When I had Beatrice, I fully expected to be welcomed into the not-so-secret-but-pretty-exclusive parenthood club. The one that welcomes new members with open arms and loads of support. We were all in this thing called child rearing together, after all. We would need each other. While I did find myself in this so-called "club" upon birthing my first child, I found it to be anything but supportive. There is more judgment than support, more criticism than approval, and more division than encouragement. This community of parents has the potential to really help, but instead most often tears others down leaving them feeling completely alone.
I found out right away that other parents have a lot of opinions on how you feed your child. Whether or not you breast feed or formula feed, someone else has something to say about it. To your face. I did breast feed and while I was met mostly with support and accolades from others, I found it interesting (and kind of weird) that other folks felt so strongly about those that do not breast feed. It was as though other parents knew what was best for another family and clearly, it was breast feeding. But the major atrocity was if you didn't breast feed, your membership in the club was earmarked for nonconformance. You were flagged for being different and that my friends, is frowned upon. Just so you know, us breast feeders weren't celebrated by everyone. I got the occasional "when are you going to start feeding that baby real milk (aka formula) because she is obviously starving?" Arrrgh.
As your child gets older, you can fully expect to be judged on your discipline methods. If you spank, you are automatically out of the club. Your membership is revoked and you are blacklisted forever. If you use any method of discipline deemed acceptable by your grandmother's generation, you might as well hand over your ID card because you will be banned for lack of open mindedness. It suits everyone best if you just don't speak about how you plan to or currently are handling the discipline in your household. You will be judged to high Heaven no matter what you say. Trust me on this.
The list of examples of how parents tear each other apart instead of build each other up is endless. The debates rage on about vaccines and medicine and education, but instead of simply debating these subjects, we are attacking other people for their differences. It's as if we are threatened beyond coping abilities at the differences we see in other people's parenting decisions. I say as long as no one is abusing a child, live and let live people.
I have been labeled an alternative parent. This just means that I don't follow suit with the newest child psychologists' theories on how to feed/sleep train/discipline/etc. I tend to take my grandmother's advice over my neighbor's. We take parenting classes at church instead of reading the latest secular child rearing book. I'm totally okay with being different. I am learning to be okay with being criticized from parents that do things differently. I'm not okay with being called a bad parent because I choose to parent differently than the masses. But that's what happens when you don't follow suit.
It has been such a huge disappointment to learn that my fellow new mommies judge me for taking away Beatrice's pacifier at 11 months. Or whatever thing we moms judge each other for. It's disheartening to know that if I really do need support during a temper tantrum or a nap strike, I cannot call on any ol' mommy to hear my woes. The chances of me getting berated for what I think is an appropriate course of action is greater than sympathy and well wishes from someone that doesn't do things exactly like me.
This is sad. I'm not naive enough to believe that everyone will agree, but I don't think it's too far fetched to respect other parents' decisions to make different choices. This community of parents has so much potential to support others and be a place to learn other approaches to parenting, but if we are constantly judging and tearing each other down for our differences, that will never happen. We will be stuck in a club that really only accepts those that do things exactly like everyone else.