Mommy Boxes

I’ve been feeling sort of out of place recently – both on the internets (where, let’s face it, I spend most of my time) and in real life – when it comes to where I fit in as a mother. I’m not afraid of being a bad mother or a neglectful mother or a lazy mother. I’m comfortable with my choices and don’t feel guilty for making them. I’m worried I’m going to be a lonely, friendless mother because it is hard to maintain friendships with people who disagree with your parenting decisions, no matter how well you get along.

On the one hand, I’m a breastfeeding, babywearing, co-sleeping attachment parent. I feel very strongly about breastfeeding and end up talking about it a lot, mostly because it’s hard not to talk about something you do 12 times a day. Other things I believe in: making my own baby food, feeding on demand (even at 2 am. And 3 am. And 4 am), sharing a bed (or bedroom) with my baby and carrying Baby Evan more often than not.  In general, my view of parenting is that kids weren’t meant to be easy and if raising an independent, well-adjusted child means I don’t get to wear non-nursing clothes or see a movie in a theater or get eight hours sleep for a year or two (or eighteen), I’m OK with that.

But on the other hand, I loved my hospital birth, complete with epidural and pitocin. Really, I loved it. We chose to circumcise Baby Evan. I’ve followed a standard vaccination schedule so far (I can’t resist linking this article on the importance of herd immunity my friend Lareign posted on Twitter). We don’t cloth diaper, although if someone wanted to offer me a lifetime supply of BumGeniuses and a diaper service I’d certainly make the switch. And the moms who agree with everything in my first paragraph are absolutely totally anti-EVERYTHING I JUST SAID in my second paragraph. To them, those decisions are all risky and uneducated. I’m clearly blinded by Big Medicine and Big Pharma and hate fresh air, trees and puppies. My child will get autism, penis cancer, mercury poisoning, male pattern baldness, early onset puberty, and incurable diaper rash and it will be all. my. fault.

I think the key to mommy friendships is to not comment on anyone else’s parenting. And “not comment” doesn’t mean not saying anything to someone’s face but loudly ranting about the dangers of cesarean sections within earshot of someone you know had one. Or “not comment” by saying “Oh I would NEVER…” Or “not comment” with my biggest, hugest pet peeve smack-down, “Just educate yourself on all the facts and then make a decision.” No one ever uses that phrase unless what they really mean is YOU’RE DOIN’ IT WRONG AND SUCK AT PARENTING AND HAVE UGLY HAIR TOO. “Not comment” means seriously don’t talk about stuff you know is going to lead to someone being uncomfortable and stick to safe topics like trying to remember the last movie you saw in a theater or how annoying it is that all little boy clothes have footballs on them. And I can do that for about 20 minutes. But then I start talking about how exhausted I am since the baby started rolling and kicking me in bed and the co-sleeping comes up and then suddenly the conversation is back to sleep training and feeding on demand and boobs and oh look this isn’t a beach it’s a minefield.

I just wish there was a place where I could meet other moms with my half one kind, half the other parenting approach. It could be the “I vaccinate my breastfed baby who wears Pampers but doesn’t use a bottle” club. Maybe we should get lapel pins. Or a secret handshake.

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16 Responses to “Mommy Boxes”

  1. Audrey says:

    *snort* I can sympathize. I am all for everything in the first, although I never successfully made babyfood he’d eat so we went with jars, and most of the stuff in the second, but we didn’t get him snipped for non-political non-religious non-yur-beezwax reasons. :D But I definitely feel the stares of the ladies in my mommy groups who are all natural all the time because I stopped cloth diapering in the summer when it was mega hot and so not worth it and because they see the bottle instead of the breast, although they don’t bother to ask if this is a stance or a forced reality. And I always feel like I am in some sort of endless “dating pool” looking for the perfect mommy friends who I can just hang out with without feeling self conscious about my decisions.

  2. erniebufflo says:

    I’m childless, but to me, I just wonder why being friends with people who make different parenting choices would be any different than being friends with people of different religious or political stripes. I’m a tree-hugging, composting, slow-foodie, pro-choice, liberal, feminist, Jesus-lover who is probably a big walking ball of contradictions to most of my fellow residents of the Bible Belt. I just… don’t talk about the controversial stuff when I can help it, and I try to be very very good at quickly changing the subject. I just assume most people are doing the best they can to live their values, and hope they assume the same about me.

  3. Shannon says:

    I know how you feel. I have the same problem, but on the opposite side. I’m all of the first paragraph, plus cloth diapering, homebirth and a delayed vaccinator. I don’t tout my choices, but boy do I get disgusted looks when they are discovered. I think you rock and would love to be your friend if I lived closer.

  4. AGreenEyeDevil says:

    When it comes to the tasks of caregiving, be it a puppy, a baby or an elder, society is wickedly judgemental. It’s sad and frustrating.

  5. lalaland13 says:

    There’s more than one way to raise a good and healthy baby.

    But I wonder if we’re so judgmental as a society because we’re scared to death that we’re doing it wrong. And thanks for the shout-out, btw.

