Category Archives: Parenting Judgement & Guilt

Messages and being a ‘good’ parent

Photo by John-Morgan via Flickr Creative Commons License

So I have been thinking about messages. You know, the short snippets of information that travels across all forms of media. Messages that convey what should be or what ought to be.

You see, I think most messages we are exposed to, as parents, citizens, consumers, ect, are short and black and white. They need to be. Let’s be honest, people get behind short, clear messages. People get excited or riled up or passionate or spurred to action, not by complex messages full of nuance and flexibility, but by very unquestionable statements. These messages can quickly travel from person to person with little explanation. The people that generate the messages may have done lots of research, but the people that spread the information and receive the information need not and may not have the same level of knowledge. The clearer, more engaging, more urgent the message, the faster and further it will spread.

Think about it.

Could you put “breastfeeding is normal and natural and most women can do it, though it can be difficult at first for some and it is important to get support and some women really can’t do it for a variety of reasons or they choose not to breastfeed for a variety of reasons and they can use formula, which although is not ideal, is a reasonable alternative” on a bumper sticker?

No. So instead we get:

Breast is best

Or

Formula is poison

Formula is as good as breastmilk

Co-sleeping is dangerous

Cribs harm attachment

Babies need to learn independence

Crying causes brain damage

Don’t leave your baby alone to cry

If you don’t use CIO they will never sleep

Put your baby down

Pick your baby up

You can’t spoil a baby

Don’t spoil your baby

Don’t give your baby solid food till 6 months

Give your baby cereal at 4 months

Babies only need breastmilk until one year

Toddlers need boundaries

Toddlers need attachment

I could go on.

The world doesn’t operate in black and white. The world is full of circumstance, nuance, flexibility. The world is case by case.

And as parents, these messages seem (although I don’t think it is intentional) to imply that parents are not to be trusted to make decisions. That we need guidelines. That our instincts aren’t enough. Truth is, kids don’t come with manuals. I am sure you have heard the joke about how we need to pass a test to drive a car but not to raise a human being. In today’s society, with our fragmented communities and it being rare for multi-generations to live together, we crave the ‘right answer’. We crave those clear statements to just tell us what to do. Give us the answers. However, when we get those messages and try to apply them we realize that they aren’t quite enough. They don’t cover all the bases, all the circumstances. They aren’t written with your child in mind.

Eventually, many of us, find our own middle ground. I believe that the masses are stupid but individuals are smart. We puzzle through the black and white messages we hear and we work things out case by case, based on our own circumstances. Through that process we often have to wrestle with our believes, guilt, confusion. We have to wrestle with not being the parent that we imagined ourselves to be, the one that seems ideal to us, that fits all the messages we believe it. We instead realize that we are the best parent we can be for our child. And that those messages need wiggle room.

Messages with little to no nuance do well on the internet. Bold statements make good headlines and they spur people to take sides and spread the word. And many of those bold statements are valuable. Unique perspectives that are needed in our overall dialogue. They stir up our thoughts and make us reconsider things from new perspectives.

But in the end most of us take the middle road. Or at the very least, modify and flex the road we are on. Strong convictions are good and it is important to have an idea of the kind of parent you want to be. The type of relationship you want to have with your child, the values you want to instill in them. But in the middle of the night, when push comes to shove you go with your best gut instinct on what is right for your kid at that time. Period.

And we shouldn’t feel guilty for that. We shouldn’t feel like we failed, or didn’t live up to expectations, or compromised our beliefs. And quite frankly, I don’t think we should have to deal with being told we have harmed our child, when we know we have done the best we could at the time. But we can’t control what people say, so the best we can do is trust that when we love, care for and do the very best we can for our child we should trust that no harm has been done. Or we accept what a friend of mine told me, ‘No matter what, you will find new and inventive ways to screw up your kid. We all need therapy over something our parents did.’ Anyway, back to the point. We shouldn’t measure our success as parents based on what anyone else thinks. We measure our success as parents by the relationship we have with our kids and if it is what we want.

And can I just say. If you are reading blogs and articles on the internet about how to be a good parent and are engaged in the online community of parenting dialogue, even just a little, chances are you are a good parent. Because you obviously care to be the best you can be. (Parents who aren’t online are also great parents, they just have the good sense not to get drawn into the drama online. Ha!)

There is nothing wrong with having a philosophy to guide you. The great thing about philosophies is that they are complex, changing, dynamic and there is often debate within them. They are not just an accumulation of a bunch of black and white messages. Personally, I like to borrow from multiple philosophies. And then I like to assess, question myself and evaluate. I think a lot of the mistakes in parenting come from doing things with the best of intentions but not thinking through or reflecting on the consequences. Not from lack of knowledge or guidelines or not following the messages.

What has the impact of messages been on you as parent? Helpful? Not helpful?

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Best. Post. Ever.

No, not one of mine. This post I read over at the Fearless Formula Feeders blog a couple days ago. Really. It is the best. post. ever. So I asked her if I could use it as a guest post on my blog, and she said sure! Yeah!

Below the post I am also going to include links to a number of amazing videos that the FFF did regarding the formula/breastfeeding debate. When they were first put up those of us in the ‘formula feeding community’ thought ‘we’ (meaning our beloved FFF) was going to get a whole lot of backlash. Somehow, by miracle, it didn’t seem to happen. I hope I am not tempting fate by re-publicizing them. Anyway, what I love so much about FFF, her blog and these videos is that she is supportive of all mothers. It is not about encouraging people to formula feed, it is about providing support for parents who find themselves there by choice or not. Anyway, enough of my rambling… here is her post.

Sunday, November 28, 2010

On letting go of guilt

Look to your right. See that little “ask me anything” box? That links you to a site called Formspring, which is pretty rad in the sense that you can literally ask me anything, completely anonymously, and I will answer you. Sometimes it takes me a few weeks to actually remember to check the darn site, but eventually, I will get around to it.

The cool aspect of this feature for me is that often, the questions people ask me on Formspring become fodder for future posts, and in these dog days of late-late-late pregnancy, I just don’t have the mental fortitude to come up with my own creative ideas. The other day, someone inquired if I had any tips on getting over the guilt of formula feeding, and I was shocked to realize that I’d never actually written a post specifically about this. And dammit, it’s high time I did.

Ironically, this issue has been on my mind quite a bit lately, as I work my ever-expanding ass off on my book, which deals with all the emotions surrounding our feeding experience; and as I sit here, 37 weeks pregnant, still ambivalent/confused/conflicted/undecided about how to feed Fearless Child #2. What is this thing we refer to as “formula feeding guilt”? Is the very fact that we feel it evidence that we should feel guilty, as Jack Newman and numerous others believe? Is it true that no one can “make” us feel guilty, and that if we think we have something to feel guilty for, we probably do?

If it’s not obvious from this blog, I don’t think guilt is a controllable emotion. Maybe it’s because I’m Jewish; guilt is built into our genetic code, and even if you believe more in nurture than nature, the Jewish mother stereotype is spot-on (and as my husband and I were just discussing, sometimes dads can be just as effective in inducing this potent emotion – my father-in-law is a guilt zen master). Guilt is something I feel comfortable with; it’s an old friend, at this point in my life, and a highly effective tool that I am already using to discipline FC. Who needs time outs when a simple “do you want to make mommy sad?” can get the job done?

