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Quit Your Mom Labeling

I have something to say about all the mom labels whizzing around out there.

It’s not pretty and it won’t make me popular and that’s okay because the point here is that I wasn’t popular with the mom set in the first place. Never have been. Never will be.

Labels really bother me and this is coming from a woman who has had to figure out a way to define herself since she was a little girl. Was I the middle child or just kid #2 for my parents? Am I black or am I white or am I mulatto? Do I have to constantly describe my parenting of my oldest daughter as a “teen mom”?

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Twenty five years ago when I became a parent there were plenty of How To books on the topics of pregnancy and parenting but I didn’t have any time to read them because I was still reading my algebra textbooks and The Crucible by Arthur Miller. Whatever fads were in place for moms and dads were foreign to me as my attention was elsewhere. Every first-time mother knows that if there was time to read all the proper books and apply all the perfect parenting techniques then she wouldn’t actually have time to do the work of parenting because the reading would be too much. It’s why I just did the best I could and relied on some instincts as a mother. Much of it came naturally to me, I will confess, but that’s because I default to common sense about what was best for my daughter. She slept with me because I didn’t have a crib or bassinet for her. When she fussed I picked her up and checked her diaper or fed her or gave her a soothing bath or a toy. I figured that if I listened closely then I would “get” it. Other times, when I was frustrated that I couldn’t figure out what her crying meant I just let her cry it out. Twenty five years later I learned there was a word for that: the Cry It Out Method developed by Dr. Emmett Holt who wrote The Care and Feeding of Children in 1895. In 2006, Dr. Richard Ferber honed this approach in his book Solve Your Child’s Sleep Problems and both the Cry It Out method and Ferberizing are interchangeable terms meaning the same thing.

I must have been doing it right and I didn’t even know that I was Ferberizing my baby. Score one for being a young, naive teen mom!

In parenting my daughter, I suppose I did a lot of things that if I sat and thought about them would create a list of techniques that I didn’t necessarily call techniques or attribute to some expert or doctor who wrote a book on the topic. For example, I used to strap her to me using a sheet because she liked to lay on my chest but I was usually busy with reading or writing essays for Sophomore English Literature class. Experts would say that I was “babywearing”. Since baby food was expensive and I belonged to La Leche League I nursed her for several months. When she started on solid food I used the blender to mash up the fruits and vegetables that I was already eating because that seemed cost efficient. Other parenting techniques happened naturally as she got older and I never argued with her because she was a child, I never counted to 3 because when I say to do something I expected she didn’t need some “time to think about obeying me” and I always gave consequences for her poor choices. It’s not that I was being difficult, but I have never been able to stomach those parent-child conversations where a kid is being a brat and treating their mom like crap while she patiently waits for him or her to come around to obedience. Forget all that noise.

As a mom of teens and adults I am much more aware of these labels and pronouncements that moms make about how they mother. It all sounds so haughty and competitive and it makes moms sound really, really boring and stupid.

We only do organic foods with our baby.

I have a 4 month old and we’ve decided to Ferberize.

I’m a babywearing, co-sleeping, yoga loving mom!

Really? We have to tell people what we are and how well-read we are that we’ve studied parenting to the nth degree to prove that we know what we’re doing?

The mom labeling is out of control and it’s high time we stopped doing that. Instead of spending energy telling everyone about the 75 types of parenting we’re doing how about we just actually do them. Someone might wonder why I’m on a high fiber diet right now that my doctor put me on but do you really want me to describe just how I’m pooping? No. I didn’t think so. Neither do I want to hear all the labels moms attribute to themselves because I think it all sounds so silly and meaningless. When I talk to new moms I would much rather hear how they relate to their children or the funny things kids say as they’re figuring things out and exploring the world around them. It doesn’t matter what you do as a mom or that you tell me what you do. It matters that your child is happy and loved and that very special snowflake that you know he or she is. Show me that you’re a mom, but please don’t spend all your time telling me.

 

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