the way that the instructor reacted and I felt that she was not accepting of different points of view with parenting. Although I would expect that she would have some strong opinions, I just felt that the way she belittled a different point of view made me feel like I didn’t want to return to the class. So my husband and I became childbirth class dropouts. We ended up hiring a doula who worked with us before, during and after the birth of our son. This ended up being a great decision for us.
Soon after my son was born, that same childbirth educator invited me to a luncheon where she was hosting her prior mommy students and their new babies. I thought it was very sweet for her to invite me to the lunch although I had dropped her class after the first session. So I went with high hopes. I sat with a few friends from church who were also invited to the lunch. After lunch, the hostess of the event gave a short speech. She started the speech celebrating motherhood and welcoming those of us who were new to this “club”. Then she went on to talk about the values of breastfeeding. She talked about lots of benefits, including health benefits for the mom and baby and the child’s brain development. (I had decided to nurse my son and I was fortunate that it was quite easy for me to do so. I was able to breastfeed for nearly 18 months. We never used formula, although sometimes my son would take bottles with breast milk that I had pumped.) There wasn’t anything that she shared that I disagreed with, I just remember watching one of my friends who was not breastfeeding her daughter start to look away with tears in her eyes. I knew that my friend had tried nursing her daughter, but she had run into difficulties and was not able to continue. Our hostess continued to advocate for all of the moms in attendance to breastfeed for at least a year. This included a little “fashion show” of slings that could assist moms in “wearing their babies”. Although I agreed with what she had to share about nursing, I felt it was done in a way that did not respect that some moms may have to or want to make a different choice. My friend felt like she didn’t belong with this group of moms and she couldn’t wait to leave. (I don’t believe that this childbirth educator strived to be divisive, she is actually a very lovely person. She may not be aware of how her strong views come off as being judgmental at times. Both of these examples were over 10 years ago, and she may have made some changes in her approach since then.)
My son was only a few months old, and I was already exposed to the “mommy wars”. This continued as I spent time with my friends who were stay-at-home moms and as I spent time with other friends who as parents worked outside the home. I kinda fit into both camps because I worked from home, teaching online courses for future teachers and writing a few books. As I sat with the moms who chose to stay at home with their kids, I often heard them speak down about moms who were working outside the home. And then as I spent time with moms who balanced careers and motherhood, I sometimes heard them make jokes about and stereotype moms who were staying at home full time with their kids.
The parenting wars have continued: different views on spanking, various choices about how to best educate your children, varying notions about how to feed your children, diverse opinions about how children should be exposed to media…and the list goes on and on.
I have definitely spent a lot of time with moms and dads who are respectful of different views. I am happy that there are fellow parents who don’t participate in these battles. I believe in healthy debates, I just don’t like parents feeling disrespected because they have a different viewpoint.
I believe it is only natural to have strong opinions about how to best parent your child. But as I teach parenting classes, write this parenting blog and just converse with parents; I try to remember to be respectful that there are a variety of philosophical opinions on the topic of parenthood. When hanging out with friends and relatives, I only give advice when asked. I know that each parent is doing their best and that it’s okay if their parenting practices are different from mine. I’m glad that my husband and I get to make parenting decisions about what’s best for our son – and I believe every parent has this right.
I am hired to share helpful ideas and resources in the parenting classes I teach and via this blog. Although I am asked to share my philosophy, I try to do this in a respectful way. I share some advice and give some examples but ultimately I try to have the attitude of “give this some thought; maybe this will be helpful to you”.
One of my favorite quotes is “Childhood is a journey, not a race.” Maybe a similar quote is needed for us parents: “Parenthood is an opportunity for cooperation, not an excuse for competition.” As I continue writing this blog and working formally and informally with fellow parents, I will strive to be supportive and respectful of views that are different from mine.