Seriously, it works. And you should try it, if simply for the sake of experiment, because that is the crux of my argument on formula feeding guilt: it’s a highly effective tool. Advertising executives know this. Politicians know this. Advocacy groups know this. It’s time we did, too.

This might sound odd, coming from me, but it’s okay to feel guilty about your parenting decisions. It means you care. It means you know enough to realize what society expects from you, and what you expect from yourself. It means you are lucky enough to have options, to have been given the luxury of making a decision.

Now, when it comes to formula feeding, things get a tad more complicated. Ask me if I think anyone has a reason to feel guilty for using formula, and the answer will be a resounding hells-to-the-no. And I can say that with a clear conscience, because I have spent two years looking at all the studies, research, politics, commentary, internet chatter, etc. My stance is that breastfeeding is a personal choice, like any other. No more, no less.

But just because there’s no good reason for you to feel guilty, does not mean that you won’t. You will feel guilty because you want the best for your child, and everything we are told is that breastfeeding is the superior choice. You’ll feel guilty because you wanted to breastfeed, and you feel like you failed. You’ll feel guilty because you’ll read something three months down the line about someone even worse off than you who “persevered” and is still happily nursing her two year old. You’ll feel guilty because you’ll read articles that portray you as a victim of the system, someone who fell prey to the “booby traps”, and you’ll hate yourself for being so naive and weak, because every other mom around you is nursing, and the booby traps didn’t catch them, so why you? You’ll feel guilty because you imagined yourself as a breastfeeding mom, and here you are with your bottles and expensive powdered food which apparently can now be spiked with bugs. Good, good times.

Or, you’ll feel guilty because you hated nursing, and turned to formula right away. Or because you never even tried. You’ll feel guilty because you hate your body so much, hate how large and out of control you felt through the nine months of pregnancy, and can’t handle the thought of not having that control back at the soonest point possible. You’ll feel guilty because someone hurt you, badly, many years ago, and now the thought of feeding someone from your breast makes you want to scream… and you already feel guilty about being abused, despite years of trying to work past it, so the guilt just builds, and builds. You’ll feel guilty because you’re putting your own needs before your infant’s.

If you are formula feeding, there’s a good chance that at some point, you will feel guilty. Because guilt is closely related to self doubt, and self doubt is part of being a parent. Of being a good parent. Self-doubt means you are flexible, that you are a thinker, that you question your decisions. It means you are not dogmatic, that you have empathy, that you are human. It means you are educated and responsible, because you have listened and read and absorbed enough to realize what the “right” choice supposedly is.

So… back to the original question: how do you get over the guilt you feel about formula feeding?

You don’t.

Don’t even try. Rather, you claim that guilt as a badge of honor. You taste it; roll it around on your tongue, and spit out the bitter parts. Suck out the kernel of truth that’s hiding in there, the truth that negates all the hyperbole that reduces mothering to a pair of mammary glands and an over-simplified vision of what it means to love and nurture a child.

Do your research. Read studies. Talk to parents who have breastfed, and those that have formula fed, and hear what they have to say about their kids. Seek out others who have had similar experiences so that you know you are not alone. But don’t do these things to erase your guilt. Do them to seek the truth. Do them so you can viscerally, intellectually, and emotionally feel secure with the path you’ve chosen/been forced to walk down. Trust me, if you do this, you will feel better. The truth is comforting.

By consciously trying to “get rid” of the guilt, you are telling yourself that you have something legitimate to feel guilty about. You don’t. At the same time, you have a right to feel whatever you feel about your experience, and it’s tough to shut out those ominous voices when you are already riddled with regret and anxiety. The last thing you need is to feel guilty about feeling guilty. Even my grandmother, the Grand Pooba of Jewish Guilt, may she rest in peace, would agree with me on that one.

Link to the original post.

Link to the video’s.


What I learned from T.V. about Parenting Judgement and Guilt

Do you ever watch “Parenthood”? It is one of my favourite shows on T.V. Mostly because I wonder if they have hidden cameras in our house. The emotions and experiences of the parents, struggling to be the best parents they can be while still being human (ie. flawed), are so real. It is one of those shows on T.V. where the dialogue is so real and so moving. Even experiences I haven’t had as a parent (yet) I totally relate to their reactions and emotions.

But the last couple times I watched it, (along with some of the discussion on my “Pick em up, Put em down” post and some other posts I have read and that Erica Jong article and the reaction to it, ect. ect.), I have been thinking about the parenting archetypes the show (and other forms of media and social media) portrays.

I believe that how the media (including blogs and other forms of social media) portrays parents has a big impact on a) how we see ourselves and b) how we see (and perhaps sympathize, judge, or understand) other parents.

Probably the most common parenting (and one of the most bothersome, in my opinion) is the clueless, disengaged Dad. You know, Homer Simpson-esque? And like every Dad on a commercial where the Dad is the butt of the joke. This archtype really bothers me. Like a lot. Not that there aren’t kinda clueless Dads out there, just like there are clueless Mom’s. But it does such a disservice to all the amazing Dad’s out there to have everyone assume they are clueless, because the media tells us that all Dad’s are clueless.

On Parenthood, this archtype is played by the Grandfather of the show, and they do a really really good job of humanizing this character. It is not as offensive to me because he is so real, caring, loving and really trying to be a great father and grandfather. He knows he is flawed. He feels regret and guilt. Just like all of us do sometimes.

One of the other archetypes on the show is that of the controlling, high powered, working Mom. It is that character that often makes me shake my head and wonder- maybe I do that sometimes… hmmm…. is that what that looks like to everyone else? Again, because of how real the characters and the emotions of the show are I feel both sympathy for the characters, as well as being able to relate to them. So when they do something ‘wrong’, it causes me not to see them as the ‘other’, not to judge them or say ‘I would never do that’ (even if that is the case), but instead to use it as a lens to question my own parenting.

And along with the typically parenting archetypes; the perfect does-it-all Dad, the worried about everything slightly too involved Mom, the all fun and no seriousness Dad who needs to grow up, the Mom who is struggling to find herself, her career, her partner…; there is also a stay at home Dad– presenting a much needed perspective on something that far fewer men than women do. Showing it not only as real, but also as coming with it’s own set of challenges.

Again, I like these depiction of parenting archetypes; these characters. They are real. They are complex. They seems to cover the spectrum of how parents are portrayed in society, and makes them less like archetypes and more like real people.

I also value the archetypes they didn’t include. The ones I am not sure really exist all that much, except in the minds of those who portray them. The parenting scapegoats of society.

The lazy, disengaged, yelling, selfish Mom who never holds her child and leaves them to scream while sipping her glass of wine.

The coddling, never put their baby down till their 3, never let the kid out of a meter’s range, no boundaries or discipline, no use of the word ‘no’, martyr Mom.

