During a recent conversation with a close coworker and friend, she asked me an important question. She is just starting out on her motherhood journey, and has only heard of main stream parenting styles. (I have to thank her quickly for being such an unbiased and open minded individual. She happily lets me chat her ear off during our many in-depth, philosophical conversations which have led to a lot of inspired blog posts.) She asked “Where did your parenting perspective come from? Something must have happened?“.
She suggested I share how I became so passionate about my parenting perspective and why I feel the need to share it.
Parenting has become a controversial topic. My male friends argue it has become more controversial than even politics. We are made to feel that how another person chooses to parent is “none of our business” and so on. If you have an opinion, you are considered “judgmental”. If you are proud of a parenting choice, it has become to mean that you are shaming the counterpart (i.e breastfeeding vs. formula) and therefore the mother who made the choice… but I do not think this is always true. I understand why all of us defend our parenting with ferocity, because our children are sacred and our parenting choices emotional. But I believe in the power of discussion and debate and varying perspective.
I knew when I started this blog that it would maybe stir some controversy. I was afraid I would come off self-righteous and argumentative and I am still learning on how to portray my thoughts and get my point across effectively without sounding offensive. I was hesitant at first to share it with anyone, but as time went on… I became much more accepting of this idea of sparking controversy. Controversy encourages conversation. Conversation opens up the mind to a different perspective. Different perspectives can lead to enlightenment.. and then just maybe, enlightenment can lead to change.
Before I became a mother, I “believed” a lot of the main stream parenting ideals. Sleep-training and “cry it out” seemed normal to me and something that I would do as a parent, I equated babies to bottles. I was judgmental towards those that practiced “hippy parenting”, thinking that their children would grow up to be detrimentally attached to their mothers. I believed the “hippy mothers” were “soft” and doing their children a disservice by “spoiling” them. I thought women who breastfed in public were brazen attention seekers. I thought bed-sharing was dangerous, and the mothers who slept with their babies were irresponsible and putting them in harm’s way. Don’t even get me started on what I thought of women who breastfed their babies passed infancy. I was, basically; your typical mainstream American woman.
And then… My daughter arrived.
I would quickly realize how adamantly wrong I was. I say this many times when I talk about the birth of my daughter, it has changed my perspective on life entirely. I really believe it has awoken something primal in me (and my friends have agreed!). It has removed the fog from my glasses and I feel I can truly see the world for what it really is. Motherhood has turned my American, Generation Y, entitled self into a completely selfless person.
I realized my needs and desires came nowhere close to the importance of hers. I gave birth to a living breathing tiny fragile being that encompassed all of the complexity and beauty we as humans contain, and she needed me in a way that I was unprepared for. I found a strength I didn’t know I possessed. My whole purpose on this Earth was to meet her needs, and everything leading up to this job seemed insignificant.
My whole body filled with anxiety if she was not near me. The thought of her “crying it out” made me nauseous.Nursing her to sleep in my arms felt natural and right. Being afraid to breastfeed in public for the fear of being ridiculed when my daughter was crying with hunger gave me insight to how skewed our society’s priorities really were. And to leave her behind to return to work broke my heart.
I have never met a mother who did not fiercely love their children but I feel a lot of parenting choices in our society and culture today are based off of many misconceptions (i.e. assuming your body will not produce enough breastmilk, that “sleep-training” will teach independence, etc.) and I am so grateful that I eventually found an entire subculture of mothers, fathers, doctors, and scientists who felt the same way about parenthood that I did and that there was even a lot of science to back it up!
My goal is not to shame mothers and put down their parenting choices or to make them feel guilty or attacked, but I will give a disclaimer to read with caution; because I do share strong opinions and I will not feel censored for the sake of not appearing judgmental. I want to show women a different perspective, to debunk the myths of today’s society. To tell women it is OKAY and natural to sleep with your baby (and safe!)… That it is OKAY and natural to hold them in your arms, to breathe in their scent for as long as you want; to cherish this wonderful gift without the fear of “spoiling” them… To NOT give up breastfeeding when you feel you cannot go another day during those early weeks because the light at the end of the tunnel is Blinding and the struggles all the more worth it… To follow your baby and your instincts rather than parenting books and pediatricians when it comes to parenting choices… To educate yourself and arm yourself with facts before following advice. My intention will never be to offend or to be offensive. However, I will not apologize for advocating for the parenting choices I believe in, because I believe in the benefits they pose for both our children and we as mothers that strongly.
I am PROUD that I am a part of the very small percentage (23%!) of women who have continued to successfully breastfeed for 6 months. And that I am still going strong at eight months (and hopefully for as long as I decide!) because I worked damn hard to get here.
I am PROUD that my daughter has flourished from only the milk of her own species.
I am PROUD that I have woken up for every night time feeding and that my daughter has never and will never “Cry it Out“.
I am PROUD that my daughter sleeps next to the warmth and comfort of my body.
I am PROUD that my education has given me the knowledge to trust in the importance of vaccinations.
I am PROUD that my daughter has never felt hunger because I did not buy into “scheduling” her days.
I am PROUD that she will have spent her infancy wrapped closely to me and knows only security and closeness and nothing of loneliness.
But with all of that said, I do not feel that being proud of any of those things means that I love my child anymore than anyone else loves theirs.
My goal is to encourage and inspire mothers. I believe with the right support, we as mothers can be selfless and sacrifice for this time in our lives to give our babies the best start to life that we can offer them. My only hope is to share a different perspective and maybe cultivate some change in the process. I am going to leave this post with a quote that really resonated with me, and I hope one day it will with you, too.
“I am so glad I became the mother I am today, rather than the mother I intended to be.” -Anonymous