Do Labels Divide Us?


I had an interesting conversation with someone yesterday that I really respect and it got me thinking. All the hoop-la around that recent Time magazine cover, debates about breastfeeding moms vs. non breastfeeding moms and debate about whether “crying it out (CIO)” is good or bad makes me want us to all say a collective “WHO CARES?”

Before we had all these labels (attachment parenting, simplicity parenting etc) people just parented how they saw best for their families. If their motherly instincts told them to have their child sleep in their bed, they did that. If their gut told them it was OK to start solids at 4 months, they did that. They didn’t agonize over every parenting decision. They weren’t full of anxiety about whether they were making the right choice or not. They just parented. They trusted their instincts.

I admit, I have a lot of anxiety about parenting. I have even found lately that I’ve gone against my gut on some things that now I’m changing my tune on. The media, and our society, make moms feel so much pressure to parent the “right” way. Maybe the only “right” way is how we truly want to be mothers – what our souls tell us is right for our families. Personally, I’m adopting this mentality right now. It’s going to take work to remind myself to trust my instincts, to not compare my parenting to others but I have to believe that letting go of societies expectations and pressures will help me be an even better parent (and it certainly will help reduce my mothering-related anxiety).

As moms, we should be united. We should support each other without judgement. Just because something works for my family, doesn’t mean it’s right for someone elses, and vice versa. If we can all work on letting go of these parenting labels, maybe we’d all be a little happier and less nervous about whether we’re making the right choices. Because in the end our personal choices ARE the right choices. Right?

13 comments on “Do Labels Divide Us?”

  1. Just reading this now and have to add a big, hearty A-FREAKIN’-MEN!!!! Rock on, Dear Sister. ♥

  2. I agree that this seems like a perfect summary of our “this is me” series. It makes me really glad we did that!

  3. UGH, SORRY, HUGE CORRECTION TO MY COMMENT ABOVE: second-to-last paragraph, I meant to say two different things: (1) it’s easy to misread Sears as advocating chained-to-the-homestead mothering as the only way for children to become securely attached; and (2) I agree with the author that Sears subtly, or not so subtly, advocates moms staying home with their kids as better than moms working. Have you ever started typing, took a break, then come back only to mangle a paragraph? That’s what I just did … so sorry for the confusion!

  4. Hi everyone! Here are some of my thoughts on the article, which reads more like a biography of Dr. Bill Sears, describing his attachment parenting empire and questioning whether his fans and critics have truly understood his message or perhaps have blown it out of proportion:

    This was said by many others, but first, the cover mom provocatively breastfeeding her 3-year-old on a stepstool (really? a stepstool?) has nothing to do with the story. There is a little box inserted in the text of the article that briefly addresses the AAP’s recommendation to exclusively BF for 6 months, continue BF for at least one year, and then continue as long as mutually desired by mother and child. That’s it!

    So what is AP? I would say that it’s a philosophy, more than a series of strict practices, that emphasizes the importance of the parent-child bond (particularly mother-child) in ensuring that children grow up feeling securely attached, helping them become healthy, independent, confident adults. The article says that “the prevalence of this philosophy has shifted mainstream American parenting toward a style that’s more about parental devotion and sacrifice that about raising self-sufficient kids.” I disagree. I feel that the care I am giving my daughter right now will lead her to be self-sufficient later in life; she will enter the world not sheltered from it, but able to look back on her family and know that there is strong support for her there while she takes on life’s challenges. Do I believe that breastfeeding past one year, as opposed to stopping earlier, will have a direct positive impact on her self-sufficiency? No, of course not; that’s just silly. But then, where does TIME get the idea that self-sufficiency is somehow hindered by AP practices?

    TIME also says that “AP dogma also says that every baby’s whimper is a plea for help and that no infant should ever be left to cry.” Well, I don’t know what they mean by “every baby’s whimper,” but what age baby are we talking about? One week old or one year old? At one week, a baby’s cry, whimper, grunt, whatever, is the only means that baby has to communicate – it makes sense to pay attention. As baby approaches one year, however, she has some language and body cues to help you understand the difference between a cranky whine and an urgent need.

