Parenting is a strange phenomenon. I suppose it parallels life in a way. Just like when you are in high school or college, it feels like forever, and you are consumed by whatever consumes a person at that stage of life, so it is with the various stages of parenting.
When you have that newborn, you are all consumed with matters of feeding and sleeping. And you have to decide, are you going to schedule, or are you going to 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And you realize suddenly that whatever category by which you have defined yourself as a parent is no longer applicable.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 might feel some mourning for the passing of a stage, or you might not even realize that what was so important two years ago is suddenly of very little concern to you at all anymore.
This is what happened to me last week when I saw Steph’s adorable nursing picture on her blog. It just hit me, all of the sudden, that 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 do 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 do 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, as I said above, whatever parenting or life choices that are consuming you right now will be obsolete in a few years. As they say, time marches on.
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.