I read a great article about Mayim Bialik (Blossom for you old-school folks, or the girl who played young Bette Midler in Beaches, or the girl who plays Sheldon’s girlfriend on The Big Bang Theory) the other day. It talked about how she is a strong advocate for Attachment Parenting (AP). She believes in extended nursing (her oldest is 3 1/2), she co-sleeps, she does elimination communication (meaning her children learn how to use a toilet before they learn to walk or talk, also known as diaper-less parenting). She wears her baby, unschools, and more. Her children are raised vegan and kosher. She’s an amazing woman doing a lot of amazing things with her children.
As a parent, I’ve chosen to do a lot of seemingly “crunchy” or “hippie” things myself. I made all of Zach’s baby food myself. We co-sleep. I homeschool. I’ve done some babywearing (though I don’t wear him all the time like many AP moms). I try to keep his goods organic when I can.
But the thing is, I get mistaken for a full-crunch Mayim Bialik mom all the time. And, as much as I admire her parenting style in many ways, I’m not her.
I’ve had several people hear that I homeschool and make Zach’s baby food, only for them to ask me my advice and suggestions on cloth diapering. Oh honey child, I do not cloth diaper. I think it’s great that so many moms do, but I don’t. We are disposibles all the way!
I feel like too many times people hear that a mom is doing one or two things that are associated with the attachment parenting or organic/crunchy lifestyle, and assume that she is an all-or-nothing hippie mom. I’ve found that, more often than not, this isn’t the case. I’ve heard of a lot of cloth diapering organic moms that don’t raise vegan babies. I’ve heard of many moms that co-sleep and baby-wear, but feed their children Gerber and Beech Nut. I’ve seen moms who do extended nursing and baby-led weaning, but don’t co-sleep or cloth diaper. I feel like there is so much pressure as a mom, if you choose to do a few attachment parenting behaviors or granola mom behaviors, to do it all. I was having a conversation with some ladies the other day about diapers. One of them said “Oh my gosh. My friend’s baby had the WORST blowout when we were out to lunch. You know, if she was smart, she would make the switch to cloth diapers. I’ve never seen a blowout on a cloth baby.” I immediately blushed and felt ashamed that I had the audacity to put my child in a disposable diaper. Then, I started to feel ashamed that I felt ashamed of a parenting choice I had made! Who cares if the other women around me have made that choice for their children, one that fits into their lifestyle but not into mine? That’s great, but it’s not me.
I realized that, so many times, I felt ashamed about little things I did. I made all of Zach’s purees and many of his snacks like sweet potato fries, but sometimes I’d be lazy and give him a rice cake or a handful of SuperPuffs instead, which aren’t homemade. I feared that people would see me as a hypocrite if I went halfway.
I felt ashamed that sometimes I made choices that were right for my family. When some friends found out that I chose to co-sleep, I started getting bombarded with articles about how dangerous it is, and photos of babies sleeping with butcher knives. It took me a long time to stop feeling guilt about the fact that co-sleeping was the best choice for my family, and to realize that we co-sleep in an incredibly safe manner (and most co-sleeping deaths come from families who are uneducated about the safest co-sleeping practices).
I realized that I had spent a great deal of time feeling guilt about my parenting decisions rather than just enjoying my life as a parent. And then I realized that my words sometimes to other parents may have been causing them to feel guilt about their choices, whether or not it was intentional.
The truth is, not all of us who embrace an AP lifestyle are going to be a Mayim Bialik. There are going to be those of us who slip through the cracks, who embrace a half-hippie lifestyle. Maybe you’re a cloth diapering homemade baby food mom who balks at the idea of co-sleeping and babywearing. Maybe you chose not to breastfeed but you still love to co-sleep and wear your baby. All of us have to find what works for us as parents. It’s not going to look the same for everyone, and none of us should have to feel like we’re being put into some sort of box for it.
So this is it. I’m embracing the half-hippie lifestyle. I’m proud to be only slightly crunchy, to be organic when I can and embrace the times when I can’t be that person, too. My son’s going to eat meat sometimes. He’s going to wear disposable diapers and he’s going to get store-bought snacks occasionally. But he’s also going to choose when he stops breastfeeding, he’s going to eat a lot of homemade foods, and he’s going to co-sleep with me for quite awhile longer.
Do what’s right for you and your kids. Don’t feel ashamed about it, like you aren’t eco enough or aren’t traditional enough… there will always be advice coming from all sides, and always be some form of judgement on all sides… but you have to make the decisions that are best for you, best for your child and your home and your lifestyle and your family.
When you’re doing what you truly feel is best for your child, I’ve found that the guilt and shame often tends to melt away.