Wednesday, February 23, 2011

The Club

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.

59 comments:

  1. Great post, Aly. I agree that parenting is a unique experience for everyone, and the best thing we can do to support each other is respect differences in parenting techniques.

    Visiting from SITS. Glad to find you!

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  2. I don't have kids, so I haven't experienced the judging phenomenon, but that really sucks. Hopefully women will start refusing to take part in it.

    Happy SITS day!

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  3. Congratulations on your SITs feature! I hope you enjoy your day in the sun:-)

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  4. Aly, congratulations on your SITS day. I agree that it can be disheartening to find how judgmental other parents can be, but if we're lucky, we find a group or community of people who have a more open-minded and tolerant way of viewing the world. I know that this can be made easier or more challenging depending on geography, and I'm not sure where you're located. I live in the CA coast, which tends to be home to some pretty liberal thinkers, so finding a Co-op preschool, and before that a parent/child playgroup with a really great no-judgement vibe wasn't to difficult. The best part about these groups was that there were many different styles of parenting, lifestyle, and backgrounds, and we all learned from each other and were supportive. I wish you luck in finding your own supportive community where you can be happy, comfortable, and free to be yourself. Jenn

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  5. Happy SITS day! I'm about to join the "parenthood club" (10 weeks to go!) and I'm dreading this part of it. I've already been getting a lot of questions about working and having children, with judgment from both sides. "You can't work, you need to focus on the kids"..."You can't NOT work, you need to help support the family." Rgh.

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  6. Hi Aly- I'm considered an "alternative" too. Looking foreward to other different things you'll be doing on your parenting journey. If you ever need any green cleaning tips - I'm your woman!

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  7. Happy SITS day to you! Regarding the parental judgment thing: As trite as it sounds, when my cherubs were tiny and I felt I was being judged, I would sing the refrain from the '80's sitcom "Diff'rent Strokes" at them. You're a little younger than me, so I'll supply you with the words: "They'll have theirs, you'll have yours, and I'll have miiiiiine...and together, we'll be fine!"

    Kidding...mostly. Down with judgment!

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  8. Happy SITS day! I struggled so much with breast feeding, even though I wanted to do it so badly. I felt the mom's group I had joined when pregnant turned their backs on me when my boobs were defective. It was hard.

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  9. I tried so hard to breast feed, but my son was allergic to my breast milk. What a frustrating experience to try and feed your baby only to have your own breastmilk bring him so much pain. He had to go on a super-hypoallergenic formula ($50 a can!) at 1 month old. Sometimes, you don't have much of a choice! Congrats on your SITS feature!

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  10. I was so shocked to find so much DRAMA out there after I became a SAHM! I'm happy to have found a lot of bloggy/twitter friends to share with :)

    Happy SITS day! I'm adding you to my reader :)

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  11. Congrats on your SITS day! and CVongrats on baby #2!

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  12. Stopping by from SITS, Happy Feature Day! Wonderfully written post and could not agree more with how moms judge other moms. Just like a child is not a cookie cutter image of another, either is parenting. What works for one, may not work for another. I do what I want and try to stay away from what people say I "should do". If it works me me and my kids are happy and healthy isn't that the end result we strive for as parents? Have an awesome SITS Day full of lots of bloggy lovin :)

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  13. Coming by from SITS. This really hit home with me, and I'm not even a mom. Just a stepmom. But I hear so many people making little comments like they know how to raise a child better than anyone else.

    I once had two friends who couldn't breastfeed. One tried but had to stop because her baby wasn't getting enough nutrients and it was hurting the baby. The doctor told her to stop. Another just couldn't handle it. It was too painful for her. Her doctor told her to stop, too. In both cases they were given a hard time by other moms, who said things like, "It's such a shame. You're missing a great bonding experience with your child." It just amazed me how rude people could be.

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  14. Visiting from SITS! I would like to officially invite you to join the club for the "rest of us." Those of us moms who don't pretend we have it all figured out. Those of us moms who support each other by dropping off a bottle of good wine rather than sharing our "pearls of wisdom". Those of us moms who are not only willing to share our imperfections, but find the whole thing hilarious. Join us. We're a heck of a lot more fun than the "other" group. :)
    Mindy
    www.thesuburbanlife.com

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  15. Happy SITS Day! I never quite understood why other parents were like that. Everything was a competition and I hated that.
    Love your writing style and have a great SITS Day!

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  16. Happy SITS Day...relish in the glory of it all!

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  17. As a first time mum there are certain baby groups I avoid due to 'compare your baby' type judgey mums but have been lucky to find a few, real, supportive mummy friends :)

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  18. p.s loving your pics and I found your blog on SITS, I'm new to SITS, I think I was supposed to mention it and forgot. Is there a club for 'new to blogging, forgetful, English mums?'if so sign me up :)

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  19. Stopping from SITS! I heard a speaker once say that we are all different and require different ways to be raised.