If we are really honest, those two archetypes are often what is portrayed in the media and the world of social media. The two extremes on a huge spectrum with no consideration for what is in between. And I don’t even think it is intentional. It is all part of that ‘easier to make an argument when you build it against a strawmanwomen’ thing, along with our tendency to stereotype the ‘other’. It is not a coherent and coordinated attempt. But when we hear over and over again about all these mothers who let their babies scream for hours on end without batting an eye or mothers who provide no boundaries what-so-ever and spend the first 5 years always within 10 meters of their kid– well those images add up. And all the milder versions of those images make us think of the extreme– those add up too.

I get that many people feel that they have met women like that, while others feel that those parenting archtypes are a myth. There is no way to argue on that point, it is a she said/he said/she said/ he said argument. I have no idea who you know and what those people are like. I can only speak to who I know and what those people are like.

But I do believe most real people exist in the middle. And even if they don’t, they are real, complex individuals. With whom if we met and got to know for long enough; if we strove to really understand them; if we could take a peek into how they feel; the guilt and love and trying to do their best and not always doing their best and flawed human that they are; we would have sympathy, not judgment.

Yes. That is what I learned from T.V. about parenting judgment and guilt. When we catch a glimpse in the real emotions and real lives and real trials of any parenting, regardless of what category they most closely fall into, it is hard to judge. So let’s just not.

And let’s provide a space for nuance and humanity in our descriptions of parenting styles and choices we don’t agree with. Just for kicks.

Self-righteousness or Right?

This topic just keeps coming up for me; the concept of self-righteousness. There is a lot of bad feelings out there about hearing or reading opinions that come across judgmental or self-righteous. Everywhere really, but parenting in particular.

But where does ‘judgmental’  and ‘self righteous’ end and ‘activist’ or ‘advocate’ begin? The truth is there are some things that all of us feel are not so much about ‘different strokes for different folks’ and more about what is right. Period. Full stop.

I have some, I am sure you do to. Some of mine include not using physical forms of punishment, feeding kids healthy unprocessed foods (with room for an occasional treat), and giving kids age appropriate boundaries and limitations when they are young and then more choice and independence as they get older. You and I might agree on some of those and disagree on others. And you might have ones on your list that I don’t have on mine, like not using any form of sleep training or ensuring your baby is exclusively breastfeed for at least six months.

Here is the rub- I believe we have those beliefs based on our own experiences. And since everyone has a different experience, we are going to have different things we feel are ‘not optional’.The more people I talk to and the more I listen to their personal stories, the more I am convinced that there isn’t so much ‘right’ and ‘wrong’, but ‘right’ and ‘wrong’ to us. I am not arguing here for 100% moral relativism. Rather an acceptance that ‘right’ and ‘wrong’ can change over time and flex to meet the current needs of society. We learn; we change our beliefs. But at an individual level, those issues we feel most strongly about; there is usually an underlying personal reason why we take up a particular cause. There is certainly value in that, but I think we do have to accept that not everyone’s experience is the same.

Maybe you didn’t get good information or have the time and money to cook your kids good, wholesome food. Maybe I tried to breastfeeding like a maniac and it just didn’t work. Maybe you value a different type of relationship with your children and choose to not give them strict boundaries. Maybe I tried all the ‘no cry’ methods for supporting my baby to sleep and she really needed me to give her some space to release some tension. Maybe you had a baby who cried themselves into an absolute fit the moment you put them down and so you never used any form of CIO ever; it seemed so cruel! Maybe you faced a challenge that you thought, in retrospect, you wouldn’t have had to make if you had made a different choice about one thing or an other. Who knows?

Our experiences shape our beliefs about what is right and wrong and therefore what we feel others should or shouldn’t do. And unless we really listen to each others experiences, it becomes very easy to assume that our experiences are the same or similar to others. It is easy to take up an ‘I did or didn’t do X, so why should anyone else have to? They must be ignorant, lazy or not care’. It is a personal pet peeve of mine to see or hear comments that start with “I can’t understand why anyone would/wouldn’t…”

We often don’t know someones story. Scratch that. We usually don’t know someone elses story. And when we make blanket statements about what is ‘right’ and what is ‘wrong’, we often fail to recognize that there may be exceptions, or at the very least extenuating circumstances.

There is one post, early in my blogging career, where I discussed my belief that it is beneficial for babies to go to sleep early. (Actually, it was an admittedly judgmental post on taking ones baby out (particularly to malls) late in the evening, which I think is really detrimental to a kids ability to go to sleep cause there be so much stimulation. So if your kid won’t go to sleep at night and you are pulling your hair out, taking them to the mall (or anywhere else loud, noisy and bright) aint going to help, in my opinion. Anyway).  I still believe and early bedtime and low stimulation in the evening is the ideal. BUT. In the context of the discussion I heard from a number of parents for whom the early bedtime option really didn’t work, or it hit a sore spot due to circumstances they experienced with their babies. They felt judged, and I felt bad for that, because I really hadn’t thought through all the possible reasons why early bedtimes wouldn’t work for some children and families. I will say that again: I really hadn’t thought it through. That was my mistake. So I now accept that my preference is isn’t always preferable for others. That doesn’t change my opinion, but it does change how I would talk about my opinion.

I still think it is a good choice, and one worth considering, to put babies to bed early. At the very least, if one wants their baby to sleep through the evenings I would suggest one of the best way so encourage that is to have quiet, dim, low stimulation activities from the early evening on. But I wouldn’t say it is the only way or even the ‘best’ way. It is just my preferred way, that other may find benefit in, particularly if they come to me for advice on how to get their baby (and themselves) a bit more sleep.  I wouldn’t call myself an ‘early bedtime activist.’

Anyway. It is perfectly reasonable to advocate for changes in society or public policy (like health or education for example) to make better choices possible for families. Just because someone can’t/doesn’t want to breastfeed doesn’t mean we shouldn’t have better access to qualified lactation consultants. Just because some people don’t have the information, time and money they need to feed their kids healthy food, doesn’t mean we shouldn’t push for better labeling of food and spreading the word about the benefits healthy choices. And just because I feel that my child was never neglected, ignored or harmed by letting her cry and fuss to sleep, doesn’t mean others don’t have a right to advocate to parents again using any form of ‘sleep training’. (Heck, a lot of what they are advocating for I agree with , like having more realistic expectations for infant sleep, for example. Or trying other options like co-sleeping, which I disagree with our local health region for telling people is ‘dangerous’.) But even if I didn’t agree with them, I would still respect their right to advocate for what they believe.

But I think when we advocate we need to be more sensitive to the range of personal experience. How we advocate and the language we use to do so is important. When we focus on ensuring parents have support to make good choices we lift everyone up. When we rail against the harm of parenting choices we disagree with, we just leave a sour taste in others mouths. We need to hear each other. Especially those who have an other perspective. But those with an other perspective won’t talk to you if you insult them right off the bat.  I truly believe social change is all about conversation. And those who need the advice won’t hear it if it is wrapped in a tone of self-righteousness. Right and self righteous are not the same thing. It is possible that your opinion may be right, but self-righteousness is not the way, in my opinion, to present your thoughts.

