Sunday, July 17, 2011

We're in this together

I've always been amazed at how people of the same career, the same family, or the same community can be so incredibly different from one another. Perhaps the most shocking to me is the differences between people of the same faith. On the parenting book front, Ezzo and Sears are both Christian evangelical authors and yet you probably couldn't find two parenting philosophies farther from one another.

Just as an unrelated tidbit, did you know that there are more genetic differences between people of the same race than there are distinguishing characteristics between differentraces? And yet we posit black and white as dyads when really, when the genetic codes are all lined up, a little white girl in Missouri may share a stronger genetic resemblance to a little girl in Indonesia than she does to her white next-door neighbor. Maybe biology is telling us something--we're all much more the same--and much more different--than we think.

Before I get into a lecture about the performativity of race or gender, I return to this issue of parenting philosophies. It's no secret that I adamantly oppose the Babywise program. Sometimes even I wonder why in the world it bothers me so much that I keep writing about it, but there's just something about it that feels wrong to me. And yet it intrigues me. I wonder why anyone, especially a loving parent, would choose to follow its advice. And yet it has a loyal following, even amongst some of my closest friends. One of the most notable Babywisers, Valerie Plowman, shares the same faith as me. How is that? How is it that two women of the same religion, (I presume she also has deep and abiding faith) could have such different philosophies? How is it that in chatting with other young moms in my ward some plan to breastfeed to three and co-sleep until their kids move out of the family bed on their own, and others cry-it-out and think the family bed is the worst thing you could ever do for your child? How is it that Ezzo claims his program is "God's way of raising children" while Sears pushes just as strongly that a Christian parent is an attached parent?

I don't know if there is a straight answer to that question. If you've got one, I'd love to know. But this much I do know, after further thought, both people are right--at least for them and their family. If I were to schedule feed and cry-it-out as a newborn I really would be a bad mom because it's not me. I believe so strongly in touch, family togetherness, choices, comfort, and teaching by example. To me that translates as babywearing, bedsharing, baby-led feeding, cuddles during crying, and showing rather than yelling or spanking. I also spent far too much time questioning claims and cross-referencing resources in graduate school papers to feel comfortable following parenting advice that doesn't have any independently cited scientific or psychological benefits. Simply claiming, "this is God's way" doesn't really cut it for me. But I know for others things are different. I can respect that for someone else, the same things that work for me and my family would also make them a "bad mom." Of course I think I'm right (I mean, don't we all?) but I can respect it.

But, this is something I legitimately struggle with. I don't really understand it. Maybe some of you have some insight? In the meantime, as one fellow mom pats me on the back and tells me I'm doing a great job and another gives me the stink-eye, I just have to remind myself that we really are all in this together. We truly do want what's right and until someone can show me in the scriptures, "Ferber is right" or "Babywearing is wrong," I guess I'll just go about doing the best I can.


  1. I think you already answered your questions - it's because everyone is different, including babies.
    Dave and I were just talking about this at lunch actually. If I were to never let Joshua cry until he went to sleep, he would never sleep. He simply does not go to sleep while being held, and sometimes gets so tired that he cries and it only gets worse if I try to pick him up and comfort him. Granted I don't let him cry more than 3 or 4 minutes before comforting him, and since I know his cries, I can tell which cry means "i'm so tired and i will go to sleep in a few minutes if you just leave me alone" and which means "i'm uncomfortable/stuck/too hungry to sleep, come rescue me".
    I know we've already discussed this over chat, but I could also never have Joshua sleep in the same bed as us (although he did sleep in the same room for a few months) because of my husband's active sleep activities (jumping out of bed, yelling things, shaking me awake, smacking the wall, etc.).
    Again it all comes down to what your baby needs and what works best for your family. It's hard to not judge others that do it differently, hence getting the stink eye for doing one thing or another, but if you just try to tell yourself that whatever they're doing works best for them, then it helps keep yourself from judging others' parenting choices.

  2. The way I resolved that conflict for me is to quit reading parenting books. I know it sounds so "head in the sand" but I feel like there are literally as many ways to parent as there are parents. Even if people follow Babywise, or the Baby Whisperer, or attachment parenting, everyone does things differently. And there's a good reason. We're all different. And that's a good thing. If I stop worrying about parenting theories, and if I'm doing things the way someone else thinks I should, I find I'm a much better parent. I do what I believe is best for my family and my children, because I parent my children differently too. They are different, and they have different needs. If they were with a different Mom, maybe they would do better differently because Moms have different needs. So do things the way you think you should for your family, ignore the stink-eyes, and don't shoot the stink-eye at anyone else, cause we're all trying to be good moms.

  3. I agree with Kate, I stopped reading parenting books because they were all making me second guess every thing I did for my children. Sometimes I just don't know what to do so I will do a little research on a specific subject but I generally pick and choose what advice I want to follow, because those authors don't know my children, they don't know me and they don't know what my family situation is. Everyone has different needs, different personalities and every baby is SO DIFFERENT! I didn't understand that until I had number 2 she was completely different right from the start. It's like they are little people or something...ha ha ha :)