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And you realize suddenly that whatever category by which you have defined yourself as a parent is no longer applicable.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.
8 thoughts on “Time Marches On”
I agree. I have been very disappointed in parenting magazines b/c they seem to always set things up as one way vs. another, whether it is breastfeeding or working or whatever. Considering all of the judgment heaped on us by the media and the world at large, we moms should be trying to support each other. I know the feeling that others would think I was a failure when I stopped nursing my first child crippled me and made me miserable. Once I decided I had made the best decision for all of us I got over it. But it was hard.
You’re so right. And new Mamas, already obsessing and fretting over the complexities of mothering a newborn AND not sleeping longer than 4.2 minutes at a time certainly don’t need divisiveness or labels to further their angst. Or any additional GUILT (because a healthy dose of maternal guilt is apparently delivered right after the placenta!). What they do need, what all Mamas need no matter how old our kids may be, is gentle, empathetic support and frankly, a little back-patting when it can be mustered. Sigh. I think you are right on, lady! It’s all for one and one for all in Mamaland.
It’s true. For some reason when you’re a new mom you choose to bf/co-sleep/whatever and you feel like it’s the best for your kid. So, when others do the opposite, it seems like they’re doing something bad. Knowing that mama is looking the same way at you! And then you start getting defensive and pointing out why you’re right, blah blah blah. It’s hard because being a mama so completely overtakes and overwhelms you, it’s hard to imagine someone else choosing to do it “wrong”. It’s hard to put yourself is someone else’s shoes when yours are consumed by a new little person! (Did that make sense?)
You know, there is always going to be one thing we have in common- we’re MOMS. I hate labels, because I am so not organized like that! I like for everyone to be able to do whatever they want! I don’t want someone telling me how to parent, so I won’t tell others how to parent either.
And for me as a mom that stays at home, does that mean I don’t work? And to say that a stay at home mom is a “full-time mom” doesn’t make sense because if you are a mom, you’re always a full-time mom whether you’re home or at work!
You’re right on dcr.
This is such a good reminder…because the choices never end! It doesn’t stop with nursing and decisions about work outside the home! There are school decisions: public, private, home? And sports. And movies. And electronics. And.. And. And.. There is always going to be choices out there that have the potential to divide.
It is so easy for me to get into comparing and judging, and displaying a self righteous attitude, when I become INSECURE in my desire to this parenting thing well! I want to do the best things for my family and do it well! WE all do. But, just like you said, my best is not necessarily THE best for other families.
There is a verse that helps me when I am faced with those who want to engage in the “Comparing Mom Game”: Rom: 12:18- “If it is possible, so far as it depends on you, live peaceably with all.”
I love this because it helped me realize, when I was a mom with babies and toddlers, and now, that 1. God is in control and he will give me (and The Mister) wisdom to make good decisions for our family, and 2. (the part that depends on me) is to choose to love others the way He loves me.
I too came to the realization that if I chose to live peaceably and not engage in the game then later on I would NEVER remember that So and So’s was trying to potty train her baby at 18 months, and I hadn’t even started training and mine was nearly 4! 😉 I would only remember the time of encouragement I had with another mom struggling to do her best.
It’s still sometimes hard not getting caught up in it.
Being reminded of the no-win “Comparing Mom Game” trap is well timed for this momma.
Absotively, posolutely, you are right. It took me awhile to realize that the vast majority of parenting choices have nothing to do with the reality of right and wrong, in the moral sense.
Most of the decisions fall into “what’s best for our family” or “what’s best for this child.” Period. And there really isn’t room for criticism.
I am so guilty of this sometimes. By nature, I tend to see things pretty black and white. However, when I became a mommy, I ate A LOT of humble pie. I may excel in something that another mom might find impossible, while she is winning the “mommy of the year” award in an area that I find difficult. I like to think of the verse that tells us that there is no greater love than to lay our lives down for our brothers (or children, or husbands). I think if I would just concentrate on doing that, I wouldn’t be so quick to judge others.
I linked this post on a Link Love post at my place today. Hope that’s okay… Let me know if not. 🙂
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