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Permission

September 24, 2013

Mothering is fraught with internal struggle, self doubt, self judgement and guilt. Whether it is born out of the blinding, crippling desire to bestow all beautiful everythings to this tiny person you are responsible for while struggling to keep a hold of some semblance of your self so that this new person you have become-a mother is more than the self you B.C. (before children). 

In the midst of the swearing, sleeplessness, constipation, flabby stomach, weird boobs, gold fish crackers as a whole food group for a while, catching vomit in your hands, constantly having to buy bigger pants, forgetting to get haircuts and myriad of other mundane things you find your self doing A.C. (after children) you are again, aligned with other bitches who are constantly trying to be better than you, better than them all. Thinner, prettier, more well dressed, cooler with weird tattoos or very white teeth, muscular arms, with jobs and nannies, money for private schools, mega-mom cars with DVD players, family trips to Europe, designer shoes and big purses. 

Who had a vaginal delivery, who had a c-section with tummy tuck, who is breastfeeding, who is bottle feeding, who is sleep training, who is co-sleeping, who is going back to work, who is staying home, who is using cloth diapers, who is using disposable, who makes their own baby food, who is worried about allergies, who takes baby gymnastics, mommy-and-me classes, playgroups, story-time, naps, baby sign language, sleeping through the night, nursing in the night but basically just trying to keep everyone alive to see the next day. 

I remember sitting in those circle times with the first pancake worrying if I was doing it right and worried because until I had sat down at those circles I didn’t think if what I was doing was right or wrong because I was doing what felt right to me, seemed like the best thing for our son the first pancake. But the moment I sat down in that circle and watched all the other moms I wondered if I was doing the right thing the beginning of the motherdoubtbullshit started. 

We were using cloth diapers. When I would talk to other mothers about cloth diapers they were only using organic hemp diaper systems. I used what was cheapest and had no loyalty to anything and could have cared less if they were cute but the kernel of envy, doubt and self loathing crept in because maybe it was better. 

We were breastfeeding exclusively with no pacifier use, co-slept with  a sidecar thing and fed on cue. When I would talk to other mothers about breastfeeding they slept on a family bed on the floor, nursed all the time and never felt resentful when their babies stuck their fingers in their bellybuttons or pinched their new muffin-top while they nursed trying to put their toe in your nose. 

We used gentle discipline and didn’t spank or smack but we yelled sometimes and told them no, forced them to sit in their car seats and ignored temper tantrums. When talking with other mothers about how they dealt with discipline they told me how they used holding times, always redirected, never forced their children to do anything, allowed them to do whatever they wanted and helped them figure out how to do it safely, always sat int he back seat with them, allowed them into their beds anytime, did child centered activities all the time, never had a babysitter and played with their children and babies not just sat near them while reading a magazine. 

In every encounter I felt like opinionated parents, which I consider myself one as I have opinions about everything because I too thought about what I was doing. The herd mentality and the strong desire we all feel to fit in drives us to look at others and what they are doing and judging our own methods but not because those people and what they think has anything real to do with our parenting but because we want to fit in. We want to feel we are right. We want to feel that whatever it is we are doing is the right thing to do and because of that we want permission from other parents to act as we see fit. We want acceptance for the choices we are making and confuse acceptance with permission. Permission which we don’t really need because only the parents of that pancake have the ability to make decisions. 

So, when we choose to breastfeed we want others to say it’s great, you are doing the right thing. When we bottle feed we want others to say we are doing the right thing and it’s great to do that. What happens when you don’t think it is right because what is right for your family is right for your family and your acceptance has nothing to do with whether it is the right thing or not. 

In my experience being a LLL leader who responded to help line questions I was put in the position to talk to mothers who wanted permission to stop breastfeeding. Asking questions to dry up their milk. Mothers wanted me to say it was fine to stop. I didn’t think it was fine to stop. I thought it should be done and my job, my place as  a LLL leader was to foster breastfeeding, give accurate up to date information related to breastfeeding. It was difficult listening to the long list of reasons why it wasn’t working out for them because unless you don’t have breasts (some moms don’t) or your baby has a medical condition that prohibits breastfeeding (in many times you still can but the cost to the family in all ways you can imagine was too great) because deep down, all aspects of parenting have to do with whether or not you want to or not. Not if you can or not. 

In most things in life if you want to, you can. The difficulties around it or the easy things about it help you make your choice but it still comes down to will or won’t. As mothers, we want circumstances to prohibit our decision making because it is almost impossible to reconcile will or won’t. We want to do the perfect thing for our children, not just the right thing and we need others to understand how we come to those crossroads. We want everyone to do things just as we do them so we don’t feel like we are making the wrong choice. 

The hamster wheel of parenting sounds exactly like the thing we are constantly telling our kids to avoid as they grow up. A constant mantra of my motherly wisdom is “don’t be a sheep, be your own bird” because I don’t want my kids to be desperate to fit in they compromise compromise compromise compromise compromise compromise feel is truly right in their hearts. I want them to always look into themselves to find their own truth, the one they find with a gentle and kind heart and to feel strong when they go against the grain. 

So, no, I don’t give you my permission to do what you think is right, no I would not make the same choices as you make, I believe what I have chosen to do is the right thing. That is easy to say because you don’t need my permission to parent your child how you see fit when you do those things with love and kindness but I won’t agree with you that your choices are equal to mine because we are each unique, doing the best we can to catch the vomit in our hands so it won’t ruin the couch, again. 

 

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