Posted in Blog, Emma, Featured, Friends, Mother

All or nothing is dumb

We all know there are only two kinds of moms, right?

There are moms who:

  • Give birth at home
  • Use cloth diapers
  • Breastfeed their children until they get their drivers license
  • Don’t circumcise
  • Homeschool
  • Stay at home
  • Make all their baby food from scratch
  • Only wear their babies and never put them down
  • Replace “discipline” with “gentle consequences” (read: let their kids go crazy anytime, anywhere)

These women also…

  • Don’t use nursing covers
  • Don’t shave their legs
  • Are holier than thou

And then there are moms who:

  • Give birth in the hospital, probably via cesarean
  • Formula feed or bottle feed with breast milk
  • Are career driven (vs. family driven) and put their kids in daycare within 6 weeks (by choice)
  • Use disposable diapers
  • Circumcise
  • Only use strollers

These women are also…

  • Emotionless/cold
  • Care more about their appearance/work life/personal success than their family

And never the twain shall meet!

You guys, this is so crazy.


Whenever someone asks me if we are “attachment parents” or if we co-sleep (which I have spread all over the internet but rarely talk about in person), I am always at a loss for what to say. Yes, I think attachment parenting is great and yes, I think we would qualify in a lot of respects. But I hesitate because I wonder what they are really asking and usually it is not just “do you agree with and follow the 8 principles of attachment parenting”? The person asking probably couldn’t name one principle of attachment parenting.


They could be asking if they have found a safe place to talk about their own attachment ways. They could be asking if I’m “one of THOSE crazy moms”. They could be waiting for an opportunity to tell me that co-sleeping is dangerous. They could be asking about any of the two lists above, without getting too specific. Certain parenting terms have become so broad and meaning-laden that they feel like land mines.


They want to put me in a category in their head. The right file folder. This is normal. It is human to need to categorize things. One of the first independent tasks an infant has is to start the process of categorizing: safe and unsafe, edible and inedible, hard and soft, person with boobs who feeds me, person without (or with) boobs who doesn’t feed me. It’s what we do.


However, as adults, we have the choice to let these categories be fluid, complicated, overlapping and flexible. We don’t need to know what someone’s entire parenting ethos is in order to make conversation at the playground or become good friends. We can, hopefully, hold lots of information about one mother or family in our heads at the same time.


You know what? I am the babywearing educator at Birth and Beyond but I don’t always wear my baby!! I love to carry her but she is freaking heavy as all get out and it is physically impossible for me to wear her as much as I’d like to. I love my Ergo and my german woven wrap but I also love my stroller. I like cloth diapers (and have an enormous number of them – all colors, kinds and sizes) but I have yet to find one that works at night and I’m so tired of changing the sheet, so we use a disposable at night.


I know two mamas (one stay at home, one back to work) who recently had their second children and ditched cloth diapering. As I said to one – if you can get your underwear on in the morning and keep everybody fed, you’re ahead in my book with two kids. Forget all that extra laundry! I also have had clients who don’t tell anyone they had a homebirth. It’s a joy and a carefully planned choice for their family, but they don’t think it meshes with their parenting style (as perceived by their friends and family), or they worry they’ll be categorized incorrectly by admitting their birth location.


I’m about to blow your minds, people. You can give birth at home and grow a thriving baby with formula. You can give birth in the hospital with a midwife and bring that baby home to sleep in your bed. You can wear your baby during the day and sleep them in a crib at night. You can give your baby exclusively your own milk, exclusively in bottles. You can go back to work full time and leave your son intact. There are women who try super hard for a vaginal delivery but end up having no choice but to birth by cesarean, there are women who want an epidural but have to “go natural” because there isn’t time for one and there are women who elect to schedule cesarean – and all are valid choices. There are women would would love to stay home but for whom it is financially untenable and women who could afford it but like the mental exercise, adult socializing and away-from-home time they get by parenting AND working out of the home.


So, do me a favor. Next time you want to know something about another parents, ask them about that thing. Be specific. Don’t assume. Keep an open mind.


What’s your parenting “style”? Do you have a nighttime cloth diaper suggestion for me? (My girl is chubby – big thighs, but that’s always where she seems to leak from. Ideas?) Are you a “closeted” co-sleeper? Crib sleeper? Extended breastfeeder? Tell me your secrets!
  1. this is an AWESOME article!!!

