Tuesday, April 13, 2010

How Do You Deal?

Welcome to the April Carnival of Natural Parenting: Parenting advice!

This post was written for inclusion in the monthly Carnival of Natural Parenting hosted by Hobo Mama and Code Name: Mama. This month we're writing letters to ask our readers for help with a current parenting issue. Please read to the end to find a list of links to the other carnival participants.


Dear Readers,

I'm having some issues that I think you could help me with. You see, I parent Kairi a lot differently than people around here are used to. I parent her a lot differently than I did Gracie as a baby too. I breastfeed, where formula feeding is the norm here, and although there are other women who breastfeed in this area, none are very outspoken about it. I use cloth diapers as well. I don't know any parents in my area who use them. We co-sleep, which honestly happens more around here than most would like to admit, but most parents, by Kairi's age are frustrated with their inability to transition to the crib whereas I'm still comfortable with it.

Now, I am in no way passing judgment on the people in my area. Personally, I believe that you parent the best way you know how and that is different for everyone. But people just aren't accustomed to my brand of parenting and they ask a lot of questions and raise a lot of eyebrows. I get asked all the time when I'm gonna "just give that baby a bottle," or when I'm gonna let her cry it out so she'll sleep through the night. I get a lot of people who, I'm sure, think I'm absolutely nuts for using cloth diapers. "Oh, I could NEVER do that. That's gross," is the phrase I hear the most when people find out that I don't use disposables. "Why on earth would you want to put yourself through so much extra work?" people ask. And if I had to count the number of times I've been told I'm spoiling Kairi by holding her or wearing her in my sling or my Moby Wrap, I would probably be busy most of the day.

Typically, I cite studies or just explain that this is what we do and we are comfortable with it, but a lot of times I feel like people feel that I am passing judgment on them for not doing things the way I do. I'm sure that not everyone who makes comments to me wants me to feel like they are passing judgment, but I do a lot of the time. A lot of the major aspects of my parenting fall under public scrutiny a lot of the time and it can feel very lonely, being the different one in the crowd.

So what I ask of you, reader, is this: How do you deal with people who question your parenting techniques without sounding preachy or judging? Do you leave out the studies and rely on explaining things simply from your personal experience and perspective or do you cite that "breast is best" (or "normal," as the phrase is changing) and send your friends to WHO's website? Do you compare and contrast parenting styles with each other at all? What is the best way you've found to convey the message you want to send without making the other person feel like what they are doing is wrong, or making them become defensive (or even offensive) about their parenting style?


Carnival of Natural Parenting -- Hobo Mama and Code Name: MamaVisit Hobo Mama and Code Name: Mama to find out how you can participate in the next Carnival of Natural Parenting!

Please take time to read the submissions by the other carnival participants:

(This list will be updated by the end of the day April 13 with all the carnival links.)


Anonymous said...

Great Question! My answer would differ with who I am talking too, to what my mood was for that day. Let's face it, I can't be on the ball all the time. Looking back on some conversations, I know I could do better.

On a good day, I say with a great big smile "It works for us, so why not?", on a bad day, well I could snap or sound harsh. If it was the IL's or DH though LOL, I quote studies and doctors ;)

All in all, we all have to understand when we ask questions that to the questioner it's just one question, but to the person being questioned, they've heard it sooooo many times.

Lauren @ Hobo Mama said...

I've had two types of people question my parenting choices: people who genuinely want to know why or how I do something, and people who are just spoiling for an opportunity to tell me I'm wrong. With the second group, I find it's best not to bother arguing. I don't always follow that rule, because neither option feels satisfying when you're being (subtly) attacked, but it usually works out best if I say, "That's what works for us," or make a joke or something.

If someone's genuinely curious AND you genuinely don't want to hurt their feelings, I think maybe just explaining what you said here, that everyone makes different choices but this is what works for you, will come off well. If they still feel guilty or judged, that might be their own problem, you know?

Dionna @Code Name: Mama said...

This is a really tough question to answer, because so much depends on the person you are talking to. For the most part, I work under the assumption that most of my parenting choices are not up for a lot of discussion. "Oh, you know, we don't really have many nighttime problems. Please pass the bean dip!" or "Potty learning is swell, please pass the bean dip!" For issues I'm passionate about, I keep a few facts ready (breastfeeding and circumcision mainly), but I deliver them in the sweetest, most non-judgmental way possible. I think you'll get a feel for when someone is genuinely interested/open to new ideas and when they are just looking for a fight. It is so not worth it to fight.

michelle said...

