Time Marches On

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And you realize suddenly that whatever category by which you have defined yourself as a parent is no longer applicable.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

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17 thoughts on “Time Marches On

  1. I know — that’s why it’s so important to identify ourselves based on US, not just THEM, because we won’t be soccer moms or whatever forever.

    FYI friend — your feed isn’t working for me. I’ve gotten nothing new since “state of the blog” and when I clicked over this is the address that’s showing, which I assume is why it’s not updating:

  2. I have tried to have this attitude with the other women I know, moms or not. Very few decisions we make can clearly be called right or wrong. We do what works for us, and should others the freedom to do the same.

  3. I think, inherent within the all-consuming characteristics of the stage, is the isolating factor of those stages and the defensiveness it brings. When you are deep in the middle of that stage, you have made your decisions based on a lot of deeply personal beliefs and you tend to surround yourself with people who affirm that decision. I think THAT is the reason we tend to see one group vs. another.

    I know for me, I have greater clarity (and usually a big thunk on the head for being such a jerk!) AFTER I have moved through a stage. It is only then that I can see all the layers underneath the stage that surely influenced the decisions of those in the other groups around me.

    With time……..wisdom.

  4. I am in the “throws” of the nursing mom phase of my 7 month old firstborn. It is so difficult to not succumb to the judgment of others about every decision you make as a parent. The judgment about giving formula or breast feeding and now you have to make home made organic baby food. As if feeding your child jar food is putting poison directly in their mouths!! Thanks for your post giving me (and others) perspective that this too shall pass and being supportive of our fellow women/moms is really important!!

  5. This post is so appropriate for me – especially this week with AEK’s first birthday. I really struggle with being a working mom and all the guilt that comes along with it. I constantly have to remind myself that the decisions I am making are the best ones for my family right now. I know that they are. Yet, it’s hard when a friend suggests that I’m not maternal because I work full time or that I love my child any less or that I don’t miss her enough when I’m at work.

    I think that’s much of the problem with women. We so often tear each other down when we should be building each other up. I’ve made the difficult decision in the past few weeks to let certain relationship go because they were just too painful. It’s sad to have to do that but in the long run so much healthier.

  6. OH MY, you are speaking from my heart. I’ve found lately that most of the friends I have are in a completely different stage of life than I am, I am child-rearing while they are still child-bearing. It’s funny how consumed you can become by these {relatively} short term events. I have two pregnant friends that have all but cut each other off because one is a “natural birth advocate” and the other is “rockin her epidural”. It was an ugly, semi-public, fight back and forth that went on and on and on. And I wonder how silly this whole thing will look a year from now … LOVE this post 😀

  7. FAB post! As a woman who has only just started walking the baby track I already find the amount of judging amazing. I figure everyone wants to do the best thing possible for their family and its hard to remember that the “best” is always relative. Once again your insight is refreshing and honest.

  8. Beautifully written. This is exactly how I’ve been feeling lately as my youngest transitions from being a baby to a toddler.

  9. I am happy to say that there is one identity I will always cherish….

    Hearing these words…

    So, you are Gabby and Abby’s mom!

    Yep, that’s me!!! I know what they are thinking – who would name their kid’s so closely??? Are you nuts?! Answer: It was not intended (as Gabrielle was never to be called Gabby but Brie or Elle instead) and YES I AM!!

  10. What a great post. I have identified with so many “groups” of women, thru my almost 11 years of parenting…. the older I get, the more I realize just how unique each mom is, and that there is no “right way.” I’ve felt sad as I’ve passed milestones with my last child. I feel wistful as I think of days gone by, and I cherish those memories. But I know a few things are true…. I will always be Mom to my three kids. And with each passing phase of life, God will have something new and wonderful in store for me, and I wouldn’t miss that for anything!

  11. It’s so true. This is one of my favorite things about blogging—I have met so many woman, many who I totally ADMIRE and I know that I am prejudiced enough that if I had met them “in real life” our categories would have separated us. It’s a lesson I’ve taken from blogging into my “real life”.

  12. I loved this post. I am currently in that stage where my immediate parenting questions are defining me… sleep, feed, play, crawl.

    And now I have my blog… which has been a nice addition and pseudo replacement to going to work and interacting with other adults 🙂

    I look forward to meeting the next me… who will be redefined again.

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