Competitive Parenting

The internet is ablaze with a recent article about Attachment Parenting in the Wall Street Journal.  I have read posts that agree and disagree with this article and feel very educated.

However, this post is not about that.

I have a degree in Family Science.  I loved my classes.  When I finally decided on that degree, I knew it was the right decision from the first class I took.

Through the course of my degree, I was introduced to something that has become my passion: Research.  One of the hardest parts of graduating, is losing access to our library’s vast database of research articles.  I sorely miss perusing EBSCO for articles on topics pertaining to marriage, parenting, and child development.

That being said, my degree did not prepare me for what I’ve encountered since becoming a parent.  The battlefield over things like attachment parenting, baby wearing, breast milk vs. bottle feeding, and, of course, stay-at-home vs. working moms.

Holy cow.  In all my years of research, I’d never even heard of half this stuff!  (Literally, I had to Wikipedia baby wearing and attachment parenting to figure out what the heck they were in the first place.)

Rather than give you my opinion on each of these things, I would like to ask a question–is there any reason for the competition that exists between parents?

I have a few friends who use attachment parenting.  I might disagree with the approach (and shake my fists at Dr. Sears), but I think that it’s awesome that these parents have found a parenting style that suits them.   Parenting is hard and they have successfully found their niche.  Good for them.

The thing that irks me is this snotty attitude that comes with choosing sides.  You have moms who say, “I breastfed all my babies until they were 10,” and look at you with rage when you mention that your babe stopped nursing at 10 months.  Like the formula my kids consumed was poisonous.  Right.

Or moms who think you are crazy if you co-sleep,  sending you glares that ask, “You dare risk your child’s life?”  Of course I do.

Not to mention the angst that all mothers feel whether they are working or staying-at-home.

After reading post after post in which an author writes scathing things directed at one parenting thing or another, I’ve begun to see a pattern.  People desire to take sides over an approach because it makes them feel like they belong somewhere.

But, I have a suggestion: Why don’t we build a community of support rather than of divisiveness?

We are all different, this means that we are also different parents.  What works for me may not work for you.  And that is okay.  The important thing is that my, and your, children are well nourished–emotionally, physically, mentally, and spiritually.  How we make this work is dependent on our individual personalities.

Let’s dedicate today and tomorrow for building each other up.  It’s a tough job and we could all use a little validation.



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19 responses to “Competitive Parenting

  1. Our minds are working alike today. It's hard enough to parent without feeling like your every choice is a battlefield. You said it well.

  2. I have a very thick skin and can discuss most things with anyone because it is rare that I care what others think. But I have noticed that when it comes to child rearing it gets to be downright crazy. People lose their minds- it is almost not worth discussing because some people just can't handle it.

  3. With you all the way, girl. It's one of the things I feel most passionately about as a mom. Parenting is an experiment. There is no manual. And though (through vast amounts of experimentation) I have found some things that work for me, I am quite sure that you have also taken the time and found equally (but entirely different) techniques that work for you. Why spend time judging one another? As you said, we need support, not judgement. Let's raise each other up, not squash each other down. Great post!

  4. I wholeheartedly agree. Great post!!

  5. (My husband and I were both working at EBSCO publishing when we met through a coworker at an office holiday party! I'm laughing that you mentioned EBSCO articles, as I haven't heard anyone ever reference them!! :))

  6. I agree. There are some parenting philosophies that I really do think are "wackadoodle," but taking sides is ridiculous. Families are as different as individuals, and differences in "style" need not be seen as threatening. We all (myself included) need to suppress the urge to DEFEND ourselves/argue when someone chooses to parent a different way. I believe it was Sheri Dew who said we need to assume we're all doing our best.

  7. I am totally about the whole "if it works for you, great!" parenting.

    I do what works for me. I listen to advice, sometimes use it, sometimes not. Sometimes I don't agree with what other moms do, but that is their decision. It's their kids, not mine. I will raise mine the way I want, using the "sure, that works" method, and I love it.

    I have never read a parenting book, and I never will. I don't want to feel guilty about anything. I do go to occasionally for advice, but when I type my problem in, I am always reading the "mom comments" below the article, rather than the article. Because they always have better advice than the professionals… I don't know, maybe because they have TRIED it?? Ha.

    Great post.

  8. I think women in general love to tear other women down. It makes us feel better about ourselves. And Motherhood just amps it up by a thousand.

  9. I was an LLL Leader for ten years. I've met the moms you wrote about. I watched them act like they were collecting badges for a mom-version of girl scouts. "Cloth diaper badge" – easy to do until you've put cloth diapers on a three-year-old and had to rinse them out after Number Two. YUCK. "Natural childbirth badge" – my first birth experience was nothing like I'd planned. My second one was exactly like I planned, well, mostly. It was what worked for me. I never made moms feel judged or excluded because the choices I made aren't right for them. People want validation for their own choices but instead go on the attack for anyone who made different choices. That pervasive "sports mentality" never made sense, especially when you apply it where it does not belong.

  10. Thank you, Amber. It's clear that you are not alone in your thinking, and yet the voices that are heard loudest are the ones that have been making their way around the webworld this week. It's not strength or my inclination even to write response posts, but if I could tackle them, I'd say much what you did here. And I love that your degree is in family science. LOVE.

  11. Your post is spot-on with my comments over at Whatever works I say. It's only a problem when it doesn't. And, why are people so judgmental? Why should they care if some other parent does something differently? Gee whiz. I'm glad I have never let these issues consume me.

  12. CK

    I definitely agree with you on this. Besides the fact, who really has time to give a flip about how other people raise their kids? (Or maybe that's just me…)

  13. I'm with you, Amber. And I really think you're onto something when you write that we defend our way of parenting because, ultimately, we're looking for a place to belong. I guess parenting is like anything we do and most of us seek validation as much in our adulthoods as we did when we were kids. So please come up with a name for your new school of non-judgmental parenting so we can all join you and feel validated. 🙂

  14. THANK YOU! For saying in such a succinct, perfect way something I've been struggling with ever since I started reading parenting blogs. (I typically look for beautiful writing and "capturing moments" kinds of posts rather than validation or repudiation of one philosophy or another). You and I may not agree on the particulars, but we're all in this together, we have much wisdom to share with each other, and we should focus our energies on celebrating the fact that we've made it this far, no matter how we've gotten here.

  15. Hear hear! Great, great points. There's no need to defend what we're doing when no one is on the offense – and we all need to step away from that particular playing field, which sure doesn't feel very playful.
    It's lovely to find people that share your opinions and feelings. But it's so interesting to learn about other perspectives! How about more curiosity, less scorn?

  16. As an adoptive parent, I had to learn quickly to judge not lest ye be judged. My way and your way might be different, but if we're all in it for the same reasons, then we don't have to beat each other up. We can be different and still respect each other. We can be different and still love our kids the same.

  17. Jenna

    Yes, yes, I agree. I was just thinking this the other day. Why can't we all just get along? However, many parents ask others for advice on certain things, and that's when people start taking sides and getting riled up–"my way is better than yours."

  18. I think moms are critical of other moms because of insecurity. There is no gold star to show us when we are doing a good job. The love we feel for our kids is so overwhelming, and moms want so badly to do right by our kids.

    But even understanding why some people feel the need to tear down others, I wish we could all be supportive of each other. Even if moms don't agree on parenting styles, we should understand that we all are trying to do the best we can.