My friend who homeschools her two kids says the best response to people who don't understand why you are parenting in a non-mainstream way is to say, "it works for our family."

People who are genuinely interested will ask more questions, at which point you can bring up studies, etc if you want to.

Danielle said...

Isn't it grand diverting from the beaten path?!

One thing that I am trying to remind myself as I run into the very same things that you are mentioning in your post, is that we all have so much invested in our little ones. We all want to do the very best job we can to raise them to be the very best little people (and someday big people) that they can be.

When we run into someone who is doing something differently than us it is only natural to wonder, "is it better?" "Should I be doing that?" "Would that be better for my little one?" "Why?"

It is hard and scary to consider that the way we are doing things may not be the best. So, when people comment or criticize or judge the way I parent, I try to remind myself that this is where they might be coming from, and do my best to not feel offended.

We're all in this together, just trying to do our very best in the way that we know. Be confident in your choices, if they are working for your family and your little one, that is really all that matters. (Easier said than done, of course.)

Cave Mother said...

First of all, I discourage people from making negative comments by appearing confident and happy. Honestly this goes a long way towards showing people that your choices are OK.

I understand your concern about other people feeling criticised when you talk about your parenting choices. When I am talking about my extended breastfeeding, for example, I always qualify it by saying "Of course this works for me because I stay at home. If I was out at work, things might be different".

I find it most difficult to talk about parenting with family members who parented their children very differently. Some disapprove and some feel slighted because we are doing things differently. I tend to take an unemotional, factual approach and explain the benefits (making it clear that they are real and proven, not just out of the heads of some mad hippies). When people see that you are well-informed and sure of your decisions, they tend to quieten down.

Like Dionna said, fighting is not worth it!

Sarah @ OneStarryNight said...

I go through this often, makes it VERY hard for me to connect with other parents honestly.

I can't wait to read all the responses you get because I am at a total loss!

mamapoekie said...

Well, it all depends on the person you are talking to. There are those that it is just not worth going through the trouble for. Then there are those that are a little more open minded, to whom I just explain all my 'eccentric' parenting ideas as simply as possible, and if they are still interested, I might send them a few emails, so they can discover it at their own pace.
And then of course you have such blatantly foolish people who for example ask you if you are still allowed to breastfeed your child at 18months, then I just say. Yes, it's best for her at least until 2 years and then we'll see.

It all depends on your discussion partner and their attitude. And what's most important is that you try to stay calm, not preach and allow them their own opinion (no matter how ignorant it might seem to you)

Kris said...

I think you just have to answer honestly and concisely, without lecturing or citing studies, etc. Save that for people who genuinely want the REASON behind what you do because they are curious, or looking for alternatives to their own current parents styles. People who are asking because they are being judgemental don't really want an explanation - they just want an opening to tell you that you are wrong. Give a short, sweet and to the point answer. Or simply say, "Why do you ask?". In almost any situation, that answer will either end the conversation, because a judgemental person will not want to appear negative, or the person will reveal why they are asking, which leads to a productive exchange of ideas. Just remember to stand firm in what you believe is best for your family. We Moms need to stop judging each other and start supporting.

Mamma Pie said...

Im sure this would depend on who you were talking to. Some answers might be more appropriate for certain people than others. With that being said, here are two tips I picked up from "mothering your nursing toddler"
1) when someone says something like "how much longer are you going to nurse your kid?" you can just deflect it by saying something like "five more minutes or so!"
2) teach your daughter a word for nursing that you would be comfortable with her shouting at you across the grocery store or at a wedding. a code word or teach her to call nursing "night night" and you'll get amazed looks from people who think she's asking to go to sleep and won't require any explanation at all for why you leave the room. That will help in the future to prevent you having to even say anything.

Good luck! And dont worry too much about what they think. Youre a wonderful mother and you;re doing an ama zing job.

Alexandra said...

I just nod my head and smile. If people are really interested they will ask. And I have found that siting studies or getting upset just turns people off.

