I’d dreamed about being a mom for a while before the two lines showed up on a test, and now, I sometimes still can’t believe that the title has belonged to me for the last 5 months. It is the ultimate blessing to watch this tiny being grow, thrive, and develop. I am able to pass on the traditions and teachings that my parents and Sean’s parents instilled in us. Yesterday I celebrated my very first Mother’s Day.
But as much as I’d looked forward to being a mother, I didn’t realize how hard it would be. Labor was nothing compared to what came after. Babies bring attention from strangers EVERYWHERE you go, and those strangers bring their opinions.
Everyone has their own opinion on child rearing, and they each think it should apply to how I raise my child. I’ve been questioned on how I feed her, how I dress her, how I carry her, what I give her to play with and what I don’t give her to play with. I’ve had a woman at the grocery store hover over me as I put Natalie’s car seat in the shopping cart, and a man at a gymnastics meet inquire about whether I breastfed. I didn’t realize how vulnerable I would feel as a mom, and how hard it would be not to see these encounters as a personal attack on my abilities.
When I sat down to write this blog, I had hoped for it to be loving and full of my wishes for Natalie and how I hope to raise her, but it’s taken on a voice of its own. It won’t be shiny and positive, but it will be needed.
I went to the Making Things Happen Intensive this past week and as I broke down and chipped away all the negatives that I’d been harboring inside of me, I found myself admitting that my life is too short not to assert myself as Natalie’s mother. My life is too short to allow thoughts that I’m not a good mother keep me from being the most amazing mother possible.
This revelation compounded with the recent Time article and the ridiculous question “Am I Mother Enough” that’s rocked the media, I’m taking a moment to take a stand for mothers everywhere…or just me, because that is enough.
There are so many “methods” to parenting: attachment parenting, cloth vs disposable diapering, breastfeeding vs formula, schedule vs on demand, pacifier vs no pacifier, co-sleeping vs bassinet vs crib, the list continues. Women face this mountain of options, opinions, and research daily and agonize over which to choose and whether it will destroy their child’s future. And it seems like as soon as we receive this information, it changes. But in the end we find this balance (if you can even call it that) of what works for us and is the best possible option for our children.
When I was pregnant, I dreamed of cloth diapering, baby wearing, breastfeeding, staying home, only offering battery-free, self powered toys, and growing organic foods to make baby food.
My reality? I breastfeed, stay home with her, have kept most toys battery free, and will wear her occasionally. I also use disposable diapers, her stroller, a battery operated swing, and my garden remains in the sprouting stage while she will be eating rice cereal any day now.
Before you start scoffing, saying how I got what I wanted for the most part, let me say that I AM VERY LUCKY!
Do I envy my cloth diapering comrades? A little, but in the end, it’s not realistic for me. Instead, we’ve found a brand of disposables that leaves Natalie dry and rash free.
I know there are pumping and formula moms who envy my ability to breastfeed, but because of schedule or physical complications they’ve had to find their best alternative. And while I’ll probably wean Natalie around a year (if she hasn’t already), there are moms who will breastfeed for years after that. That is their decision.
My point is that for every well adjusted, cloth diapered, attachment parented child, there’s an equally well adjusted disposable diapered, working mama/day care child. As long as love and the child’s well being are the center of the home, how the mom approaches tubby time is purely a method. Just as every child’s nursery is unique, so is that mom’s parenting style.
While you may not agree with another’s methods, that does not entitle you to judge them, label them as “wrong”, or even feel like less of a mother. You do not know the reasons and circumstances behind their decisions. I have to admit that I have found myself giving a side eye to parenting practices that I’ve witnessed, so this is ,above all, a reminder to myself.
When Natalie was born I was inducted into the Mom Club. Every day I bust my butt figuring this role out, and I am not alone. So rather than tear down your fellow moms, build them up, respect them as you’d like them to respect you, and question their methods only to educate yourself.
Rather than define myself as an attachment parenter or any other label from a book, I shall humbly define myself by this one:
I am a Natalie Rose Gardell parenter 🙂 Happy Mother’s Day!