  2. Thanks, Cara!

  3. This really hits home! You never know another family’s story, so ask. Don’t judge.

  4. I AM a co-sleeper!! Oh goodness it’s so nice to see evidence that I’m not the only mother on Earth who doesn’t hiss in shock at the idea of sharing sleeping space with my baby. We started co-sleeping almost by accident – I’d be holding our daughter in our rocking chair trying to get her to go to sleep and would just pass out with her in my arms – but it soon became a deliberate choice. My husband wasn’t on board at first, however he’s a heavy sleeper, I was out of a job, and eventually I told him that if he didn’t want us to co-sleep, then he could get up in the middle of the night and try to get her to sleep by herself. I tell you that lasted all of ten minutes on one night and he relented, because our daughter screamed her head off. She’s co-slept with us ever since and she never wakes up crying in the middle of the night. She’s about a year old now and we’re transitioning her to sleeping on her own in her crib. It’s going pretty well. I think she just wasn’t ready to be alone at night when she was just born, but now that she’s walking and starting to talk, she’s getting a stronger sense of self and independence is naturally following.

    Sorry for carrying on a bit. I’ve had to defend our co-sleeping to a lot of people and it feels so great to be a little less alone with that decision.

  5. Caryn, I’m so glad you found my post validating. No matter how much we think we’re making our own rules, it’s amazing how much better it can feel to get permission that what we’re doing is ok. Every mom needs to hear that she’s a good mom. You’re a good mom! I’m glad you listened to yourself and your girl in what would be best for your family’s sleep arrangement. AND that you’re also letting it evolve. Change is good. Happy One Year Birth Day to her and you!

  6. Great blog post!

  7. Loved this. The thing that gets me the most is that so many of the decisions we make in our parenting are because of the kids we have. Maybe you are a co-sleeper because you have a baby who likes to bed share, for example, or maybe your little one can only sleep in a crib despite your dreams of bed-sharing. As long as we listen to our kids and work hard to love each other despite all of our alleged differences, we’ll be fine!

    Oh, and I cloth-diaper (and disposable diaper :)) both of my girls. And the quest for the perfect nighttime cloth is fruitless. I’m sure there are good options out there. But a sposie a night is so worth it, IMO. Sleep is paramount.

  8. Love this article!! It’s funny how one’s choices in raising THEIR child(ren) can all of a sudden play a part in how others will view them, or how they can view you. We forget that we all started on the same page: raising a little being who DID NOT come with instructions! My experiences have shaped my life, just as my children’s will shape theirs. And I’m sure when my 10yo, 8yo, and 4 month old have their own children, there will be other “terms” and ideas on child rearing that they will discussing through their own advanced social media! 🙂

    Please keep these positive articles coming!

  9. Shawna, yes! I think the definition of a good parent is one who listens to and respects their kids. Sometimes it seems that parents feel they have to be apologists for the ways in which their children don’t completely fit in one paradigm (“I know babies are supposed to love them but she just hated every carrier” or “she just won’t sleep in the crib and we have to get some rest” OR “she just nurses every 45 minutes and we really wanted to cosleep but were just too tired”). I really want people to feel good about these excellent observations and subsequent parenting decisions, not ashamed.

    We had luck w wool – 2 fleece/hemp doublers wrapped in a prefold w longies on top but my husband says she smells more “pee-y” towards the morning and she seems to fuss more at night. Everything else leaks. Sigh.

  10. Renata, totally. I think that sometimes we forget the fact that every parenting decision anyone makes is out of complete love for our children. Every mom loves her kids more than anything and does the best she can, and the things she feels are best for them. No one else knows what happens in her house and knows what her kids need better than her!

  11. Great article Emma. I’ve gotten some pretty funny reactions when talking about the things that we chose to do since my son was born. We didn’t want to co-sleep and he slept in a crib from Day one. At 4 weeks, he was in his crib in his own room.

    Then we practiced some of the attachment parenting principles. People were always confused why we did one and not the other?? Some things were just important to me and for specific reasons. We all have our reasons and that’s the beauty of me being the ONLY Mom to my son. I get to choose for us. What works, what doesn’t, etc.

    It just always shocked me when another Mom would say something in judgment in regards to what I was doing. For example, we did Cry it Out. Oh boy, was that a controversy. “How can you let your baby just cry?” Well, there’s more to it than that.

    This is a great topic that I wish was talked about more often in Moms groups. How can we support each other better?

  12. In a perfect world we wouldnt assume that just because you show up somewhere with a baby carrier that your baby never cries. I always say “never say never” when to conversation veers towards “I could NEVER do that to my baby”. There are many solutions to every parenting challenge and, of course, you chose the best one for you and your boy.

    However, I am certainly guilty of making presumptions myself-no one’s perfect!

  13. I love it. I’ve frequently confused people as a long-term breastfeeder who oh-so-scandalously needed an emergency C-section, and had the audacity to have been fine with the results of the operation. There’s more than one way to do things. Thanks for spreading the word! And I agree on not being able to lug a big baby around all the time. Though I had a Baby Bjorn, not an Ergo. Please don’t judge me on my choice of carrier, lol!

  14. Oh, Jill, I don’t! You go with your baby bjorn!!
    Though it’s understandable when women feel grief over an unwanted cesarean, I am so glad you were able to come to terms. The better to get on with your parenting, my dear!