What I am saying is that we aren’t all going to agree on which parenting options are ‘right’ and which are multiple choice with no wrong answers. But we could do a heck of a lot better job at getting people on side with our personal ‘right’ list if we advocated in a much more positive, open and kind way. You know, ‘how to win friends and influence people’? The truth is that people get behind others who know how to lead. Who can speak with integrity. Who don’t engage in petty battles and name calling. Who don’t use debate ‘tactics ‘ to try and ‘win’ an argument. Leaders, true leaders, get a following because people look up to them as models of how we should be in our society. They try, as best they can, to keep things positive. Nasty arguments ain’t going to win a following. Period. Even those that tend to agree with your beliefs are more likely to turn away.

People, lets get out the honey.

ControverSunday: Mommy Vices. Pass the Wine, hold the cupcake.

Welcome, ControverSundains.

This week, the ControverSunday topic is Mommy Vices. So Let’s talk. Join in the conversation by writing a post, getting your badge from Accidents, sending some love to Perpetua for coming up with this fantastic bloggy thing, and come back here and post your link for the link up. Or, just read and comment on the posts of those participating this week. It’s all good.

badges

The Cheeseblog

Our Lady of Perpetual Bread Crumbs

The Disgruntled Academic

We talked about this a bit in the ControverSunday posts re: The Culture of Pregnancy. But I will say it again. People start noticing/commenting on/ glaring at you/ trying to change your behavior re: mommy vices the millisecond they know you are pregnant. You know, that glare you get when you are in line at Starbucks? (From totally strangers that have no idea if you drink 3 cups a day or if this is your one cup for your whole pregnancy.) That’s the typically one, isn’t it? It starts there and just keeps going through out Motherhood. People suddenly have opinions. And not just about your parenting choices. There is something about motherhood that seems to make your bad habits fair game for criticism. Some bad habits more then others.

And some for good reason. Cigarettes, for example. I feel those things have no place any where near a pregnant women or children. Period. And while I wouldn’t go so far as to stop a parent smoking near their kids and tell them they shouldn’t, I believe they shouldn’t. Full stop.

But the rest of the mommy vices? Caffeine, chocolate, wine, cupcakes, trashy magazines, crappy tv, ect.? Whatever. Really. Some of these things warrant some caution well pregnant or nursing, but other then that…. whatever.

I have two mommy vices. Wine and food.

Mmmm wine. I do think one needs to take into account a couple things, re the mommy vice of alcohol. If you are pregnant or nursing, there is good reason to stay away. And I am always mindful of my ability to take care of A when she wakes up in the middle of the night. Getting yourself so intoxicated to the point that you can’t be a responsible parent? Not a good idea unless you have someone who is willing and able to step in for you. That being said- I likes my wine. And I will tell you honestly that I do partake in a glass or two a couple times a week. And when I was nursing? Well, I subscribed to the old wives tale about a small glass of beer in the late afternoon was good for milk production. I had a glass and enjoyed it. I suspect it did little to nothing for my milk production. But. It helped my stress. And I very much doubt it did any harm.

Here is the other thing- why are some mommy vices more no-no’s then others? For example, I have been pretty open about how I am not exactly the size/shape I would like to be physically. But I never got glares, pregnant or otherwise, when I ‘snacked’ on a muffin. Which is pretty much the same thing is cake. (Unless it’s one of my uber healthy mini pumpkin olive oil muffins.)

I am not advocating more judging. I think we Mom’s have it hard enough. And then to be held to some ridiculous high ‘but you are a parent’ standard? Seriously. I need my vices to get me through the day sometimes.

I am just saying that I find it odd the vices we pick on and the ones we don’t notice. We joke in pregnancy about the weird, largely unhealthy, food cravings. People even encourage a pregnant women to give into those cravings. But from a health standpoint, which seems to be on the grounds that most of the mommy vice judging is done, an unhealthy diet* is just as bad or worse then some of the other vices!

I guess what I am saying is that I get we are suppose to set a good example. And I am all for that. I certainly think I need to eat better to set a good example for my daughter. But give up wine? Never. Like never ever. I deserve a glass at the end of the day. And if someone thinks that’s not okay? Fine. But you aren’t changing my mind on this one. I like wine. I drink wine. I am responsible. End of story.

All that said, I have been thinking lately about the concept of indulgence. It says something about our society that when we are tired, stressed or upset we want to indulge in something which is not good for us. I don’t think one glass of wine a couple times a week is unhealthy, but my tendency to crave cookies, cupcakes and chocolate? Not so good. And I know it. If indulging in these things as much as I do is harming my health and setting a bad example to my daughter about using food for comfort, how is that okay? Why do I let myself justify that by thinking that ‘I deserve it’? I deserve to continue to cycle of being overweight and unhealthy? It makes ‘deserve’ seem like a pretty messed up concept.

I am not trying to judge anyone else here. I am just being honest with myself. I think it is completely reasonable for all of us to have something to turn to when we need a bit of comfort. And being a Mom is a hard job. But I do think we need to question ourselves when our ‘comfort’ is doing us more long term harm then good. Why can’t my comfort be going for a run? Or reading a good book? Why are we more comforted by vices then by good habits?

I am kinda coming up inconclusive on this one. On the one had I think there isn’t much wrong with many of the mommy vices, in moderation. On the other hand… why do we find comfort in things that are bad for us? There has to be a healthier way.

*I should clarify, re: unhealthy diet. I am a big fan of fresh, un-processed food. If you saw me in the grocery store with my cart, you would probably think my diet was pretty good. And it is. It is the extra’s that get me into trouble. I need to work on portion control and a number of bad things I indulge in too much: pastries, cheese, ice cream, chocolate, bread.

Amoment2think Relaunch: Now with more purpose

Ever since I wrote this post I have been thinking about what I really want this blog to be about. And then, last week, in the comments to this post and this post, I think I figured it out.

You see, I really like discussion and debate. Like, a lot. But it can be very frustrating sometimes. The internet becomes a place of strawman arguments, self-righteous and judgmental proclamations and firmly entrenched camps. A lot of discussions deteriorate into a yelling match with no one really hearing each other any more. I feel all these things really hold us back from really communicating with each other. They get our defenses up, they stop us from listening, they divide and separate us and tell us we shouldn’t ever agree. I am certainly not immune to falling into these debate traps, I don’t think anyone is. But they aren’t very productive in terms of having a discussion that goes somewhere.

When I say ‘goes somewhere’ I don’t mean totally changing someone else’s mind. For me that is not the point. I judge a discussion successful if, at the end, everyone has gained a better understanding of each others experiences. If everyone is a bit more open to others points of view. Discussion and debate, at its best, is connection not opposition. We are never going to get to a point where everyone agrees on something– nor should we. Diversity of opinion is what gives us new ideas, new perspectives and new understandings. Why would we want to do away with that?

That is why Perpetua over at Our Lady of Perpetual Bread Crumbs started ControverSunday, to give us an place to discuss controversial topics and realize that we may not have the same opinion, but we weren’t really all the far apart as it may seem. This meme is one of my favourite parts of writing this blog. And I so respect and admire the community that she has built around that blogging tradition. (Which is why we MUST keep is going. Please go see Perpetua and offer to host or offer a topic idea.)