It took me a long time to get to this point though. For a long time I tried to argue, but it just never did any good.

Zoey @ Good Goog said...

I think the best thing is just to keep it personal and that it is what you are happy/comfortable with.

I think bringing up studies/research just tends to be taken as being judgmental - not just because it's like you are saying that you are right - but because it assumes (inadvertently) that the other person hasn't taken the time to do their own research.

At the end of the day, too often your parenting decisions will be taken by other parents as judgment of their parenting decisions. And unfortunately there is nothing you can do about it.

Melodie said...

First, I would try to surround myself with more like-minded friends - through LLL maybe? Once you have a tribe it's much easier to feel good about what you do. Although our internet tribe *does* help us a lot with these issues sometimes having real live people to see and be around who do the same things can make us feel a lot better about our choices. But I say KUDOS to you for being willing to be the outsider and stick to your guns about what you believe is the right way to parent.
When people ask me why I do what I do, I like you just tell them that this is what works for our family and every family's needs are different. That usually avoids making them feel judged in return.

BluebirdMama said...

I guess I'm partly lucky that I don't socialize much. :P
When I do, I try to seek out places where I'll find like-minded parents (AP play group or La Leche League meeting) and otherwise (picking up my son at preschool), try to keep it to pleasantries. If I sense there's some judgment there, I try to avoid the conversation because I know I won't convince them.
The two sentences I do keep armed and ready are:
1) the WHO recommends that breastfeeding continue to 2 years or as long as mother and child wish.
2) I don't believe in leaving my child alone in a dark room to cry.

Short sweet and ends unwanted conversations quite quickly.

Amber, The Unlikely Mama said...

When it comes to people I know IRL, I'm fairly blunt. Though, before our babe was born I created a family website that had all of our "ideals" listed. They included natural birth (didn't happen), cloth diapering, breastfeeding. I did, however, leave out any thoughts on co-sleeping. I wasn't really planning on it (well, we bought a co-sleeper, but weren't planning on bed sharing), but once we started to I was afraid of the judgement.

Eventually people realized that we weren't using the crib when I kept letting it slip that she wouldn't sleep away from me, lol. Opps. Now I don't care. People ask if she sleeps through the night, STILL, and I tell them no, she still nurses all night.

As for all the other stuff:
CD's - I try to play up the fact that they're MUCH cheaper than disposables in the long run. That seems to catch people's attention better than the environmental impact. It helps that I was CD'd as a child, as was DH, so our parents understand. Though they were blown away at the ease of today's AIO's and pocket diapers! I think seeing the actual diapers helped sway some. Though, there will always people people who think it's gross. To those, I try to, kindly, tell them that you're supposed to dump the poop out of 'spoies as well :P

Breastfeeding - It was something that was CRAZY hard for us, so I think most of my friends and family understand that I'll do it for as long as possible. I, luckily, wasn't met with much "give the baby a bottle" as lots of people bf around here. Though, now that the babe is over a year old, I think I'm met with some weirdness. My father asked me when we were gonna wean just yesterday. Errr.

It's so hard! I have actually lost some friends over the whole CIO/AP issue. They thought I was being judgey, they were getting defensive. We were both new moms. Emotions ran high and we called it quits because we couldn't talk about the things in our lives at that time. It sucks!

Candace April said...

Gosh...I wish I knew. Even when people seem genuinely curious, many inevitably seem to think that my parenting decisions are somehow judgments of theirs. You could just answer the questions (if they are curious and you feel like it) and then mention how being confident in your own choices makes you comfortable with others who make different ones. Maybe they'll chew on that and its implications before getting judgy with you.

the grumbles said...

I definitely fear the judgment, but for me it's mostly from within my family. We are kind of the odd-man out among our family for choosing AP-style parenting. Honestly I just try not to ever bring it up. If they're all talking about cribs (versus cosleeping) or bottles or strollers or whatever other things they have that we don't do I just don't say anything. At all. I know my opinion isn't shared and isn't particularly appreciated. So I just shut my face and then do whatever I want! Probably not the best solution, but it works for me.

And if people ask me about it outright? I usually just mumble something and chance the subject. I'm not going to talk to people about cosleeping when I don't know their opinion about it ahead of time because I don't really want to hear them rant about how wrong I am.

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