Posted in Blog, Emotional wellness, Just for you, Life as a mom, Mother, Shawna

How do you tell your parenting stories?

My whole life, I’ve been a chameleon. I like people and I like peace, and for some reason I’ve never found it that strange to be able to say one thing with one crowd, and something else in another setting. I’ve never really lied about my viewpoints or feelings, but I go out of my way to find common ground, sometimes stretching my ground way beyond its natural territory to make that happen.

I went right from an all-girls private Catholic school for high school to one of the country’s most liberal and non-religious colleges and was completely at home in both settings. The same thing happened when I covered state politics in uber-conservative Idaho, and then went right to writing about the city council of Seattle, the arch-ideological opposite. I do have strong opinions about politics, about religion, about all of those hot button topics that make us hate each other. But I usually prefer to ask people about their lives and the things that really move them. When somebody says something I fundamentally disagree with (unless it’s racist, sexist, homophobic or just too crazy to let slide), I usually just move on.

But with parenting, it’s more challenging to keep to neutral topics. First, there are all the labels. Are you attached or detached? Sleep training or co-sleeping? I mean, I know better than to bring up vaccines with a mom I’ve just met, but a topic as seemingly benign as pacifiers or potty training seems laden with minefields, too.

Then there’s the reality of my situation. It’s hard to be everywoman when you choose a path a lot of people see as super-alternative or crazy. I didn’t plan on doing it, but my life experiences led me to an out-of-hospital birth, to quitting my job to be a stay-at-home-mom, and to nursing my daughter into her toddlerhood and keeping her in our room until she was 14-months-old (among many other weird things). I really don’t judge parents who’ve done things differently (REALLY!). I think as long as we educate ourselves and remain empathetic to our children, we make the best choices. And I really believe that all babies and all moms are different and that my choices, while good for me, might not work for everyone.

Still, they’ve gone so well for me that I’d like to be able to talk about them. I’d like to be able to openly tell other moms what I’ve done and what I’m doing without fear it will make them defensive or see me as some kind of freak. I’d like to listen to their choices without judging them, and learn from them. Sometimes, it seems like this goes really well. Some of the time, it doesn’t.

For once, I’m having a hard time just accepting the safe, common ground-type conversations. I want to tell the truth. I want to hear it.

I understand why parenting choices are so fraught with emotion. We are all pulled thinner than we can handle most of the time, and we are obsessed with doing everything just right. I just wish we could establish some kind of mommy-safe zone where we could all tell the whole truth of what we’re doing and listen to how it’s really going for everyone else.I just wish I felt safe telling other moms what I really think. I want them to feel that safe with me, too. Even when we’re different. Especially when we’re different. Now that sounds peaceful.

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  1. You can always tell me your stories. I think it’s impossible for people not to let their judgments show regarding various lifestyle choices, particularly when it comes to parenting, because we all think our kids are pretty important. That, and I know I worry too much about what other people think myself. I have to remind myself that parenting is a little like a middle school dance- we’re all so busy worrying about what people think of us that we totally aren’t actually paying attention to the other people ๐Ÿ˜‰ And it is really good to hear from people with totally different perspectives. So, when you tell me you’re tandem nursing a 15-month-old and a newborn, I promise I won’t let my eyebrow raise too much ๐Ÿ˜‰ Or when you tell me that you’re taking your month-old-baby on a roadtrip. No eyebrows! See?! ๐Ÿ™‚

  2. This is a lovely lovely lovely post. It’s so difficult to tell the truth, since we all mother/have mothered through our own minefields, with our individual babies and our crazy selves. Whole heart, that’s where honesty starts.

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