Essentially, what I am saying, is that I want this blog to be somewhere that people feel safe sharing different opinions and experiences. It was so exciting to see @Kellynaturally and @janetlandsbury discuss different perspectives on babies natural tendency to suck for comfort. Even though they disagree, these two women are an example to us all about how to have a respectful, honest and open discussion. I, for one, was taking notes. I think their discussion also really showed how having a discussion that doesn’t turn into a yelling match not only is more pleasant, but also more informative. I learned more about both approaches then I had from many other debates which were not as respectful of each other. That’s how to advocate, in my opinion.

@Jessica really hit the nail on the head, in one of her comments, in terms of what I want this blog to be about: “This is just one of the most intriguing posts I’ve read in forever because I don’t have an argument against it, but yet we view our own views on it so differently.” Exactly. Let’s not argue- let’s just discuss different opinions. @Ginger also said something that stuck out in my mind: “I don’t know that I have a conclusion to my rambling here, but it bothers me that the discussions devolve (within the extremist groups primarily) to such a point that we believe the WORST in other parents first because of the rhetoric.” Exactly. Let’s come here and see the best in each other, rather then assuming the worst.

I know there are others places online out there where a safe space for debate has been created. It’s not like this concept is in anyway novel. But I think the more spaces like that exist where diversity of opinion can be discussed without all out brawl, the better.

So here is the plan. First, I want to welcome and encourage everyone to join the discussion here. If you have always wanted to comment, but didn’t because you felt your views were different, please comment. I really do want to hear from those who disagree. I have made the commitment here that your thoughts are welcomed. Discussions may get heated, but I will do whatever I can to prevent someone from feeling personally attacked. I won’t stop diversity of opinion, but I will moderate the comments and ask commenter to re-phrase their comments if I feel the person they are directed to would feel attacked. I can’t promise no one will ever be offended, but I promise to do my best to keep this a safe place for open discussion. That being said, I don’t want us to hold anything back. There is nothing wrong, in my opinion, with openly disagreeing with someone, so long as it is done with respect.

Second, I am working on a little blog series about those 3 traps (mentioned above) of debate we get ourselves into and a discussion on what we can do to prevent/stop them. I hope to have those posts up over the next couple weeks.

Also, in terms of topics, I am going to take @Kellynaturally up on discussing my thoughts on those strict scheduling baby theories. Like AP parenting, I have some aspects of those theories I disagree with (again, with many caveats) and I think writing about them will generate an interesting discussion. I would also like to hear from you if you have anything ideas for topics you think aren’t discussed enough online. Or a topic that you hear big assumptions being made about you would like to see a more nuanced discussion of. Let me know what you think.

Lastly, I just want to let you all know, my intention is not to turn this blog into all controversial debates all the time. I will write more toned down posts on just dealing with life and ask for your thoughts on it. But I do want to give this blog a bit more purpose. And if it can be a place where differing opinions can come together and we can discuss in an open and nuanced form- well, that would be awesome.

An Alternative View Point

No ControverSunday this week, so I have decided to be controversial all on my own. This week I read two blog posts which really got me fired up. I ran across them both via @kellynaturally on Twitter.

These were two very different posts. One was about the Mommy wars and this particular Mom’s recent experience with it and one was about Feminism. More specifically, who should call them selves a feminist based on their relationships. But both, essentially were rants. And fair enough, we all deserve our opportunity to rant sometimes.

I would have commented directly on these posts, but both made it very clear that they were not interested in discussion, debate or hearing out alternate points of view. The Mommy Wars post stated clearly that she would delete anyone’s comment that did not share her point of view on CIO (being that it is, in her view point, indefensible) and the other lashed out personal attacks to anyone who challenged her definition of feminism. I will be honest that I had more sympathy for the post on the Mommy wars then I did the feminism one, but both got me a bit worked up. Why? Because they were both completely set in their belief that their view point was the only defensible view point out there.

The feminist post, essentially suggested that one should not call oneself a feminist if they 1) did more housework then their partner, 2) accepted and was excited about a big fancy engagement ring and 3) took their partners name in marriage. Wow.

I never considered myself a feminist until I had a child. Having a child made me realize that there is a need for better support of women, particularly when it comes to the ability to make our own choices regarding working/staying at home, the kind of childbirth we want to have and what kind of support we receive in the postpartum period. But when I was in university, feminism, as presented by this blogger, turned me off. There is nothing I dislike more then someone who doesn’t know me and doesn’t know my circumstance, implying that I am oppressed and just don’t know it. What gives someone the right to define my experience? To me, feminism is about me having the right and ability to define my own experience. Sure, you may see a engagement ring as a sign of ‘ownership of a man’. I don’t. I see it as a sign of love and a symbol of connection. Actually, the whole debate that ensued in the comments of her post reminded me of the phrase, “If you don’t want a gay marriage, don’t have one.” If you don’t want traditional symbols of marriage, then don’t use them. What I choose for my marriage shouldn’t threaten your definition of feminism.

I can fully support that this individual would want to choose a different kind of partnership then the one I would choose. But to tell someone else they can’t be a feminist if they don’t fall in line to that view point? That kinda seems oppressive to me. Furthermore, this person indicated she was a academic. Oye. So much for discourse and debate. Something tells me there isn’t much of that going on in her classes. It is fine to have a view point, but I totally don’t see how it is appropriate to insult anyone who doesn’t agree with you, as she did in the comments.

As I said, the other blogger I have more sympathy for. She had a very frustrating and confrontational experience where she watched, on a regular basis, parents practicing parenting in a way in which she felt was very wrong, namely not being responsive to their babies cry’s. She said something. Argument and confrontation ensued. That gotta suck. I would have a hard time watching something happen regularly that I was so opposed to as well. And when she wrote her post and said she would not approve any comments which defended CIO, I truly believe it is because she needed a safe place to rant. She was upset and didn’t want to get in a debate, she just wanted to get it off her chest. And I respect that. Sometimes I don’t want to debate either, I just need to share.

Furthermore, if her description of what the other parents where doing is accurate (essentially ignoring their baby’s needs on a regular and continuing basis in a play group setting and talking about using CIO with babies younger then 4 months old) then I would be upset too. (Author of the post, if you made your way over here to read this and you don’t want your view point challenged, then please stop reading now. I respect you and your view point. I respect that you may not want to debate. And I respect that you are a good parent and a caring person. But I am going to proceed to challenge you, just so you know).

Now I wasn’t there. So I am not going to judge whether or not this bloggers perception of the situation matched reality. I don’t know the age of the babies involved (because a 14 month old ‘baby’ is a very different creature then a 3 month old baby). If those parents were neglecting their children, then shame on them. But it is possible, given the post authors strong view point on the appropriate way to parent, then her broad definition of neglect influenced her perception of what she saw. I am not going to judge either way.

But this post wasn’t just about this small group of Mom’s in this particular play group. The implication seemed to expand far beyond these individuals and span to all parents who a) don’t respond to every whimper and b) use CIO. Essentially those who don’t use the high touch, high response mantra of attachment parenting. Maybe I am interpreting that incorrectly, but that was what I read from it. What upset me about the post it that is played into that dichotomy of Attachment Parent = good. All others = bad, neglectful and indefensible. And I so disagree with that view point. While I agree that parents need to accept that their life will change with a child, that doesn’t mean the only way to parent is attachment parent. I truly believe that there are more then one good way to parent a child. Furthermore, different children with different parents in different situations call for different approaches. Let’s be honest. There are some things I disagree with. There are bad parents out there making bad choices. But is it appropriate for me to make that call as to who is good and who is bad based on an incomplete snap shot of their life?

