Minority Report

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Since entering the world of Stay at Home Mom Dom…. I’ve been meeting a plethora of other moms in various groups, meetings, and activities and I have been starkly reminded of how much of the MINORITY I am when it comes to parenting philosophy. I wouldn’t say I fit the “crunchy earth mama” stereotype so I think people in general are somewhat shocked when they hear my viewpoints regarding birth, baby care, and gentle parenting. I think they assume by my appearance that I am undeniably mainstream. (Except the other day I realized my outfit consisted of a screen Tee and spiked earrings… Is it happening? Am I turning into a hipster?) And I am mainstream, pathetically, in other ways- I love me some celebrity gossip and Starbucks. But the basis of my parenting views are definitely what you would consider “alternative” (or the biological norm depending on how you want to look at it). 

However, I’m adjusting to “not conforming” in a way. My whole life has been about fitting in. Moving around a lot as a kid, I was the “new girl” more times than I would like to remember. “Fitting in” was way of survival for me.  I learned how to be good at it (I had to really) and something that seemed so tragic as a thirteen year old may have even helped me in my adult life; I am inherently social. But it wasn’t always easy. (Especially that one time we moved from the North East Philadelphia region to the rural parts of South Carolina– can you say culture shock). I read something somewhere that wanting to conform is a primordial survival mechanism. We are a social species, after all- it is imperative. Wanting to conform is hardwired, so I am a little out of my comfort zone in my new mom life and it can be a lonely place sometimes. However, when it comes to parenting my “opinions” are passions and I know too much, have learned too much, to ever go back.

I think because I choose to put my thoughts out there on something as grandiose as the world-wide web, I assume that everyone not only knows my perspective but that I’ve also convinced them all of my agenda! Ha. I also created somewhat of a bubble for myself. My Facebook news-feed consists mostly of Breastfeeding and birth articles/advocacy, and gentle parenting propaganda. I avoid reading things about sleep training, formula feeding, detached parenting, and harsh discipline. Mostly because it makes me upset. But I’m sure many mothers do this; tailor what they see to their philosophy and viewpoints. But this experience of meeting new people has humbled me. No- Not everyone thinks like me (I can count on my hand how many mothers I know who were/are still nursing at this point {17 months strong – which the term motorboat has never been more relevant to my life}), and some are in just as much opposition towards attachment parenting as I am towards most mainstream parenting tactics. I’ve learned that the array of parenting style is as diverse as our children themselves.

It’s funny though, the mothers who I find myself drawn to are not the ones who parent exactly like me. I’m learning that who I gravitate towards has little to do with their parenting style and much more to do with their overall personality. (Except maybe if they were very harsh towards their children; however, I have never witnessed this…again, I have never met a mother who didn’t fiercely love her children. Or if they didn’t respect my views and challenged them profusely; again….never have come across this- there is a mutual respect on differing viewpoints usually.) What is much more important to me when meeting other moms is how warm, compassionate , friendly, open and welcoming they are (which all of these things usually translates into their parenting style anyway). Not if they are breastfeeding, babywearing, or bed sharing. Sure, having common interests as parents brings likely friendships, and I’ve made a lot of friends who share in my passion for breastfeeding, etc., but it is not the only thing that brings women together. This is why I really don’t buy into the “Mommy Wars”.

I wasn’t always this alternative, though. I’ve mentioned before that I definitely leaned on the edge of judgmental towards those “hippy moms” before I was a mom myself. I’ve realized that the most judgmental and opinionated people towards child rearing happen to be those without children, which I want to theorize as to why. I think the reason we are so judgmental before children is because we are not around children enough before we have them to have real expectations of what parenting is really like. Or we forget and become detached after our own children have grown. Our preconceived notions are based on what we hear or see in the media or hear from our elder relatives, etc. of what raising children should be like rather than current, real life examples. But if you ask me, our society’s viewpoints toward children are completely skewed. How many people do you know will let their pets sleep in bed with them but not their children? It’s starting to occur to me how un-accepting and unsympathetic towards children we really are. They are treated like second class citizens, or worse – property.