  15. Loved this, Emma! So, so true. We’re cloth by day, disposable at night and have zero guilt about it. Two things I find interesting lately: 1) In my circle it’s NOT the co-sleeping mamas who have to explain/defend their choice – it’s those of us who don’t. (We’d planned to use the sidecar for 6 mos, but our little dude made it clear at 3 mos he needed his own space to sleep. Glad we listened to him, as we all slept much better, but I honestly wrestled with letting him go.) 2) Some techniques couldn’t have more judgmental names. “Cry it out” is the grand champion here. Who wants to say they let their kid “cry it out,” yet my otherwise happy little boy seems to need a wee protest wail most nights before sleeping, and we learned the hard way that trying to soothe him just made it worse. My other favorite lately is “baby led weaning,” which I’m sure is a lovely technique, yet vaguely makes it sound as if folks who don’t choose it are force feeding their babies ala veal calves (I should have named my kid Dyson – the kid is a vacuum). I never expected that the more granola moms I’d meet would turn out to be some of the most (if inadvertently) judgmental. Feed, sleep, love your baby. It’s all good.

  16. Exactly! There is certainly judgement on all sides – people tend to get very defensive about what your choices say about their own parenting decisions, regardless of what those decisions were.

    Especially re: sleep: who on EARTH wouldn’t sleep their babies where everyone gets the most zzzs, wherever that may be?

  17. This is music, seriously.
    I am also so tired of the “landmines”, as you so correctly called them:). It’s great to read this and know that we don’t have to fit ourselves into a camp, in reality, it just seems that way because of our brains wanting to put others in their camp!! Haha!

    So, three cheers for you, from a midwife using, home-birth having, co-sleeping, breast feeding, stroller AND Ergo using mom of one lovely 8 month old boy:).

    (we were given gdiapers from another family, so we’ve been using those. He used to leak terribly at night (we also tried lots of other all-in-ones etc), until we put two of the flushable/trashable refills in the diaper at night and that gets him all the way through most nights. If we push it and don’t get up right away he’ll be wet soon after.. Bye-bye, sleeping in:)

    Again, three cheers for you!!!

  18. Thanks, Sara, for reading and joining in the conversation.

    And thanks for your diapering suggestion!

  19. Nice blog!I love babywearing because it keeps my hands free, so I can multi task. If I could, I would sit all day holding a baby, but that’s just not possible. I absolutely could not grocery shop without wearing our daughter 🙂

  20. Boy, mothering would be harder without b

  21. Man do I wish more women had the ability to have ‘gray’ lines in categorizing other mommas. I’m the woman who would love to stay home…mostly cause I’m finally mature enough to want to but I also have 4 kids and they take a heck of a lot of time and attention. I wanted to nurse my last for as long as possible and wanted to have a drug free delivery. After many a conversations with women in my life I found I had been categorized as a career hungry, bottle feeding woman that would never consider a drug free delivery. Ha, how your article hits the nail on the head.

  22. Nice article! I so agree. While there are plenty of parenting books touting what is best and why, I feel confident in choosing how to parent based both on my “mother’s intuition” and my research. My informed decisions come from both reading what top experts have found and my own education. It makes great sense to me that one would combine parenting types to create the best fit for them and their child.
    What I find frustrating is the unsoliitated advise and comments (mostly from family/relatives). I have 3 degrees: Early Childhood Ed, Elem Ed, & a master’s inPsycholgy (w/research regarding children & families) and am an older mother. Not having my choices respected has been disappointing.
    My dd was a preemie and due to this and other factors, I was only able to bf in the beginning – and struggled with supply even then. While I had hoped to bf longer, she became a formula fed child. That truth didn’t come easy for me, so the perceived disagreement from others did not help. While I don’t exclusively use AP, I agree w/many of it’s principals. I’ve received several unwelcomed comments (both in my prescence and behind my back) of how my daughter shouldn’t be held so much, how I’m spoiling her, and how THE right way to train her to sleep is by CIO. I’ve also dealt w/others giving her tastes of table food when I’m trying to make all her food – pure and single foods right now.
    Sadly, it makes it difficult for me to relax sometimes if she is left with those who don’t agree w/my choices. I fear she’ll be left to cry, sat in front of TV (I don’t plan to introduce that till closer to age of 2 and in very limited amount) or fed different from what I instructed.
    As difficult as it can be sometimes, I think they are slowly learning that I have no plans to change what I feel is right for my child and I. (now, if the comments would just diminish…)

  23. Leslie, it made me so sad to read this! What is hardest for me is your child’s caretakers not following your parenting ethos! It’s YOUR child! I think there is a lot of condescension “oh, you feel this way about sleep/food/discipline/whatever NOW, but you’ll come around when your child gets older/you go longer without enough sleep/you have another baby/etc.” come around to their way of thinking? Maybe. But it’s your journey to make and I wish for you that everyone in your life would respect what you want to do with your kid in this moment.

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