Let me be clear, I am not so much trying to promote CIO as I am against the demonization of it. I recognize that some people are really against it and I can respect that. I also recognize that my experience with it and my child is likely very unusual and may not be a good representation of how CIO is typically used. (I have written about CIO before, you can see the posts here and here) But even more then wanting to defend against the demonization of it, I want to speak out against the putting of people in categories of good and bad on the basis of one of thousands of choices we make as parents. How can you take a snap shot of people and extrapolate to judge them as bad? How can you lump millions and millions of people together based on their choice of one parenting method?

Furthermore, putting your want to talk on your phone or chat with your friends ahead of your baby’s need to be comforted (as was presented to be the situation this blogger witnessed) is not the same as limited and appropriate use of CIO with an older baby, nor is it the same as encouraging independent play. Again, I wasn’t there, so I can’t judge which was happening. I disagree with some aspects of attachment parenting (I know, I still haven’t written that post… working up the guts), but I also believe there are some amazingly good attachment parents out there. You can disagree with my use of CIO, but don’t assume that makes me a bad parent.

And if you want to advocate for a particular parent method as being the best one, and encourage and support parents who want to know how to use it, awesome. Yes, we are overly obsessed as a culture with getting our kids to sleep through the night, and not very accepting that this may not be realistic well into toddler-hood. My 16 month old doesn’t sleep through the night every night and I am okay with that. The No-CIO advocates remind us that we need to let our kids go at their own pace, not try to get them to conform to our idea of what is appropriate at what age. I value that perspective and respect if someone does not agree with CIO.

But don’t condemn parents you don’t know based on what method they use, with no information about their child or circumstance.  Just like not every Mom who formula feeds doesn’t do it because she thinks breastfeeding is ‘icky’, not every Mom who uses CIO does so because they want (and think it is realistic for) their 3 month old to sleep through the night. People don’t fit well in boxes. We don’t always know each others stories.

The point being that what we need in both the parent discourse and the feminist discourse is to hear each other out. And to accept that there is more then one definition of a good parent and more then one definition of a feminist. We need to not paint everyone with a broad stroke. People are unique, complex and have different needs. We respond to different things. Different things make us happy, fulfilled, relaxed, ect. To paint everyone who wears a ring as not a feminist is wrong. To paint everyone who doesn’t parent like you do as neglectful is wrong. Life is not black and white. It is all shades of gray.

* Okay, I have said my peace. Now, because I suspect this post could incur some wrath, I am going to just share with you all my theory-oh-comment approval. I will approve your comment, so long as you do not use profanity/ offensive language. Keep it PG. If you want to engage in a discussion/debate with the tone of mutual respect, I am happy to chat with you. If you just want to yell at me because you think I am wrong/evil/crazy , you are welcome to, but I won’t be responding.

Advice for Mom’s-to-be

Annie from PhD in Parenting posted this question today on her blog. I was going to comment there, but realized that my response was going to be epic. So I thought it was better to just write my own post. Annie’s question is, essentially, what should we tell new/expectant parents and what should we let them figure out on their own.

Here is my list of what I would tell any new/expectant parent who asked for my advice/thoughts:

1) Be confidence and trust your instinct

This is a tall order. Being a new parent shook my confidence and self esteem to the core. I went from being great at my job to feeling like nothing I did was right. I would second guess myself all the time. So I am not suggesting that this piece of advice is easy to do, but I would still suggest that it is worth saying to a expectant Mom. Trusting your instinct and having confidence in your decisions will make a big difference. Not only will you feel better, but it will help your baby(ies) relax. Which brings us to #2.

2) Try to stay calm and confident.

Again, an other tall order. You won’t always be able to. Don’t feel guilty if you get frustrated, upset or sad. But, if you can try to stay calm, baby will sense that and it does help them stay calm. Especially during crying spells. The more worked up you get because you don’t know how to stop them from crying, the more baby senses you getting worked up, perceives that as something is wrong and then cry’s more. If you have attended to your babies needs and they are still crying, relax and accept that babies cry. The talent of staying calm will come in even more handy when baby is a toddler. Trust me.

3) Don’t feel isolated- reach out

I can’t tell you how many times I felt like I was along in how I felt or what I was struggling with. But with just about any struggle, challenge or feeling, someone else has gone through it. Reach out to family and friends and share how you feel. Chances are they know exactly how you feel and can empathize. If you have a really unique situation, there is good support to be found online, so long as your are careful and find a supportive community to engage with. Which brings us to point number 4.

3) Take the advice of strangers, online or offline, with a HUGE grain of salt

Strangers don’t know you and they don’t know your kid, so don’t let anything any stranger says make you feel bad, guilty or wrong. Online in particular, is full of people with opinions across the whole spectrum of just about any parenting issue. For any decision you make you can find someone who is going to suggest that what you did is wrong. So while online support can be helpful, be wary. If you are reading something and it makes you feel bad, guilty or like you are ‘messing’ up your child: stop reading. Even if the advice may be the right advice for you, try to find it in a form that makes you feel supported, relieved and heard. If you feel, deep down, that you are doing the right thing, don’t let someone else make you feel bad or feel like you need to justify yourself.

4) Be wary of ‘theory’ parenting

Parenting theories can be helpful, they give you a general philosophy to follow and some methods to try. But no parenting theory is one size fits all. If there was a perfect way to parent which worked for every baby and every family in every social/economic/geographical/cultural circumstance, we would all be doing in by now. The truth is, not matter what any theory has to say, there is more then one way to raise a intelligent, caring and confident child. On that note:

5) Don’t try and make a round peg fit a square hole

Let’s say you follow parenting philosophy X which says the best way to put baby to sleep is Y.  You think philosophy X is the one most suited to you (and your partners) believes and values. So you try baby sleep method Y. You try. You really really try. Over and over again. You were calm and confident in your decision and tried again. And it doesn’t work. What do you do? Stop. Try something else and don’t feel bad or guilty. If Y doesn’t work for your kid, Y doesn’t work for your kid. Again, there in no one size fits all parenting method. You got to go with what works for your kid.

6) Remember your bag of tricks and rotate often.

I felt, on numerous occasions, that I was doomed to learn the same lesson over and over again. I would figure out this great trick that worked wonders. Like a song that A really liked and calmed her down.  Then it would stop working. Then a couple weeks later when I was at my wits end I would remember said trick again and PRESTO it would work. The thing is that babies change really really quickly. So mix up your tricks and re-use often. For the first year of A’s life we rotated regularly through various methods for moving her around outside or out and about. We had 3 kinds of baby carriers and a stroller. It seemed like every couple of weeks one method would work better then an other. One week she would scream if put in a stroller and the next week it was her favorite place in the world. They change. Go with it.

So, as you can see, my general philosophy when it comes to advice is not so much to give advice on which way to go on specific decisions. (Although I do have some opinions on particularly decisions. If someone asked me my thoughts, or I feel like rambling about them here, then I will share those opinions.) But in general, I think the best advice we can offer new/expectant parents is how to approach the challenges. Because the actual choices they make should be based on their circumstance and their child, not my advice.

