I recently had a friend tell me that she didn't even want to call me on the phone anymore for fear of me disagreeing with her parenting styles. Whoa, whoa, whoa! Back the train up. I am a passionate person by nature, and I enjoy talking about things I am interested in, and yes, that includes parenting. But what I perceive as a friendly discussion about how I do things, apparently comes across as judgmental. Ouch! So being different automatically means I'm judging people who don't do things the way I do them...that's really a rough thought and one I've been processing a lot lately.
Another example: There is a video about "crunchy" (aka natural, eco, green, granola, etc) moms going around youtube, called "Crap Crunchy Moms Say" (except it's not crap, it's a more colorful expletive) and as I watched it, I laughed as I saw myself in many of those situations (though not nearly all!). The one that rather offended me, though, was when the mom said, "No, we chose not to mutilate (our son's) genitals." Wow. Judge much? Saying, "no, we chose not to circumcise based on the research we did" would have had way more of an impact to me. (by the way, I'm not decided yet whether we will or won't circumcise a son should we have one, but Daniel is for, and I'm definitely open to it.) But it made me question: When I talk passionately about one of my parenting decisions, does it come across that way? I certainly hope not.
I never really thought of myself as "crunchy". Sure, I cared about the fish in the ocean, pollution, etc. but not enough to really do anything about it. And then I got pregnant. All of a sudden, I have this little life I am responsible for making the best possible decisions I can for, and whoosh. I felt the weight of the world, of this little person's whole world, on my shoulders. I still don't think of myself as crunchy. Maybe I am, but it's definitely by default! I'm not trying to be. Each "crunchy" decision I've made has been decided individually for reasons of their own. For instance:
1. I had 41 hours of labor before my daughter was born. It was a drug-free labor and delivery, no epidurals, IV fluids, or even so much as Tylenol (which wouldn't have done anything anyway). Our decision to do this was largely based on my health conditions and the fact that I was already on so many medications to control my ulcerative colitis that I felt like I had to do what I could to cut the amount of drugs in my system, which meant cutting the "optional" drugs: the pain medications. I knew I couldn't just do it on my own (I really couldn't have) so my husband and I took a (I think) 12-week class on the Bradley method. Without the class, my husband, or my doula, I really think I probably would have wound up with an epidural. And you know what? I'm sure my baby would have been just FINE. But this was my personal decision based on my personal medical situation.
2. We use cloth diapers. This decision was purely a matter of two things. One, I had a friend who used cloth diapers and I saw how they were WAY easier than I thought they were. Two (and this was the biggest factor), we did a cost-benefit analysis, and saw that even if we spent $400 on cloth diapers up front, they would still save us around $1100 for our first baby, and around $1500 for each additional baby who used the same cloth diapers. Plus, we could re-sell the diapers when the last child was potty trained, and re-coup some of the expenses. ($400 is a generous estimate. Most people don't spend that much.) This decision was based 90% on the bottom line: money. The other 10% was realizing "I can do this" after watching my friend do it. If Naomi had worn disposables, she would have been just as happy and healthy and smart and beautiful as she is today. As a matter of fact, we use disposables for travel or for when she's on antibiotics and I don't want to ruin her cloth diapers. I wore disposables. My mom said I never had a cloth diaper on my bottom in my whole life. And I am perfectly normal and adjusted. Mostly, anyway. ;-)
3. Naomi was breastfed for 13.5 months until she weaned. This was also a financial decision. Formula costs money, people, and babies need to eat. I didn't have to go back to work after N was born, so mommy milk it was. I almost gave up when she was 3 weeks old and the pain was excruciating from my cracked, scabbed and bleeding nipples. And then I discovered the breast pump. It saved our breastfeeding relationship. But if I had switched N to formula then, she would still have been just FINE.
4. I stay at home with Naomi. This is purely a blessing from God that I can do this. I got to quit my crappy, underpaid job with a crappy boss (the same one who wrote me up for being sick 3 days before I was hospitalized for 10 days, then never visited or even CALLED me while I was there, but that's another story) and stay home with Naomi. But being a stay-at-home mom has meant sacrifices. Less eating out, no new anything big, we had to sell Daniel's Xterra and buy a cheap, paid-for car (no car payments! Woohoo!), and various other cutting back as well (see points 2 & 3). But if I had to work, or even WANTED to work (had I loved my job), so what? Naomi would be just fine in childcare. I would take the time to find the right situation for her, and she would be just FINE. I have plenty of working friends with babies who run the gamut from working full-time and baby in childcare, working part-time and baby in childcare, mommy working full-time and daddy staying with baby, and you know what? All of those babies are just FINE. As would Naomi be, if our financial situation changed and I had to join the working world and put her in some kind of childcare.
5. Naomi rarely eats jarred baby food. This again, is a matter of money. If you run the numbers, it is MUCH cheaper for me to buy a whole butternut squash, bake it for an hour, then puree it in the blender for 2 minutes and freeze what she won't eat immediately, than it is for me to buy the same amount of jarred butternut squash. Naomi eats a whole banana every day for breakfast. Every. Day. I swear the child is part monkey (must be her father's side!), and I am amazed at how no matter how big a bunch of bananas I buy, it's always less than $2. Always. Wow. But you know what? If she refused to eat anything that didn't come out of a jar, so that's what I always bought and fed her, then guess what? She'd be just FINE.
I hope you are getting the picture here. I am "crunchy" mostly by default. We have made the best decisions we could make for our family, and based these decisions on our personal situation. If Naomi came into the world via epidural/c-section/medications/doctor interventions, etc., only ever drank formula, only wore disposable diapers, went to childcare 40 hours/week, ate no baby food that wasn't from a jar (or those wonderful squeezy pouches we recently discovered!), then she would be JUST FINE. I hope this post goes to reassure people like my friend who, by the way, is a wonderful mommy making the best possible decisions for her baby. Even though they're *gasp* different decisions from mine. Of course they're different. We're all different. And I am so glad!
I just hope and pray my passion translates more positively in the future. I really don't want to be "That Crunchy Mom" from the video. May God grant me the wisdom to speak passionately when I need to and to hold my tongue when I need to!