I want to talk about an “alternative” viewpoint towards parenting that I haven’t covered a lot in the blog yet, where I also find myself in the minority. Wait for it…Wait for it…It is “gentle discipline“. What is gentle discipline you ask? Gentle discipline simply means to guide, teach, and set boundaries for your children but with respect, love, and empathy; rather than fear or punishment. It is respecting their realistic developmental capabilities and understanding (i.e. a one year old does not know how to patiently wait) and empathizing with them when they are distraught (say not being able to have dessert for breakfast – we of course understand why, however their feelings of disappointment and frustration are real). It’s foundation is built on fostering trust and a strong connection. However, I want to make it clear “gentle discipline” does not mean “permissive parenting”, which many confuse it for. Think about this for a sec:

 

“The belief that being a parent imparts absolute control over another human being is a belief in tyranny, and it is human nature to rebel against a tyrant. The simplest and most effective way to prevent resistance, defiance, and rebellion in our children is to treat them with the same kindness, courtesy, and respect that we naturally give to adults.” -L.R.Knost

 

I am a big Wendy Williams fan and she has a massive audience, but her statements and view points towards parenting make her hard to watch at times. But sadly, she represents the majority opinion in America. I wanted to talk about one topic that came up on her show the other week that related to how our society views discipline. It was a discussion about a restaurant who placed “rules” that parents must keep their children seated during the entire duration spent at the establishment. Which Wendy Williams and her co-panel all commended.

Excuse me… Whattttttt?

The only way a typical toddler will sit still for a long period of time is if they are forced by restraint- which most will protest (and then you have the nay sayers complaining the child is making too much noise). Or they are disciplined so harshly that they are afraid to move (which the majority of society believes this is the healthiest and best way to go about this – read here why this doesn’t work). What bothers me the most is that no one takes into account how the child is feeling. It is just expected of him to go against his natural urge (which seems to be a trend in mainstream parenting tactics) and when he cries he is viewed as defiant or a problem.

Toddlers/young children are not SUPPOSED to sit still. They are SUPPOSED to be exploring their environment, testing their body’s strength and ability, learning through stimulation and socialization. This is what they are hardwired to do at this age, and I know I sound like a broken record but… nature has a reason and a purpose, and we need to start listening to it. The child’s world view should not be one from the constraints of high chairs and strollers. And okay, maybe a restaurant isn’t the best place for exploration and no, I do not think children blatantly disturbing others is okay but are you suddenly never to eat out again once you have children? Eating is America’s favorite pastime and a big part of our culture. And of course, there are children who are naturally mellow and will sit quietly on their own accord, but they are usually the exception. I’m learning as I go through this parenting journey that children’s behavior is much more influenced by their general disposition and personality, rather than parenting style (but I’m sure there are exceptions to this).

So what happens? Parents with small children are pushed to their homes or banned to only “kid appropriate” places out of fear of judgment or embarrassment or they leave their children behind to do things (which is fine if you want to and we all need a break- but contrary to popular belief most parents actually enjoy being with their children; not to mention, it is very hard to leave a nursing baby who is designed to be literally attached to us). And I get it, I really do. Everyone wants a quiet night out and feels entitled to this. But what ends up happening is this big segregation of society. Our culture consists of the childless (that goes for the parents who are done raising children) and the parents in the throes of child rearing. In the Continuum Concept (loveedddd this book) where she describes the lives of a tribal, primitive culture, everyone is together majority of the time. That means alllll age groups, and they all played a part in child rearing (A term called “Alloparenting”). Think about it, where do you think “It takes a village to raise a child” came from? We have come so far from this, and I think it has repercussions. This huge segregation is a big disservice to the individuals who have not yet had children because when the time comes they have no real expectation of what it’s really like to be parents. It also gives no chance to learn anything by watching others with their children or interacting with children themselves (Or the children to learn anything from watching the adults). It is probably why most of us feel unprepared, overwhelmed, and shocked when we realize how labor intensive parenthood really is. This even contributes to the breastfeeding issue in our society and why so little women are successful. We do not grow up watching women breastfeed so when the time comes we have absolutely no idea what to do.

I remember I brought my then 5 month old baby to a baby shower and being the only mother who brought her baby along. I received a couple of judgmental comments and lots of looks. It never even occurred to me to get a babysitter. It boggles my mind how mothers with children (but especially young babies) are so casually expected to leave them behind whenever there is a social event. And young babies are the most complacent of them all! They typically will sleep or nurse or stay content in a baby wrap or car seat carrier. Yet it is somehow inappropriate or better yet …”uncool”.

