Love For the Mainstream

Welcome to the second edition of the “I’m a Natural Parent – BUT…” Carnival

This post was written for inclusion in the carnival hosted by The Artful Mama and our feminist {play}school. During this carnival our participants have focused on how mainstream society has affected their natural parenting and how they have come to peace with this.

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I may be an “extended” breastfeeding, baby-wearing, cloth diapering, home-made everything, cloth napkin-using, Montessori loving, non-punitive disciplining mommy . . . but I LOVE my mainstream parenting friends.

By nature, I’ve been drawn toward a natural parenting lifestyle. But I’ve found that mainstream parenting friends are a vital part of my life. Though we disagree, and differ, having mainstream parenting friends has shaped my understanding of self – as well as my understanding of compassionate advocacy and collaboration.

Stubborn Advocate: A Tolerable Existence

I used to find mainstream parents to be harsh, judgmental, and close-minded (and I’m sure that for a while, that’s how I was seen, too!). I’d wonder how in the world someone could feed their baby formula, with all the added sugars and gross fillers. My blood would boil when I get a rude stare or an ignorant comment about nursing my baby in public. I’d wonder why “that mom” was screaming at her toddler in the Walmart when she could choose to speak kindly to her instead. I’d feel defensive when I saw a friend at the park and I knew that she expected me to give my daughter time-outs, when I knew that wasn’t in my parenting repertoire.

It was a tolerable existence.

And then something happened.

I let into my life a family that, on many levels, is completely and totally different than ours. They don’t cook with whole foods, ever. Both of their children were fully formula fed, and they watch a lot of TV. Exercise and outdoor activities are not high on the family activity list, and they reprimand their daughter for getting in the dirt at the park. They use time-outs, and even spank for certain infractions. They spend a lot of time playing video games and eat more junk food than I find appropriate.

But when I decided to get to know them – disregard our differences, and spend some time with them – I found that underneath the differences between a mainstream mom and a crunchy one, there are two women who love their families and are trying to do what’s best for them. Period.

Though I love, recommend, and will always advocate for natural birth and parenting 1 . . .

The way that babies are fed. . .  the food that’s in their bellies. . .  the manner of education, or discipline. . .  or entertainment. . . . does not delineate love.

My mainstream parenting friends do love their children, and they parent the best way they know how. Love crosses across all differences – love and care are about dedication, intention, and effort – and though it’s clear that some forms of parenting can be more beneficial than others. . . love is universal.

Mainstream Friendships Nurture My Perspective

Realizing that love for a child isn’t dependent upon the method of child-rearing that’s chosen by a parent really changed my perspective on self-awareness as well as activism.

Allowing parents different than myself into our lives and social circle enriches my understanding of who I am and what I believe while helping me to compassionately model my methods without judgement or criticism. I have been able to see the perspective of parents different than myself, and they have been able to see my perspective.

Being friends with people that I don’t necessarily agree with on every subject reminds me of the importance of inclusion and respect. My mainstream parenting friends and I disagree, but we do so respectfully, and in doing so, we teach each other.

  • My mainstream parenting friends have reminded me that a stern voice is useful – and I have taught them that words are more powerful than a spanking.
  • They remind me that it’s important to take time for myself and not feel guilty about being healthfully detached from my kids at times – and I have taught them about responding to a child’s needs instead of only reprimanding when their children act out.
  • They have given me further insight into the feelings of a family for whom breastfeeding didn’t work out – and I have taught them why it’s not only OK to nurse a toddler or older child, but why it’s actually nutritionally, developmentally, and emotionally beneficial, and normal.

Though I love being with parents who are more like me, I find that being around my less-healthful, more parent oriented, sometimes inappropriate friends is a good reality check – a fantastic exercise in perspective, and an opportunity for both learning and teaching – that makes me feel secure in my convictions, increases my awareness of the need for balance, and also allows me the opportunity to be a positive example.

How do parents that are different than you influence your life?

Have you had a friendship that has initiated personal growth?

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  1. including breastfeeding, genital integrity, cloth diapers and home goods, non-punitive discipline, natural learning, focus on development, attachment parenting methods, and cooking healthfully

Comments

  1. What an interesting perspective. I have lots of friends in all regions of the AP/mainstream spectrum, and I do think I’ve learned valuable lessons from them, but it would never have occurred to me to write about it. One of my favorite (real-world) parenting groups is a bunch of moms who get together to talk about their birth stories, and it’s been very beneficial to hear people who had an epidural and…they are fine. And their baby is fine. And it wasn’t the end of the world. The thing that makes this group work is a deep-rooted respect for everyone there, and a belief that we’re all doing the best we can. It sounds like you’ve found this with your mainstream-y friends.

  2. Unfortunately I’m the odd man out in my group of friends, they all think I’m a crazy hippie, but I’ve noticed that we are learning from each other too. Sometimes I’m even jealous of their choices, like to formula feed, because I always have to sacrifice fashion for something breast accessible. But the cute dresses can wait

  3. The first playgroup I attended of a mainstream moms club, one mom was talking about giving her kidsTylenol to get them to sleep and letting them CIO, and doing time-outs. But she also has given me great advice on local resources, for which I’ve been really thankful. I still cringe when I think of those little kids drugged up, but I realize she was doing what she felt she needed to do in order to get through the day the best way possible. And she’s a very open-hearted person our community is lucky to have. I was also disturbed by another mother who put her toddler in front of an iPad through a meeting at our older kids’ school where the other toddlers were playing. She and I later had a great conversation about play-based learning, and I came to understand that her introverted kids had needs totally different than mine. The screen time was probably the best way for the little girl to feel comfortable in that situation at that time and for the mom to participate in the meeting. I love getting proven wrong about my snap judgments!

  4. I adore this post Amy! And agree with it 100%. We have to be open (while taking care of ourselves) to everyone and everything. I agree that it does enrich and add to who we are as people.

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