  6. bebehblog says:

    Ernie – The problem isn’t so much that people MAKE different choices, but that moms gather in like-minded groups. So the discussions quickly turn to “I can’t understand how ANYONE would EVER use those chemical-laden, poisonous, evil, disposable diapers” and I’m left hoping the baby doesn’t need to be changed until we can get somewhere where no one can see. It would be like you attending a church where every single sermon was about the dangers of birth control and feminism.

    I had a hopeful moment today, where one of the moms in Stroller Strides mentioned her son was getting his first shots today and how worried she was about the link to autism. Another mom, one I really like and am hoping to be friends with, quickly pointed out that those links have no scientific proof and even if she was concerned the MMR shot isn’t given until 12 months. I couldn’t agree with her fast enough. I’m hoping she’ll be my mommy-girlfriend.

  7. Natalie says:

    Um… we would be friends if we lived closer together–but we can settle for being e-friends, I GUESS (do people even use that phrase?). I share your parenting philosophies–I did pretty much everything you do and am continuing that. My family and friends don’t understand how we are okay with not having a weekly date night or “You nursed until HOW old?” and then the looks I get when I explain I would have nursed until they were 2 if they had let me. I have girls, but if/when we have a boy, we are planning on getting him circumsized. I loved my drugs and have no problem being induced, my birth experience with both of my girls was fantastic and I wouldn’t have traded it for anything. I don’t have many mommy friends because most of my friends are childless, so most of them have forgotten I exist, or at least they don’t want to hang out as frequently.

    It sucks, but I take solace in the fact that I chose my best friend to be my partner in life and child-rearing, and I hope that my decisions will offer up some hope for redeeming the human race.

    Or, at least create some kids who can support us in our old age.

  8. Natalie says:

    I guess my biggest surprise is how people (ie: grandparents and the like) are surprised that we aren’t handing the kids off at any given opportunity. I like to remind them that we had children to RAISE not to pawn off on others.

  9. Emmie Bee says:

    I can agree with everything you said for the most part. We breastfed until I got sick in my second pregnancy and was forced to quit in exchange for meds and formula. We cloth diaper- but only because SOMEONE DID give us a service as a gift! I had a c-section! I vaccinate! and when my kid cries in the middle of the night in his crib in my room- my laziness kicks in and I let him sleep with me in our bed. Making baby food is my favorite thing to cook and I’m sure my husband is pissed that my kid gets home-cooked meals while he microwaves a potpie with 10000000 calories. But hey, I’m pregnant and have only so much energy!! Oh yeah, and my son’s doctor in the hospital actually felt the need to come tell us that our son has “a REALLY beautiful circumcision.” So, I understand. It’s really no wonder I cannot identify with a group of moms! I am hoping more of MY friends will start having the kiddos so at least even if we don’t agree on parenting- we will have history to hopefully keep the friendships alive!

  10. Erin says:

    I like to just lie (little white ones) depending on which group of friends I am with…..(oh, and to the grandmothers). It makes the whole thing SO much easier. “Sure, I love the washable nursing pads, they’re great! I would never use those horrible bad-for-the-earth throw-away kind with the wonderful water proof lining. Of course not.”

  11. There are some benefits to having the only child (for the next week or so) in my group of friends. Since they trust me and my judgement they just assume what I am doing is the best way to do it. I do wish I had SOME mom friends though so we could talk about things other than how amazingly big my boobs got right after Calder was born. My guy pals still like to bring that up. They are pervs.

  12. sarrible says:

    Yeah, what Bill Leah said. I’m sure whatever you’re doing with Evan, you’re doing right. Just look at how happy he is in his extensive selection of hats! Come on, that is a well cared for baby.

  13. Erin says:

    Speaking of the hat post…..I’ve always been jealous that you look good in hats and I really don’t — and now, your kid looks good in hats and mine really doesn’t. What the hell is up with that????

  14. Other Erin says:

    I’m all about what Ernie said. People have contentious views on lots of things that aren’t babies and the polite way to deal with it is to avoid those topics among all but your close friends. At the very least, know that your baby will grow up a more tolerant person because his mom never said things like “I can’t fathom doing X. Only bad people do/believe X.” If you really can’t fathom the reasons for the other side of any issue then you probably either a)aren’t very smart or b)are completely closed minded. You’ll find normal mom friends…I mean you’ve only been at this for a few months. :)

  15. Danielle says:

    After I read your post, I saw this article and it reminded me of you.

  16. ita says:

    I agree with you and understand how you feel! It is difficult not to be judgemental when you feel so passionate about something. I had some (terrible-horrible) difficulties breastfeeding and the support I got from other moms sometimes backfired and made me feel guilty and completely incompetent as a mom. As in, if you do not sort out your breasfeeding issues soon, you will be one of “those” moms. I wanted to breasfeed my baby because of the benefits it would have for HIM not so I could be put under a particular mom category, but at the end that’s how I ended up feeling. Now, I do not comment on anyones choices on parenting unless they ask me what I think and then I try my very best not to be inadvertently judgemental. That is key in mommy friendships. The most difficult part!

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