Parenting is a strange phenomenon. I suppose it parallels life in a way. Just like when you were in high school, and it felt like forever, and you were consumed by whatever consumed a high school student in the ’80s (for me it was how to get my hair to stand up like a tidal wave over my forehead), so it is with the various stages of parenting.
When you have that newborn, you are consumed with matters of feeding and sleeping. And you have to decide if you’re going to schedule or feed on demand? Are you going to let them cry it out, or are you going to parent them to sleep? Breastfeed or formula? Cloth diapers or disposable? And at the time, these choices seem monumental. They even start to define us as parents.
We often find our identities in our choices. Whether you are a “nursing mom” or an “working mom” or an “AP mom” — we like our categories. And we like to belong somewhere. And we like to fit other people into a tidy little box, taped up, and labeled neatly with a fresh Sharpie.
But the funny thing is, faster than Diana Prince can turn into Wonder Woman, your kids are past the nursing and diapering stage. And those issues that were so consuming at the time are all of the sudden obsolete. It no longer matters whether you used cloth diapers or disposable, or whether you breastfed or not.
And you realize suddenly that whatever category by which you have defined yourself as a parent is no longer applicable. You may mourn the passing of a stage, or you might not even realize that what was so important two years ago is suddenly of little concern to you at all anymore.
Last week when I saw Steph’s adorable nursing picture on her blog, it hit me — I am no longer a “nursing mom” and probably never will be again. And even though I spent 60 months of my life nursing a baby, and I surely have a lot to offer in the way of experience, it is no longer part of my identity as a mother.
You see, I fell in love with nursing quite by accident. The full story is here. While I fully respect that nursing doesn’t work for everyone, it definitely became a very integral part of my parenting identity.
Unfortunately, categorizing ourselves in this way can cause unnecessary divisiveness within our communities. While we tend to gravitate towards those with whom we have something in common, I would suggest that we take care not to allow unnecessary lines to be drawn between us based on parenting choices that are not black & white issues.
After all, we all have the same goal, don’t we — to be the best mothers we can be? While we certainly have to make the choices that are best for us and our families, hopefully we can give one another the benefit of the doubt when it comes to our differences. And keep everything in perspective. Because whatever parenting or life choices that are consuming you right now, they will probably be obsolete in a few years.
Of course, there will always be issues that can divide us if we let them. But whether or not we let them, that is up to us.
Originally posted July 2007