i recently read an article titled “the case against breastfeeding” which, incidentally, is not at all a case against breasfeeding, but more of a list of (valid, i thought) complaints about parents oppression, sexisim, and patriarchy. but the title made me mad (i’m pretty sure it was meant to). the tone reminded me of pretty much everything i’ve been reading these days. like the recent time magazine article which talked of “mothers driven to extremes” (sleeping with your baby and breastfeeding past age 1). i’ve been noticing that pretty much everything i read about parenting takes a very polarizing “we are right, they are wrong” sort of a view. even the sweet books about waldorf inspired childhood and attachment parenting imply that other philosophies are misguided at best and cruel abuse at worst. and it’s not just the literature. at play dates and la leche league meetings i hear moms speaking defensively about their views and casting harsh judgment on parents who do things differently. i hear almost nothing but blanket statements condoning or condemning everything. bottle feeding is horrible, breastfeeding past infancy is twisted. sleeping with your baby is dangerous (you could roll over and smother them), putting your baby in a crib is dangerous (they could stop breathing and die). disposable diapers? you hate mother earth, cloth diapers? you’re a fanatical hippie. diapers of any kind? you’re forcing your child to sit in his own excrement, how horrible. diaper free? now that’s just crazy. sending your kids to daycare means you don’t love them, but if you stay home you better not try calling yourself a feminist. and on and on and on.
it’s just too bad that all this judgement leads to more parents feeling more insecure and defensive, which leads to more seeking of the one right way, which leads to more judgment of ourselves and other parents.
so here’s a thought. what if we all just do like mayim bialik suggests and “reserve judgment for people who beat their children, sell their daughters into prostitution, or deny women the right to make decisions about their bodies and their lives.” we could channel all the energy it takes to give advice into actually supporting parents. it seems one thing that all sides of the “mommy wars” agree on is that our culture does not adequately value caring for children, and whether it’s a stack of dr sears or babywise books on your shelf, it’s a heck of a lot of work.
i’m trying to catch myself when i judge other parents. when i find myself thinking how they should be doing it differently, i want to ask myself instead what i could do to support them as a parent. that could be actual physical support -doing some cleaning or running errands together, or it could be emotional support- listening to the complaints without giving advice. i’ve found that for me, exercising just a little empathy -putting myself in their shoes and seeing what’s hard about it, goes a long way in quelling my urge to judge. and when i judge less, i find i feel less judged. i’m probably being judged the same amount either way, but it feels a lot better.
care to join me?