I’m a Better Parent Than You Are ………….Aren’t I?

I don’t hear mothers and fathers actually saying this with the classic and timeless “nah nah na boo boo” voice, but the competition that exists among parents and mothers in particular is significant. It is enough that people throw around the term “mommy wars” to describe tension that exists between and among women in playgroups or online groups. Most of this intensity comes from the sharing of experiences and parenting beliefs or styles.

Since every family is a unique combination of needs, characteristics and personalities, loving parents and healthy children will take many forms. On top of that are the all choices we have and the constraints we live under in the day to day. I don’t want to judge others or be judged. I want to build strong, positive community that supports all parents in finding and following their intuition when it comes to their children and their lives.

Bring Birth Home wrote this post that provides an entertaining overview of Attachment Parenting (AP) and Natural Living and Parenting (NLP), as well as some great discussion about mommy wars. The post and comments had me thinking. I wrote the following comment.

I am sure as the owner of the blog and this FB group you experience more of this negativity than I do, and for that I am both sorry and grateful.

1. thank you for working to make this a safe space, and a respectful space. it is good and good learning for us all.

2. as you may know from my own recent blogpost on humility and togetherness, these things are at the forefront of my mind currently. i am striving to have people actually feel what i intend when i speak and act — the space i want to create for them to come into the discussion. http://alivingfamily.com/2011/04/03/on-humility-and-togetherness/

HERE IS MY PROBLEM: no matter how much effort i take to keep my opinions to myself about what other people do as parents and to find the right words to say what i believe and do, no matter how hard i try to be respectful, sometimes i get the feeling (or can tell) that simply by saying my own personal truth people the person i am talking to is hurt, offended, defensive or even angry. it feels as though my sharing is bad but their sharing is acceptable. the only difference i can see is in the greater social acceptance and knowledge about their parenting practices and beliefs versus mine. this leads to the next….

3. now that i have been thinking about things for a while and you added your two cents to the mix, i am having some other thoughts. i am thinking about the way that even with a mix of AP and NLP and whatever feels right and good to us, that i have to fight the urge to shut down sometimes when someone shares about a tough hospital birth or shares their cry it out success story. i don’t feel immediately comfortable and welcomed to say that i had a phenomenal homebirth or that i am a little tired because we cosleep and my little one was nursing a lot or restless. maybe this lack of welcome is what others are feeling when i share my experience.

i am now wondering if the real problem is that it is not ok to share…..for some reason. is that possible? why would that be? because it definitely seems true. there is not a generally accepted and expected way of sharing mother stories or parenting ideas in open and honest ways, both about the hard and the wonderful experiences we are having. it does seem the expectation is that there’s an answer and some of us are supposed to have it. which one of us is it? ….. obviously no one has it. that is the point.

OR, last thing — is it the classic wondering if we are “good (enough)” mothers? and we can prove that if we somehow know something or did something “right?” i hope not, but seeing how own my mother’s good enough guilt continues to touch us both into the next stage of both of our lives i better dig deep on that one…..

i don’t know, but it’s too dizzying. i just want some honest conversation so we can all learn from and grow with and support each other. i think at some point we are going to have to consider an intellectual debate/conversation as separate from a personal conversation, though. otherwise, it seems difficult and emotionally challenging to have both at the same time. perhaps parenting is just too personal to not consciously separate the philosophical discussion. is that even possible or desireable?

5 responses to this post.

  1. Posted by Lata Murti on April 14, 2011 at 5:56 am

    Wow…we must be sharing the same brain and heart lately, Sheila, because I was just thinking (about) many of these same things today, i.e. what does it mean to be a “good mother”?


  2. Posted by Jana on April 14, 2011 at 5:35 pm

    This is an interesting post. While pregnant with my first child, I decided to have a natural birth in a birth center. When I shared those thoughts with friends who had just had their own babies, they laughed at me saying they wanted that too until labor started. Some were offended just by me mentioning it, like I was accusing them of being less of a woman or something because they had a medicated hospital birth. I stopped volunteering information about our birth plans, diapering/potty plans, and feeding plans unless asked outright or the topic came up. Most of the time I phrase things in conversation as “some people choose to do…” as opposed to saying I do it which allows a more open conversation. Maybe not the most open or honest way to talk but for people I don’t know really well, it oftens goes over better for me. Those I know well have either seen what I do or roll their eyes at my “wierdness”… and that’s ok with me. I’ve learned to back off and go overboard in making sure others don’t feel like I’m saying my way is the right way. And then being sympathetic when they talk about their issues and not comparing them to mine (or my lack thereof). I think you’re right about the “good enough?” phenomenon- sometimes I think the defensiveness stems from a mother’s self-doubt or lack of confidence in themselves. Thankfully I have a husband and mother who are willing to listen to my excited babbling about these touchy topics so I don’t feel the need to gush to my girl friends. Good food for thought!


  3. I think “Good Enough” is a nice thought rather than “good.”

    I agree with you. Its hard to have a debate about anything when we all feel so intensely about how we are just doing the best we can and would love some sympathy from our fellow mothers/parents.

    Great post Sheila.


  4. Funny how I ended up at this post via that post from that Bring Birth Home Post. I just found that website today, and was checking it out. I had just finished writing a comment (you can check it out if you like…it’s a bit rambly perhaps) about how I agreed with her 8 or 9 main AP/NLP points, and that I don’t like to be judgmental of other parents’ styles…

    But I wrote a little rant about how it’s hard NOT to be judgmental, or to at least FEEL BAD FOR THE BABIES. It’s like Radha and I have talked about a lot…Babies are suffering, in some subtle and not-so-subtle ways. Society suffers as a result.

    So, is it better to feel bad and be judgmental, but not say anything? Or is it better to risk making people feel bad by pointing out what you feel is right.

    I guess the more subtle approach is to not judge, but do what you do OPENLY. If it makes others uncomfortable, that’s their problem.


  5. ps…I ended up at your post because after I posted my comment at Bring Birth Home, it pinged your post. That crazy internets…


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