    Don’t even get me started on the Tiger Mother comparisons. The author of that book has stated publicly that it is more a personal memoir about what she learned from her kids, not an anti-AP philosophy. As far as I know, it focuses on her pre-teen/teen daughters, and not on the so-called controversial “issues” of baby-wearing, cosleeping or breastfeeding. Sorry TIME, but I just don’t believe that AP “has ignited a philosophical battle that rages within the parenting community.” Maybe in the world of the media it’s a different story, but I think more moms feel like Michelle does here in her post.

    From reading portions of some of the books, and the internet lore surrounding the Dr. Sears empire (he has 3 sons who are also doctors), I do agree with the author that it’s easy to misread the Sears Parenting Library, particularly parts of “The Baby Book,” as subtly (or not so subtly) suggesting that kids would be better off if their moms didn’t work, or at least held “mom-friendly” jobs that enabled moms to maximize the time spent with their kids. According to the article, Sears himself admits that his views have softened over the years, and that most of the time he just advises parents to do what works best for their families.

    Finally, I was a little upset that in another insert, “Sears vs. Science,” TIME notes that “science” (huh?) refutes Sears’ claim that bedsharing is safe, noting that an adult can crush or suffocate a baby, and increases the risk of SIDS. I don’t have a readily available source to cite here, but I have read that to the contrary, bedsharing or “cosleeping” is absolutely SAFE unless the parents have used alcohol or other drowsiness-inducing drugs, are smokers, or fail to take the required precautions of clearing all sheets and loose materials from the baby’s sleeping area, and using a firm mattress. I urge anyone considering cosleeping (or even not considering it) to do thorough research on the benefits of safe cosleeping practices.

  5. Well said Michelle. While prego and after my daughter was born I read everything I could and talked to many people. After a couple weeks I realized, I need to do what works for me and my family. Since we did that, life couldn’t be better. People will always want to give you their oppinion but I have learned to take them with a grain of salt. What might work for them may not work for me.
    I do believe we have always put lables on things but now with all the media attention and resorces for mothers they are always in our faces.
    Our doctor told us as one of my daughters first visits, “I have to tell you many of these things because the American Pediatrics Assosication says to. But you are the parents and you know what is best for your daughter.”

  6. AMEN Michelle!!

    Parenting is definitely not “one size fits all”, and what works for some does not work for others. It’s all about trial and error, and choosing options that work best for you and your family. It’s time we stop being hard on ourselves, and go with what our instincts tell us. WHO CARES is right!!! Thanks for bringing this out there, Michelle, especially in a time when all we do sometimes is look to fit ourselves into one of these “categories,” when in fact there should be none at all.

  7. I LOVE this post and truly depend on mother’s instinct and intuition. After a week, I stopped breastfeeding Max. I just didn’t like it and was getting depressed because of it. It wasn’t the right choice for our family, and that became my mantra. I wish parents could just accept what’s right for their family may not be right for another family and that’s totally ok. Really good post Michelle.

  8. I feel like this post is a continuation of the “This is Me” series. Those posts were in large part confessions that we are all doing our That’s how it should be. I agree with Sofia that most of the advice is not new, just repackaged, but I also think that’s a problem of information overload. When we were kids, our moms had fewer sources for help — friends, their own mothers, maybe a few books. Now with the internet and 24-hour news channels we are inundated with advice/rules that are not always factual, mostly just opinions, but always SCREAMING in our faces. How can we not judge ourselves and others? It’s hard not to. I have a subscription to Time and just got the issue yesterday (though I’d been swamped with opinions about the cover already). If you read the article inside, it’s basically just a profile of Dr. Sears. I have his baby book and some of the things felt right for our family and some didn’t. In my opinion (which I will share without shrieking it at you), you take what feels right from all of the sources and leave the rest. That’s what being a “good mother” is, figuring out what works best for your unique family.

  9. Well said… I completely agree! We do the best we can and know how. Sometimes it can be helpful to hear what other moms do in situations but it’s all about finding what works for you and your child. Every child is different and what works for some won’t necessarily work for all and I think it’s important that we remember that and cut ourselves some slack!

  10. I totally agree that we need to stop judging each other and just let things be. On another note, there have always been labels, its just they have changed the name and put it into new packaging. We are being sold ideas that have been around since probably almost the beginning of time.

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