Tuesday, September 27, 2011

Can't we all just get along?

Growing up, I was one of those girls that had a hard time making friends with other girls. I would have a few close pals, but the majority of females were a clique I could not break into. I always seemed a step behind the fashion, out of touch with modern hairstyles, and of course there was my bad habit of always having my nose in a book. That never goes over well with social circles. High school was better, but I dreaded college. I went to a private Christian school with single gender dorms and a curfew. Yes, the dark ages. I shuddered at the idea of getting locked up every night in a building with 600 other girls doing their nails, putting on facial masks and flipping through Cosmo.

Turned out college wasn't the slow torture chamber I had imagined, and I ended up making some life-long friends there. I found that I wasn't the only woman who doesn't get an adrenaline rush from shopping, getting a manicure or perusing the latest Bride magazine (the most popular magazine on campus of course "Ring by spring or your money back"). I also managed to get a little style, figure out how to fix my hair and learn an appreciation for female companionship. My circle was still small, and I had more guy friends than gal pals, but my closest friends, the ones who knew my heart and loved me anyway, were women.

When I got married, I was sure that the circle that always seemed to close me out from the thriving mass of women-friends would magically open, I would be warmly accepted and we would drink hot tea and chat in the afternoons together. That was not reality. I realized with marriage, making friends became exponentially harder. Now I had to find a woman that I liked, we had a few things in common and could talk. Then we had to test and see if my husband liked her husband, and that's always tricky because most men can fake it for one dinner or game of bowling, but do they really enjoy each others company. Then the final straw was whether I liked her husband and she liked mine. Only when all 4 had connections that worked did the friendship have a chance of truly blossoming. Sigh...this was a long process.

Then came children. The golden key to the inner sanctum of women friends. Finally, I had found what would bond all of us in mutual respect and love, or at least survival: babies. However, this also proved unreliable at best and at times flat out untrue. And here is what I really want to discuss. Why can't mother's get along? Ultimately I think the answer lies in pride. Let me back up and explain:  mothering is not one long stream of continuous process that you put your raft in and float, as I had imagined, where you might bump into others with rafts and chat as you attempted to remain upright and safe. Oh no! Mothering is a series of yes or no questions and each answer puts you into a steadily diminishing circle or an ever widening circle. Our choices that we make as mothers determine who we can be friends with because whatever choice we make must be the right and the only right one. Otherwise we would not have made that choice! Right? Wrong. I think this attitude ends up shooting us in the foot and leaving us lonely and distraught.

I think I have a particular empathy for this situation because my choices have ended up being a mixed bag that has left me out of most circles. If I had chosen to go completely with one set or another, I would know who my assigned group of friends are. However, I chose to passionately and thoroughly research each and every choice that came my way, reading articles, books, blogs and quizzing my mom friends for their experiences. This led me to make multiple different choices. Everyone of them was right. Right for ME! That's the conclusion of all my research, all my effort, all my thought and prayer. There is no one right answer for everyone, every family, every mother. There's only what works for YOU, YOUR family, YOUR baby. Our pride tells us that what we chose is right for everyone, but that's false.

I chose to have my babies at home with a midwife. Not because I'm a huge rebel or have anything political to prove (those tendencies came after--when I got so much grief) but because I am TERRIFIED of anasthesia and hospitals and I'm really healthy with no complications. I can only relax at home. But I would never think that was for everyone. I know LOTS of moms who would be out of their minds with worry at home and never be able to relax, or who really need that epidural to cope with labor, or want experts 2 feet away if something goes wrong with baby. Or even more, have complications and MUST be at a hospital. They should go to the hospital. No judgment. Just love.

But that doesn't mean I fit in with the crunchy moms either. I don't co-sleep (my husband nearly suffocated my first son by rolling over on him--plus I find it very stifling to our love life to have a baby in bed!). I don't practice Attachment Parenting. I don't do extended nursing or EC potting training. And I did Babywise! Big NO-NO with crunch moms!

Yes, I chose to Babywise my baby. Not because I think that's the only way to do it, but because it kept me sane and my baby fed. Before a mom put Babywise in my hand, some loving old ladies had told me that babies eat every 4 hours. Judah was starving! Babywise told me to feed my baby every 2.5-3.5 hours and to measure that by his hunger. It taught me to trust my instincts about what was really going on with my baby and not to assume it was hunger. It might be a wet diaper or being really tired. I learned to read my children; and they learned to sleep! But I know lots of parents who are the opposite. Babywise made them feel forced to hyper-schedule and distance themselves from their child. Or they are very pasionate about on-demand feeding. So, don't Babywise! I'm okay with that. I don't have to wake up every 3 hours for two years, so it doesn't bother me what you do!

And the list goes on...

I think it's perfectly acceptable to make choices based on parenting style and children's needs, and still respect each others choices. What I don't understand is the militant attitudes. I'm not campaigning to get you on my side. I don't need you to be a Cry-it-out mom like me to have a play-date with you or invite you to my book club. But can I not be an attachment parent and you not call CPS on me? I just find a lot of moms feel isolated, lonely and desperate, but they can't find a friend because they do things a bit differently. Or maybe a lot differently. Are their kids healthy? Are they loved? Are they developing, showing empathy, hitting their marks (or close)? Then let it go! Maybe your ways wouldn't have worked at all for that mom. You can still be friends! You can still learn from each other.

Let's give peas a chance!

1 comment:

  1. Catching up on my reading. Love this one! So true. Makes me miss you more than I ever did. Although I do remember sipping tea with you very early on...