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  20. Happy SITS Day! Love, love your logo/blog header!

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  21. Hey there, congrats on your SITS day!! I don't have any children but I completely understand the concept of groups that should be supportive and aren't. Sorry to hear that. On the plus side, at least you're aware of it and can rise above it... and reach out to help the newbies as they join!

    Have an Extraordinary Day!

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  22. I love this post and I'm not even a mom yet! But I already have a taste of it since we're vegetarians. And EVERYONE immediately says "Are you ever going to have children? Surely you won't starve your child by letting them have meat."

    I think it's partially because no one really KNOWS what they're doing when it comes to parenting. And some parents need to defend their parenting choices so badly, that they have to attack others.

    Happy SITS day!

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  23. Yay for your SITS day! And I am so glad that you parent on purpose and have confidence. I do not die on the hill of parenting method, but am much more willing to see healthy marriages and healthy families!
    So you won't find and judgment here. :)
    Congrats on your pregnancy and I hope it goes well for you!

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  24. I've been longing to be in that parents club... sounds like I'm not missing much though. Thanks for making me feel better! But I hope it gets better for you, not sure why women think it's okay to be so mean.

    Happy SITS day!!

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  25. Congrats on your SITS Day, and an even bigger congrats on expecting your second child!! I'm currently expecting my first, a boy, due in July. I've already received so much advice, and it's amazing how much it differs from one parent to another. But in the end, whether we're judged or not, we're going to make our own decisions and find what works for us. I think that's the best anyone can do!

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  26. It's a good thing that God made YOU Beatrice's mom, huh? Perhaps he knew what he was doing!

    Congrats on your SITS day!

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  27. Happy SITS day! Love your baby bump.

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  28. Happy SITS day :) And congrats on baby#2 (I secretly hope you'll have a boy...they're fun...I have 4 lol)

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  29. Love this post times 1000! Very well said.

    ...stopping by from SITS...

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  30. Oh my goodness, this is all so true! I hope that you have one or two really good mommy friends who are on the same page as you, or at least won't judge if they aren't. Someone who you can call and cry to or vent to. Friends like that are priceless! It really is sad how competitive "motherhood" has become.

    Happy SITS day!

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  31. Happy SITS day. I'm so glad to see your post. I feel for you! My style of parenting was a mix of old school and new. I didn't feel right spanking my kids, but I put them on their back to sleep. I used disposable diapers, but I breastfed. In the end I wouldn't change my parenting choices for anything... except maybe not call the apartment complex when the house floods. Lol... but I will never understand how far some moms will go in being judgmental. It's just not right.

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  32. I myself now have 3 little boys, and with the first, I have to admit . . . I was very "shy" about admitting to the doctors and friends that I did not want to breast feed. However, after the first, I realized there is nothing at all to be shy about. Everyone is different, and everyone does what makes sense and is best to them. I have learned very quickly not to judge or cause drama with other moms . . . I have never been one who liked drama or gossip, so it was easy for me to put other people's thoughts aside, and listen to my gut.
    Congrats on your SITS day and most importantly, best of luck with your new addition! What a beautiful belly you have. :)

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  33. Congrats on your SITS day. It's sad when we can't support one another. Who knows we might learn something. I for one am always ready to hear about something that might work or commiserate about mom troubles. When else do I get to share my story?

    You're a really insightful blogger. I enjoyed checking you out today!

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  34. congrats on your SITS day!!! So excited for your next adventure with baby#2, the dynamics will change, naturally, but in a good way, and a chaotic way, and it all comes together eventually...my babies are 19 months apart, and it's a full plate these days between that and other things but I love every minute of it! just craving a little more sleep.....

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  35. Great post; I completely agree! And congrats on your sits day!
    Jen

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  36. Great perspective - I totally hear you on every single thing you said. I've been judged and I have fallen into the judgmental category. Glad to have found your blog!

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  37. I've never quite understood why people are so quick to judge how other people parent their children. Keep being alternative! It's clearly what works for you. :)

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  38. Congrats on your SITS Day and the new baby.

    I don't have children but I know what you mean. I puppy raise hearing dogs. I get all kinds of "advice" on stuff. Especially how what I'm doing is wrong.

    I think there are a lot of situations in life where we have to accept that there may be more than one way to do things.

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  39. First, hope you're enjoying your day in the SITS sun! Second, congrats on the upcoming arrival. Last, great post - I like to call the mean mommies BWK (bitch with a kid). Mean people bring you down, that's for sure. But you're right - listen to yourself and trust your own instincts!

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  40. Firstly. Congrats on your SITS day!

    Secondly. I completely agree with you. Especially on the judgment moms get in the discipline arena. I recently wrote a post on my own blog about discipline & how we are a family that spanks and I really worried over putting that out there because for some reason people nowadays automatically make you feel like a child abuser if you subscribe to a more old school child rearing method.

    But we are all not a like and our children are not a like & its something we need to remind ourselves of daily not to judge other parents for their choices. We can disagree but not judge.