I know this argument is faceted and I’m not encompassing everything in this one post (like having nieces or nephews or how not every place is  kid appropriate) – and please feel free to comment your opinions! I also know that this post is a bit of a rant, and a disorganized one at that (however, if you think this is bad – you don’t want to see what goes on inside my head- pure chaos). So if you’ve made it this far I commend you for your loyalty! Ha. But it is something I often think about and a point I thought worth raising. I do believe a cultural change is in order, in many things with regards to parenting. I think becoming more accepting and empathetic to realistic expectations of babies/small children and their limits and more blatantly – their existence! will be to the betterment of our society. Young people need to be exposed to toddler tantrums, and breastfeeding mothers so they are more prepared for when they find themselves in their shoes. Parents shouldn’t be banished to only Chuckee Cheese and playgrounds. And little people should be treated as just what they are – people.

And I’m Tired of being the unpopular vote.

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4 comments

  1. Pamela Martin says:

    I swear, you seem to find the words for my day to day thoughts lol I absolutely love reading your blogs. I couldn’t agree more with everything you’ve written! I have recently started reading and researching alot about gentle parenting (although I do believe in a light smack in the hand here and there to teach certain dangers to a little one.. Not so much a form.of punishment, just a DONT TOUCH THE HEATER, ITS HOT AND WILL BURN YOU! I feel it better to give a little smack then let them get burnt.. And then older children under the age of 12 but over the age of 7, who know right and wrong will get some form of punishment for purposely going against the rules.) But I do believe that babies and young children do not know how to control their emotions and do not understand the reasons why they should or shouldn’t do something..so empathizing instead of disciplining makes a whole lot of sense to me :)
    And your point on babies and toddlers being brought along to restaurants and parties is exactly my feeling to a T. Especially for a nursing mama! I.don’t leave my baby with anyone. I can understand finding a babysitter for a wedding or something a little more reserved.
    Anyway. I agree with you girl.. I am one of the mothers in that small circle and I don’t mind being part of the minority! <3 much love

    • Tara Hales says:

      There’s this concept called “natural consequences” in the GP (gentle parenting) community. Look it up it made a lot of sense to me! A big thing with GP is so that our children trust us when we really DO need them to listen (like your example with a hot stove). Have you tried saying “hot” and explaining or showing with say hot food so he knows that the word means danger?

      At least we have each other Pam! haha <3 you!

  2. Melinda Davison says:

    As someone who would be considered on the opposite side of the aisle as you when it comes to a lot of things (ie breastfeeding) I believe this post speaks to a lot of my recent experiences lately. I’ve been to exactly 1 restaurant without a play yard in the past 8 months. I have even gotten stares at the play yard places for my 2 yr old yelling he doesn’t want to eat he wants to play. I have been told to just let anyone watch my children for the convenience of the group. Through all of these experiences I am not puzzled by those without children or who have not yet reached child bearing years giving looks or making comments. I fail to understand the looks, comments and nasty tone from middle aged people who most of which are parents themselves! How do parents become so disconnected from what it was like to have little ones themselves? Ironically, its the elderly who are the most supportive of young ones and their explorations.

    I do believe in gentle parenting as a whole but with a little boy who has no fear I have reluctantly had to instill timeout (which I’m pretty sure I’m not doing right…. you’re supposed to sit on the timeout step with them right?). Sometimes I do struggle however with empathizing vs being a push over.

    • Tara Hales says:

      I think with anything parenting we second guess ourselves. I mean we have been tasked with molding the lives of a HUMAN. The pressure!!! I think a lot of “gentle parents” struggle with the thought of being a “push over”- I know I do. And I have to remind myself that being a gentle parent does not mean being permissive. But I think viewing our children as behaviorally appropriate and not “bad” or “misbehaved” helps us keep our patience and emotions in check. There will never be one fool-proof way of raising children but I do think by being a safe, trusting, and empathetic constant in their lives they will always feel secure and loved.

      I think the previous generation assumes that their children were robots! :)

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