Support and Understanding

Lately I have been struggling with other people’s opinions of my life choices. My parenting choices in particular have caused problems within my own family. My parents, while they mean well don’t seem to understand why I have made the choices I have. They are extremely patronizing, though their jokes helped me title this journal. They call me “their little hippie.” I am saddened by the fact that I always have to seek support from outside sources. I am very thankful for the natural parenting community whether it is called Attachment Parenting. Peaceful Parenting, or any other name, it has been a source of great encouragement and support. Before I continue let me say that my husband is always very supportive and believes fully in our parenting choices. He supported me through two births, one totally natural and one with pitocin. He always supports me when others make snide comments and I could not have asked for a better husband or father for my children. However, my husband is a Marine and with that comes separation. He is not always available for me to vent to or to defend our choices when they come under attack. Ideally, my next line of support should be my extended family. They try, they really do, but they just cannot seem to let go of the patronizing and the doubt. They are constantly questioning my choices even while saying they support them. I get it, my parents are from a different time and honestly, and my sister is from a totally different place than me. She never even wants kids at all and so has a hard time understanding anything parenting related. My grandmother is next closest in line of support and she seems to be totally in line with my parenting style but she is also from a very different time and things have simply changed since her day. I find myself looking outside of my family to my mother in law who in some ways is even crunchier than I am. She birthed both of her children naturally, she breastfed exclusively, practiced many AP ideas and is very in line with our choices. I wish my parents were too! Just as I think I am making progress and they are beginning to at least understand my choices something new comes up that they disagree with. A week or so ago I was so excited because my father, who had been very vocal about his dissagreance regarding my husband’s and my choice to leave our son intact, had decided that we made the right choice and that more people should make that choice. This was a huge breakthrough! Especially since some other friends of theirs decided to circumcise their son recently and it was a point of contention when we were all in the house. Specifically because they would make fun of me to them for my choice or joke and say “I’m just a hippie.” As I was basking in my joy of my father’s understanding and support my mother and I somehow (I honestly do not remember what started this discussion) got on the topic of homeschooling. What she did not know, and what I had no intention of telling her, was that about two days before this I had decided that I wanted to unschool our children. This decision is still a work in progress. I am the type of person who researches EVERYTHING and I am always gathering more information. My husband is on board with homeschooling though I know he needs more information before committing to unschooling. That should be the end of the discussion. My husband and I made a decision about our children. No one else needs to be involved. Seeking approval though, especially from your parents is a natural need that you never fully grow out of even if you forge your own path away from them. To get back to the story, my mom proceeded to rant (yes rant) about how ALL homeschoolers are “crazy Christians” who homeschool to force their radical beliefs on their children and hide them from things like evolution and birth control among other things. This is such a ridiculous opinion I should not have even bothered trying to counter it but I did. I told her that her opinion was totally unfounded and that did not describe the majority of homeschoolers at all. I challenged her that the majority of homeschoolers whom I knew were in fact very educated, some Christian but some not, and they were fighting against indoctrination and control in the school system. I brought up the fact that many people in the natural parenting community homeschool and she said that all of those people were PhD holders and therefore are well versed in all subjects and capable of educating their children on the “necessary” school subjects. While this comment was at least flattering it is untrue. Also, I do not have a PhD so in her opinion I am not suited to homeschool. Now I have known from the beginning that both of my parents will totally freak out if and when I tell them I am going to homeschool especially unschool. That said, it is my husband’s and my decision and they will have to deal with it.
This got me thinking though. How many of us who have made these choices face criticism every day. We may get it from our family, our friends, sometimes even our husbands or wives and often from society. Even within the Natural Parenting community there are differences that sometimes lead to conflict. I myself have judged other parents for their choices if they circumcised after being given information on it or if they choose not to breastfeed for superficial reasons and especially if they let their baby cry it out. We all will come across people who are different and make different choices than we do. I would even say that it is natural to judge some choices and be angered by people who seem to not have their child’s best interests in mind. Do I wish that all people did certain things? Yes but that is not the world we live in. I do hope that someday AP principles will not be considered “extreme” or that all women will believe in their ability to birth their baby naturally but that is all that I can do. I try to educate other people on these ideas when I can and I hope that is enough.
As I write this so many ideas are running through my head and I cant help it but one of them is about the idea that all mothers need to be accepting and understanding of all other mothers parenting choices. No one should ever be made to feel that they have made a wrong choice. That simply isn’t reality. Also, if no one is ever shown a mistake they have made, they can never learn from it and do better next time. Sometimes there is a wrong and a right way to do things. That is ok! Now I do not think that other moms should ever be yelled at or have mean words said to them. I also think that background information is always needed. My mom had 2 c sections. One (me) was an emergency and I nearly died at 36 weeks. There are many women in that position and they should never feel bad about the fact that they had a c-section. When used correctly they can save lives. The mother who was offered no support with breastfeeding and was repeatedly told she is harming her baby by continuing to try after the baby didn’t nurse for two days after birth when she was 15 and therefore began using formula is not to blame. She didn’t think she had another choice. While these women need support and understanding, the woman who says I know breastfeeding is best for my baby but “ain’t no baby getting near my tat as that’s just weird” (yes I heard that come out of someone’s mouth!) or the woman who says it is more convenient for me to have c section at 37 weeks my baby should learn to fit in to my schedule, or the mother who says “I looked up circumcision, I even watched a video, it is awful but I’m going to do it anyway”, or the mother who in 2012 still lets her baby cry it out because she doesn’t want to deal with it or look into alternatives, these women do not need understanding or support. They have decided to not put the best interest of their child first and in some of those cases cause deliberate harm. That is child abuse! These women are also usually the ones who will attack other mom’s choices (or at least roll their eyes) and are overly defensive when these subjects are discussed. They should continue to be shown that they made the wrong decision, and I am sorry but there are wrong choices in parenting, (that is why there are now laws against child abuse) so that they can learn better and do better next time!

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