We are always complaining about the pressure we are under as busy modern parents, and unfortunately the majority of that pressure comes from within.
We are all guilty of it; measuring ourselves against an imaginary yardstick, or worse, an imaginary Perfect Parent who never shouts, swears without thinking, loses their temper, puts the TV on to get a break from the insanity or gives their kids chocolate to bribe them to cooperate on occasion.
In addition to this, I find that there can be a general tone of competition amongst the online attachment parenting/crunchy mama community. It’s almost like we don’t feel like we are good enough if we don’t tick every box, so it becomes a fight to be the ‘most crunchy’, lest we be judged for not doing the perceived absolute best for our kids. As one lovely Alternative Mama reader Melissa recently discussed on her facebook page, we can find ourselves asking “what’s the most AP way of doing X/Y/Z?” rather than “what can I do that is respectful, loving and meets BOTH our needs?”
Believe it or not, parenting is not an exact science. However much some of us would like to believe that we could just check ourselves against the Ideal Parent List to see how we measure up, it doesn’t really tell us anything. Somebody can breastfeed, co-sleep, practice elimination communication and babywear and it won’t necessarily make them a good parent. Similarly, a parent can formula-feed from birth, use a pushchair exclusively, never share a bed with their baby and still be a loving, gentle and respectful caregiver.
I am sick of the undercurrent of the Crunchy Mama World, especially online, so in protest I have compiled a list. A list of all of the things that we do, have done or don’t do that would exclude me from The Perfect And Amazing Attached Crunchy Parent Club. This isn’t supposed to make anybody feel bad – in fact its intentions are quite the opposite.
1. We don’t do EC. I love the idea of it, and I know there are lots of people who reckon they have done it successfully without it being a complete pain in the ass, but I just can’t see it happening that way for us. I’m pretty sure that nappies aren’t emotionally scarring, anyway. And we use mostly cloth.
2. We have a TV, and we watch it. We watch it quite a lot. Monkey is limited to an absolute maximum of 2 hours daily (in short bursts), and Squish, although I do my best to see that his viewing time is minimal, usually catches a little here and there whilst I race upstairs for dirty laundry or quickly put the dishwasher on. Which leads me nicely onto…
3. We have appliances – and I LOVE them. We have a tumble dryer, washing machine, and a small dishwasher and they all get used a lot. They make my life easier and give me the gift of more time with my gorgeous kids.
4. Neither of my kids were exclusively breastfed until 6 months. Monkey, our oldest, was supplemented with formula for non-medical reasons from the age of 4 months. He is strong, incredibly healthy and was successfully breastfed until 26 months of age when he weaned himself. Squishy-Man hasn’t had a drop of formula, but started the process of baby-led weaning at 5 months old. Not much goes down but he loves what does. 6 months isn’t a magical age by which all children are suddenly ready for food – it’s just a guide and all kids are different. So there.
5. I like to have a life away from my family. I love my babies to death, but being a full-time-always-there-at-home parent drains the hell out of me. I need a break sometimes! I thoroughly enjoy a occasional night out, once a month if finances allow, and yes I drink and yes I get drunk. Not so drunk that I am incapable of looking after my kids but drunk enough to have a damn good time and be silly for a while. I also make time every 6 weeks or so to go to the hairdressers. These trips away from the kiddos make me a better mum, as they stop me from feeling as harassed and drained as I would otherwise.
6. I don’t always let my son choose what to wear. Well, I do, as in I will give him choices of two or three different outfits. If I allowed him to choose completely for himself, he would wear jammies to toddler group. I guess that doesn’t matter, but y’know, I don’t wear jammies to toddler group either.
7. We don’t bedshare full-time. To be honest, this is more circumstantial than an active choice – I am still suffering from SPD, which makes it very painful for me to lie in bed. I sleep on the sofa because it’s squashy enough to put zero pressure on my pelvis. Since it’s not safe to co-sleep on a sofa, the Squishmeister sleeps in a crib (although he does come sleep on my chest in the early hours of the morning).
8. I like my kids to go to bed at a reasonable hour. Monkey goes to bed at 7pm and I love that. Squish still hangs out downstairs with us; there’s no point in him going to bed upstairs seeing as I must sleep on the sofa. Although to be honest? I would totally miss him if he did. When he gets older, he will have an early bedtime (in his own bed) like his brother because having adult time in the evenings is important.
9. I am a crap gardener. Even if we could afford our own little farm, we could probably never be able to feed ourselves properly because I have the Non-Green Fingers of Death.
10. We eat shit food. Yeah, we make the effort to eat mostly healthy wholesome stuff but, barring hydrogenated fat and fizzy drinks, there is very little that my son isn’t allowed to eat. I grew up in a household where junk food was very much frowned upon so as soon as I was old enough to get it for myself, I would eat as much of that junk as my pocket money would buy. I don’t want my kids having any kind of emotional attachment to food like I did/have, therefore nothing is out of bounds. I believe in the rule of Everything In Moderation.
11. I bribe Monkey on occasion. Yes, I know it’s a form of coercion. Yes, I know it’s wrong. But hell, I’m only human, and sometimes telling him that if we leave the park right now we can go get ice cream is better than having to somehow walk a screaming kicking crying child half a mile to the bus stop. It’s not ideal, and it is a cop out, but if you can show me one mother who has never ever done it I’ll tattoo “Bad Mama” on my forehead with a needle and Biro ink.
What Cardinal Sins of Parenting and Crunchy Living do you commit? I would love to hear! Be honest ladies, it’s so liberating! Trying to fit the bill all of the time is exhausting and pointless. Instead of trying to tick all of the boxes, do what feels right for your kids, your family and yourself. You are a wonderful mama.