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  41. I am not a mama, but I am a foster sister, so we get loads of advice on that. I am learning to let things roll of my back and take everything with a grain of salt.

    I hope you have a beautiful SITS day!

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  42. Stopping by to share your SITS day. I have to tell you, I think the parenting differences only get worse as they get older. It has long been my theory that there are only two kinds of parents ... those who do what needs to be done (coach, room mother, etc.) and those who complain about what the rest of us do but don't actually do anything themselves.

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  43. Do your own thing, Aly. Always, always, always follow your instincts and go with your gut. Visiting from SITS. Happy blogging. :)

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  44. Happy SITS Day! I loved reading your birth story. Sounds like an adventure. ;)

    I have such a hard time with the judgment that parents, and particularly mothers, get for whatever their choices may be. It is high time we stand together for all of our benefit.

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  45. Congrats on your SITS day! Hope you have a wonderful day!

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  46. Stopping by from SITS. I agree-I don't have kids, but I don;t understand why everyone thinks it's OK to tell you how to raise your kids. They don't do this with anything else in life!! My sister couldn't breast feed because she produced bad milk (she tried), but people would automatically judge her for not breast feeding. It's annoying.

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  47. hi! congrats on being featured =D

    .......i think real milk = breast milk (as opposed to what the others are saying hehe)

    www.theblogforbrides.com
    www.journeyofawoman.wordpress.com

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  48. Congrats on your SITS feature! Your words especially strike home with me because I am the mom of a 4 year old boy with autism spectrum disorder (ASD). He is quite adorable (not that I'm biased)! Often, people refer to autism, among the higher functioning on the spectrum, an invisible one because it is not visible. Because of that invisibility, people often criticize my parenting skills not knowing any better.

    Differences abound whether we are parenting "regular" kids, ASD kids or children with some other "difference".

    I think it is a beautiful concept you have shared here that, despite our differences, we should all simply be able to unite as parents and share, learn and grow. I hope that through the posts we write as parents, that idea will make an impression upon others. Beautiful blog and lovely writing.

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  49. Congratulations on you SITS feature! That is wonderful!!! I think parenting is all about personal choices. You are the parent and how you raise your child is your concern...Yes, we are all entitled to our own opinions and beliefs, but they are just that...your own. :) As I am not yet a mother I am speaking from the point of view of a childcare provider who sees many a moms and many choices that are made. Do what works for you!!!

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  50. Happy SITS Day...and on baby #2...
    and Jenni was a beautiful bride..her hair is stunning...
    and I often say how lonely motherhood can be if you don't have a group of friends to support you...not everyone has to parent the same way, but there is no need to tear each other down...

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  51. I am not visiting from SITS...ha! Run from the moms who make you feel like that (or at least keep a safe distance :D) and surround yourself with ladies who are encouraging and uplifting. You are so right, we need other moms who will let us pour out our hearts from time to time and not judge us.

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  52. Happy SITS Day!!!! I actually got a lot of the same responses when I decided to breastfeed. My relatives were very confused! Good Post.

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  53. Happy SITS day! :)

    Some of the things above are the exact reason I'm nervous about being a parent. I see how others judge and compare, and I just hate the thought of people talking behind my back.

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  54. Yep, yep and yep. I have four boys and they are all their own unique little people. The parenting learning curve is long and steep and full of pitfalls and joy. How can we judge other moms who are trying their best? Love this post. And that pic of you is stunning.

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  55. Who cares about clubs! Just do your best and what is right for you and your baby! You don't need to be a part of any club! : ) Wishing you all the best at the end of your pregnancy journey! Congratulations on your SITS day!

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  56. Stopping by from SITS, and now following you. :) The judging never ends. Seriously. Never. Ends. I just learn to tune it out. And the best mommy advice I could ever give is, GO WITH YOUR GUT! If what you're doing works for you and your family then stick with it and don't let anyone make you feel bad about what you're doing.
    Feel free to stop by my blog if you have time. I'm having a little giveaway this week.
    Jennifer
    http://www.alwaysinwonder.com

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  57. Happy SITS day to you...and congrats on baby #2! I have 2 kiddo's myself and I love them dearly. I did get my girl and boy! :) Hope you are enjoying your special day.

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  58. Happy SITS day!! So glad you wrote about this because I have never understood this either. Why can't we all just support each other and however we parent. If you don't agree with someone then don't talk about it...keep opinions to yourself. My advice for any new mom is to always go with your gut. If it feels right to you then go for it!!! Can't worry about what others think.

    Congrats on your newest pregnancy!!! So very exciting. I am a mom t 4 boys and absolutely love it:-)

    You should check out our website: www.annieandsiabel.com We have lovely designer hospital gowns that you might enjoy styling in for your next birth!!

    I don't know about you but I always enjoyed my pregnancies. Kind of sad I won't be pregnant again so enjoy the pregnancy!!!

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