Late Mamageddon Post: the breastfeeding debate

Yes, I know. I am about a week behind to really talk about the whole ‘if 90% of women breastfed to 6months we would save over 900 lives and millions of dollars’ thing. The tweet storm, the blog storm. It be over. And yet, here I am, taking it on anyway.

Truth is that I have tried to write this post about 5 times, only to send drafts to the trash. I hesitate to say anything, because

a) I have this weird love hate relationship with drama, online or otherwise. I see it, have opinions and want to say what I have to say. But I am also a big scardy cat and I shy away from conflict. You know, it is my dual personality acting up.

b) There is nothing I can say that hasn’t already been said. And better.

And yet, I am going to give it a go none the less. What can I say? I am a gluton for punishment. Here I go:

I have a number of issues with the recent study/news cover/mommy blogging reaction to this whole thing.

See, the thing is (in my opinion), a study like that and the spreading the word of that study, is only beneficial to the breastfeeding cause if:

1) a significant portion of the population is not breastfeeding because they believe formula is ‘better’, or at least, are not informed about the ‘risks.’ What I am saying, is from a Mom perspective, if that story would have solved the problem of why I don’t breastfeed, then it would be useful. But, it is my belief, that a very very small percentage of women who do not breastfeed have not heard a study like that before. And even if they haven’t, I don’t think it addresses the issues they experienced or the reasons they made the choice they did. What I am saying (not particularly articulately) is that 99% of Mom’s don’t not breastfeeding because of lack of knowledge about the benefits or breastfeeding. They don’t breastfed because it is hard, they lack support, they don’t have sufficient maternity leave, they don’t have access to a qualified lactation consultant, they had a traumatic birth, they had other health problems, they experienced postpartum depression, they have a personal reason not to, their baby had an untreated tongue tie, ect. ect. ect.

2) if you believe that not breastfeeding is, as it has been suggested online, a ‘public health risk.’ I don’t. Don’t get me wrong. I truly believe that breastfeeding is the best option. But I do not believe my formula fed baby is anything but healthy and thriving. I get that ‘studies have shown..’ but it seems to me that these studies point more to a correlation then a causation between formula feeding and health risks. (Go talk to the Fearless Formula Feeder if you want a good critique of most studies linking formula feeding to significant health risks. I am not getting into it here.)

3) if, by quantifying the impact of higher breastfeeding rates in terms of lives and money (things that get people to listen in our society), it would push the government to take action. This is the one I could maybe buy. This perspective, which was suggested by a commenter on Fearless Formula Feeders blog, was something I had not considered. I had been looking at it from the perspective of a Mom, who is hurt when someone tells her that she is ‘harming her baby with formula’ and not from a political perspective. A political perspective where there needs to be sufficient cause in order to convince a government that an issue is worth attention. The truth is that in both Canada and the US (but far more so in the US), we need our governments to address a number of women’s issues that are very important in their own right, but also happen to be connected with breastfeeding rates.

-longer maternity leaves that women can afford to take

-lowering the c-section rate, supporting women to have natural births and better care in maternity wards

-flexible work schedules

-access to healthy food to lower income parents and their kids (for everyone, really)

And then there are more specifically breastfeeding things like:

-pumping rights for women of all income levels

-better access to qualified and kind lactation consultants

-breastfeeding friendly hospitals (and by breastfeeding friendly, I do not mean formula feeding unfriendly)

We need these things. But if we are going to get them out of our government, the government needs to see that they can justify the money spent on such things…. hence the studies.

A light bulb went off in my head when this commenter suggested this and it did change my perspective somewhat.

The problem with all this is that it is a double edged sword. While maybe the government and its constituency need these studies to convince them of the benefit of policy change, the impact on Mothers is not positive. Why do I say that?

It is my belief that the focus on formula’s risks in the pro-breastfeeding camp is actually hurting breastfeeding rates. How? Think about it this way. Take brand spanking new Mom A and brand spanking new Mom B. Mom A has heard that 900 lives (aka her baby) are at risk from formula feeding. Mom B has heard that breastfeeding is better, but formula fed kids turn out fine. Who do you think is more stressed during those first 8-12 weeks when nearly all new Mom’s encounter some struggles with breastfeeding? That’s right- Mom A. The stakes for Mom A are super high. If she doesn’t succeed at this breastfeeding thing and does end up giving the kid formula then she will be hurting them, possibly worse. I am no breastfeeding expert, but I think a stressed Mom has less of a chance of getting through those struggles then a less stressed Mom. You may not agree, but that is my opinion.

I guess what I am saying is that I understand why the pro-breastfeeding camp wants to retweet and talk up and tell everyone about these studies. It is an important issue. I do think there are benefits to breastfeeding. Anyone who knows me can tell you I tend to prefer the ‘natural’ option. The problem is that the issue is highly emotionally charged and there is a whole bunch of us (Even with Canada’s higher breastfeeding rates, 46% have supplemented with formula by the time baby is 6 months) who just don’t like being told that our choice is a public health risk, or that our choice is causing harm to our child. We. Don’t. Especially because most of us have at least some emotional scars about having to do it in the first place. And, as I have said, I don’t think that message is helping the Mom’s who are struggling to make breastfeeding work either. And I think that those talking up these studies should be more sensitive to that. There has got to be a better argument we can use to get the government to change its policies.

To Judge or Not to Judge, that is the question

As I said in the comments in my last post, sometimes I write a post because I have thoughts swirling around in my head and I need to reconcile them. I have always found that writing is a very effective way of allowing me to express what I am thinking. In addition, blogging has the added benefit of feedback in the form of comments, that I often find make me think and therefore help me to reconcile my swirling thoughts better.

My last post was just such a post. You see, I have been struggling with the issue of judgment on this blog. I started writing this blog because I wanted to have a place to express my thoughts and opinions. And in doing so, I recognized that I was sharing those thoughts and opinions with the ‘public’ and that public would not always agree with me. But as I read more and more parenting blogs, I find that there are many of them that have made me feel very judged. And so, I have written a number of posts about how we need to be more supportive and less judgmental. However, the problem is that this has boxed me into a corner where I feel like I can’t say what I think, lest I be deemed to be judging someone else. So, you see, I feel like I need to reconcile and explore this topic of judgment once more.

Here are my thoughts, and I am hoping that you can help me evaluate them and come to some conclusion on this topic. Preferably one that allows me to find a way to be honest in expressing my thoughts on this blog without it being a place where someone else may feel ‘judged.’ (Is that possible?) I guess what I am trying to determine is where is the line between opinion and judgment? (Or are opinion and judgment inseparable. If so, is there a way to express opinions that doesn’t feel so judgmental to others?)

Is the line between thinking and expressing (whether speaking or writing)? Is the only way to not be judgmental to simply keep your thoughts and opinions to yourself? Or, should we attempt to not have any judgmental thoughts at all?

Is it between making a generalized statement rather then quantified statements? Like saying “I think early bedtimes are better” versus “I think little kids/babies should go to bed before 8pm”? You know, making sure your statement is open to interpretation.

