Friday, July 11, 2008

Shades of grey

Parenting is hard.  

There.  I've said it.  This news isn't really news to anyone who has taken even a tangential role in raising a child, but it does seem that many people don't want to admit it.  Like somehow, if we talk/write about the things that suck about parenthood, it means we are ungrateful, spoiled and pampered princesses who don't appreciate our good fortune.  Believe me, I know exactly how lucky I am.  And even when I'm complaining about anything in my life as a mother, I wouldn't trade it for anything.

Ok, that's out of the way.

The mommy-blogosphere seems particularly touchy lately when it comes to discussing parenting choices and the normal venting that goes along with raising a child.  It seems to me that many people forget how to have a polite disagreement behind the "veil of anonymity" of the internet.  Can't we all just get along?

I am a firm believer in the tenet that there is no one right way to raise a child.  I've read books and blogs, attended classes and support groups, and have decided that my parenting style, which comes pretty naturally to me, may not work for everyone.  That's fine.  I try not to criticize other parents' decisions just because they are not the ones I would make.  But if I have questions or disagreements, I would hope that, as adults, we could have a worthwhile discussion about our differences.  Unfortunately, the internet doesn't seem to be a venue for moderate and intelligent discussion about parenting.

Maybe it's because parenting is such a personal job.  How we raise our kids reflects so much about us and our values.  Is that why so many of us get defensive when we disagree?  Feeding on-demand vs. schedules, breast-feeding vs. bottles, daycare vs. SAHM, I think as parents, we have so much of our self-worth tied into every decision that when someone questions those decisions, we often interpret that question as a personal attack.

There are a lot of decisions that Richard & I have made about how we parent Vivian that probably wouldn't work for other parents.  At just over a year-old, Vivian is still breast feeding at home.  It works for us.  And I think we'll keep doing it while it works for us.  When she is at daycare, she is taking bottles of formula.  And that works, too (I was pumping at work, but it got to be too tedious, and when I got the new job, I decided it was time to stop).  

Vivian goes to sleep in her crib (although most nights, she actually falls asleep while nursing, and then I transfer her into her crib), and when she wakes up, Richard brings her into our bed, where she'll nurse and then go back to sleep.  I know this situation wouldn't work for many parents.  But we like it.  And Vivian is sleeping longer and longer in her crib all the time (she actually slept in the crib until 6:00 a.m. the other day!), so we know that eventually she will go all night on her own.  

Mostly my parenting philosophy has been "whatever works" (obviously within reason -- for health and safety considerations).  I try to keep an open mind about parenting so that I can learn about other styles and maybe even adopt new techniques.  I don't know that I could be a good stay-at-home-mom, but then maybe I could.  I don't really have the financial option right now, but down the road, who knows?  The same thing goes for home schooling, private schooling, etc.  I'm keeping my options open.

Before I became a parent, I think I had much firmer stances on parenting, and many things were black or white, good or bad, right or wrong.  But now that I'm in the trenches, so to speak, I can see that there is a whole lot of grey out there, and a whole range of acceptable and workable decisions.  To steal a phrase from the Peace Corps., parenting is the toughest job you'll ever love.