“I mean, I’m crunchy, but I’m not that crunchy,” she said.
“Crunchy?” I frowned, laughing slightly. “What’s that?”
I was 22 and newly pregnant (though I didn’t know it was twins yet!) when I had this conversation with my sister-in-law. She is more than ten years older than me and already had two kids of her own.
I had no idea the strange new world I was entering–not just the world of parenthood, but the strange new world of Parenting Ideologies as well.
When my twins were born, I gobbled up articles, blog posts, and Facebook discussion threads, marveling at the all the different parenting views out there—Crunchy! Scrunchy [aka. kinda crunchy]! Tiger Mom! Free Range! Homeschool! Unschool! Homeschool-but-no-jean-skirts! Public School! Helicopter! Gentle! Authoritative!
I wondered which one I was, or which one I should be. Where was the quiz??? (actually, there are quizzes out there. I’ve probably taken a dozen of them because I LOVE QUIZZES!).
I’ve been a parent for over ten years and have devoted myself to and discarded many of these ideologies. I still don’t know what kind of parent I am. But I have come to realize a few things about parenting ideologies.
First, Parenting Ideologies are a millennial thing. Yes, it’s true. They were born out of the internet age and suckled at the breast of online parenting discussion boards.
Fact: Our parents and grandparents didn’t discuss whether they were “Super Granola” or just “Kinda-crunchy” (yes, this is a REAL conversation).
No, back then, as a parent, you either followed Dr. Spock or you didn’t. The end.
The internet is a wonderful place, but it can make mamas—new or otherwise—a little crazy (can I get a hand-raise? Yes! I see that hand! Good to know I’m not alone in my insanity!)
Being a part of a group of moms (IRL or online) who share your same ideology can bolster your confidence as a new parent and help you feel like you are not alone. This is wonderful.
The longer I’ve been a mom, the more I’ve come to see the problems with parenting ideologies.
Us vs. Them
This is where the term “Mommy Wars” comes from. Breastfeeding vs. Bottle Feeding. Cloth vs. Disposable. Stroller vs. Wraps. Gentle Moms vs. Strict Moms. Homeschool vs. Public School Moms. Working moms vs. SAHMs. The list goes on.
Parenting ideologies often create an Us vs. Them mentality where anyone who does things differently from you (or your group) is THE OTHER—a bad mom, a mom who is unenlightened (because if she was enlightened, like you, then she wouldn’t be making those choices), or a mom who can be mocked or shamed in a private parenting group thread.
There’s been a lot of work done in the past year or two to try to confront the mommy wars (in blog posts, advertising, and more—Yea!) but the Us vs. Them attitude is, sadly, still alive and well in the world.
Food for thought: Parenthood is hard for EVERYONE. We’re all in this together. A mom who thinks or does differently than you is not your enemy.
Feeling guilty when you don’t/can’t live up to your ideology expectations
When I had my twins, I definitely leaned granola. I cloth diapered for over a year. I made all my own baby food. I made my own laundry soap. I wrote blog posts about how much I Ioved doing all the crunchy things.
Then I had my 3rd baby. Guess how long I lasted with the cloth diapers? 6 freakin’ weeks. And I felt so guilty because I was “Cloth Diaper Mom.” I mean, I even sewed and sold the darn things. WHO WAS I NOW THAT I DIDN’T WANT TO CLOTH DIAPER ANYMORE?
I had made an identity for myself over diapering my kids (which, looking back, is very weird).
I had to let it go of my expectations and embrace disposable diapers for my own sanity (hallelujah) because now I had three kids and I was also working.
Food for thought: If your ideology is causing you guilt, it’s probably time to pull an Elsa and “Let it gooooo!”
You may miss out on a great friendship
I was homeschooled from 1st-12th grade and my friends were kids who were just like me: middle class, Christian, white, and homeschooled themselves. I felt safe in this group and I was honestly scared of kids who didn’t fit these “safe” descriptors. “Public school kids” terrified me!
Looking back, I’m sad (and honestly mortified) that I had this attitude because I probably missed out on some great friendships and new experiences. I’m so thankful for the diverse group of friends I have met as an adult.
It’s the same thing with parenting ideologies: If we only stay in our homogenized groups, where everyone “looks” the same and believes the same things, we may miss out on some incredible friendships, as well as great ideas that exist outside of our bubble.
Food for thought: Don’t be afraid to branch out and make new friends who may think differently than you. You may meet that one friend who will be your rock in the hard times.
An ideology can put a box around your growth or evolution as a parent
For many, many years I thought I could never homeschool my kids. I was a Public School parent through and through. I didn’t have the patience, creativity, or magic fairy dust that all homeschool moms possess. I created a box for myself that stated, “This is me. And that? That is NOT me, and never will be.”
Well, surprise, surprise! Homeschooling turned out to be a good option for my kids this semester since we are making an overseas military move. I had to break apart my parenting ideology box so that I could make room for new experiences for my sons and myself. (Pssst! It’s been really hard, but a tiny bit fun too!)
Food for thought: Try not to love your ideology box more than you love the idea of growth or trying new things because you may miss out on something really great.
“This is who I am as a parent” vs. “this is what my child needs” or “this is what I need”
As a young mom, I developed a Super Woman ideology for myself. Raise twins? Check! Conquer Grad School? Check! Be a rock star wife/housekeeper/wife? Check, check, and check! If I faced a challenge, I analyzed, researched, and handled it.
But as my boys continued to grow, more challenges arose. Then more. And more. Soon, we were facing struggles that were beyond my Super Woman powers and I felt like I was failing as a mom MISERABLY.
The truth is, the only thing I was falling short of was my idealized view of who I thought I should be as a mom. My kids had needs, like Autism, ADHD, and learning disabilities, that I could not meet on my own. I had to reach outside of myself and ask for the help so all of us all thrive.
Food for thought: Who you think you are as a parent may not be what your child needs you to be as a parent. It takes time, trial and error, and sometimes outside help, to figure this out what works for both you and your child.
I still don’t know where I fit as a parent. I’ve had a planned c-section, an epidural birth, and a completely natural birth; I’ve been a cloth-diaper mom and ‘sposie mom; made my own baby food; loved me some baby food pouches; been a working mom, work-at-home mom, and a stay-at-home mom; I’ve had full-time nannies, and used full-time day care; I love public school and I’m currently homeschooling my kids. My kid wore an amber teething necklace for two years. I like essential oils and antibiotics, and I’ve used both prescription meds and CBD oil to help support my son’s ADHD.
When all is said and done, I’m just a mom who is doing the best she can. Just like you.
Let’s lay aside our parenting dogmas when they get in the way of loving ourselves well, loving our kids well, and loving other moms well. In place of division, let’s keep on encouraging each other to be the best parents we can be, no matter which ideologies we may hold.
What about you? What “kind” of mom are you? Which parenting ideologies have you held, or thrown out?
Have you seen these “negatives” in your own life? How have you overcome them?