Is it between making universal claims rather then general preferences. For example, saying “Every child should be in bed before 8pm no matter what” versus “Generally I think early bedtimes are better.”

Is it important to always provide a loop-hole or other built in exception? Is this enough/sufficient to show that you recognize that your opinion is not ‘best’ in all circumstances? You know, like the fine print. (Sometimes when I write posts I think they end up too long for just this reason- I am trying to address every angle.)

Is it the way you say it? They always say in relationships that you should try and use “I” statements rather then “you” statements. So, for example, is it better if I say “I believe little kids/babies should go to bed early” versus “Those of you who put your kids to bed late are doing something wrong”? (Just so you know, I don’t think anyone putting their kids to bed late is ‘wrong’, I just think there a good number of kids out there that would benefit from an earlier bedtime.)

Is the specific problem that I didn’t just express my opinion that early bedtimes are my preference, but that I said outright that I was being judgmental about it? If I had just written that when I see little kids out late that I think that maybe they should be in bed… maybe it would have been taken a different way. Admittedly I said I was being judgmental, so why did it bother me that someone said I was being judgmental? (Actually, I think I was more bothered because of the link that was made between being judgmental and presuming to know what is best for every child and every family. A presumption I don’t think I made.)

Is it whether or not you attach a result/consequence to the choice? Can the line be drawn at those who say (or think?) “CIO is not the best method of getting your baby to sleep” versus “CIO will cause irreversible damage that will have a long term negative impact on your baby.” To me, that one is totally bunk. But what if there are truly consequences? There is a lot of ‘bad’ science out there when it comes to parenting, but there is also some good science that suggests that certain parenting choices do come with consequences. And when you don’t really know which is the good science and which is the bad science, how do you know when to make a claim about said science to support your position?

Is it whether you passively state something or if you provide unsolicited advice? Like the difference between saying something under your breath, versus stopping someone in the aisles of the supermarket.

And what if you advocate for something? There are a lot of breastfeeding advocates who are very passionate about encouraging people to breastfeed and strongly feel it is the best option. I don’t feel judged by these people, so long as they don’t start making claims that ‘everyone’ can be successful at breastfeeding no matter what, or that those who formula feed are lazy, neglectful or harming their children.

Is it how you respond to those who disagree? If you recognize the value in what they are saying, even if it doesn’t change your mind, does that make the expressing of your opinion acceptable? If you are respectful and accept that they disagree and they may have very good reasons for making a different choice.

I am still letting this one swirl around in my head. I am willing to admit both that I can be judgmental at times and that I dislike when others are judgmental. Furthermore, I am uncomfortable with the fact that I can be judgmental at times. I am willing to admit there are times that I am wrong. But I also think that how judgment/opinion is expressed makes a difference to whether or not one is being judgmental or not.

And, I really think there is nothing wrong with expressing ones opinions. Furthermore, I think there is great value in debate, disagreement and discussion. I believe there is nothing wrong with believing and arguing that any number of parenting choices are preferable to others, so long as you are open to others ideas and thoughts.

But I also have to recognize that when you express yourself people don’t always take it the way you intended. Try as you might to not put anyone out, just about anything you say is bound to touch a nerve with someone, someone who’s feelings are totally valid. But should that change what you say? Or should it just change how you say it? When you read something which disagrees with something about how you parent, what makes you feel judged and what doesn’t? Thoughts?

Conclusion AKA Part 2:

(Note, this section was added about a day after the first section was published, after some of the comments were written and after I had time to think about it.)

While I am still contemplating what I think and what everyone has said (great comments by the way- thank you), I think I am ready to conclude this post. I really really don’t want to write yet another entire post on the question of judgment in parenting, so I am going to edit this post by adding a conclusion. (Albeit a very long conclusion.)

I am starting to believe that judgment isn’t necessarily a bad thing. We all do it, we all have done it. I am not sure it is really possible nor desirable to completely stop ourselves. It is certainly possible that there are people out there that are not judgmental, but I suspect they are few and far between. But for the most part, I think judgement is part of human experience. And as such, we all feel judged sometimes- this is unavoidable part of life.

So, here is what I am going to try and work on: First, I am going to try to be less judgmental of people who are judgmental. Maybe that was the lesson I needed to learn from all of this. Because, in reality, I am not a no-judge saint. (I wrote the original post out of a need to admit that.) Nor should I be. If I have an opinion about the ‘best’ way to parent, I am by definition judging that other ways are not ‘best’. And sometimes I want to talk about those things that I think are ‘best’.

However, I do think there is a line that shouldn’t be crossed. The line between judging and expressing that you think a particular choice is best and being judgmental, in that your opinion is expressed in such a way which has a high probability of making someone else feel like crap or is not supportive of others and the challenges they face. At the same time, I need to except that even if I think my opinion is being expressed in a way which is not judgmental, I need to be willing to accept the criticism that someone may still feel judged by it.

So before I criticize someone for being judgmental or whether I allow myself to express my opinion judging choices others make, I will consider a number of things:

1) Compassion. Is the judger being compassionate to the challenges of others situations? Are they talking from a standpoint of superiority or a standpoint of empathy?

2) Motivation. What is the motive behind the judgment? It is trying to be helpful or supportive in giving someone a new way of doing things? Is it a rant to blow off steam? Is it because one feels judged and is trying to feel better about themselves by judging someone else? Is it a need to be right? Is there an agenda? Is the judger trying to advocate for/against something they believe is important?

3) Importance. How important to me is this issue? If I am going to say something, I should be passionate about it, or what is the point? If someone else is going to say something and I am going to get upset about it, it should be something that I think is worth defending. Judgment and responding to judgment both illicit reactions in others- it is worth making someone else feel crappy over?

4) Presumption. Is the judger presuming that their opinion is without fail the only option that is reasonable? Or are they taking a stand, but leaving room for the possibility that some in some circumstances an other option would be better?

5) Evidence. How is the opinion being backed up? Is there clear and reasonable evidence being presented that show the opinion to be ‘best’? Not that I think one has to do an enormous amount of research in order to state their opinion on a personal blog. But  I also think a lot of the problem I have with some claims is that they are either based on no evidence whatsoever or the evidence they use is faulty and allowing them to make exaggerated claims (like harm or abuse claims related to formula or CIO).

6) Individualized/Personalized or Generalized. What I mean is I think there is a difference between a) seeing an individual and making a judgment about their choice, without knowing their story b) seeing a choice made by many people and not agreeing with that choice, while still accepting that choice as a valid option, albeit not a preferable one in your opinion (I think this is where I made the biggest error in my judgyMcJudgerson post…. while I understood in my head that I really didn’t judge individuals I see with their kids out late, by referring being judgmental when I saw individuals making a certain choice I was being judgmental of individuals and not the choice. )

Did I err on at least one of these counts in my post “My Judgmental Little Secret”? Yes. Do I still think it is preferable in most cases for kids to go to bed early? Yes. So I think there are exceptions to this? Yes. Was the way I expressed this opinion not the best? Yes. Will I be more careful in the future? Yes. Will I continue to state my opinion? Yes. Will I try to be less bothered if someone calls me on it? Yes.

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