I caught a segment on the TODAY show a few weeks ago that discussed co-sleeping and a recent study that advocates for it. I personally don’t have an issue — I’ve co-slept in some form with both of my sons. With my oldest son, Brennan, our living arrangement necessitated sharing a sleeping space, and with my youngest it simply made breastfeeding easier.
Of course, just because I’ve co-slept with my children it doesn’t mean that I’m a proponent or advocate of sharing a sleeping space with your children — I’m also not an advocate of baby-wearing, breastfeeding, eating au natural or organic, attachment parenting, or… anything else. I’m also not against any of this. Like many, my parenting style is a kind of mash-up of what I find helpful.
For example, I have a Moby Wrap and a fly stroller. I fed my children with bottles and with breast, depending on what my circumstances called for or what my body was able to do. We eat organic if I can find it on sale (sometimes paying $5-6 for milk that disappears as soon as it goes in my fridge is a budget buster), and other times I’m fine with regular brands. I prefer to cook as much as possible, but I also have a lot of days where fast food saves my sanity and worn-out self.
What I do advocate for is the idea that every parent and family is doing what works best for them. I’m a big believer in trying to not judge other families and parents for their choices — and that’s what bothered me about the TODAY show segment. Advocates from both sides (one a doctor and the other a parenting “expert”) agreed with the host that the stigma surrounding the decision to co-sleep in the United States keeps parents “in the closet” about their choice to do so. The doctor said that a parents who make the decision to co-sleep is viewed by some as being “weak parent or not having control over your own kids.”
Here’s my question: why do we attach such ridiculous and harmful stigmas to things that don’t call for it? Why are parents taking “sides” and why do they judge each other on things like sleeping arrangements?
Like life, parenting is not a one-size-fits-all situation. Maybe it’s the idealist in me, but on this front I’m pretty much middle of the road on the stuff that seems to make parents pull out knives on each other. I don’t understand the obsession we seem to have, or at least that the media thrusts upon us, with tar and feathering one another.
My motto is: make sure you’re educated and informed, evaluate your life and circumstances, and then get to the business of doing what works best for you and yours.
Whether you go the traditional route or implement an approach that’s unconventional shouldn’t be what matters — what should matter is whether or not we, as parents, are getting and giving the encouragement, support, and advice that we need to be the best parents to our kids.
What we don’t need to worry about is whether or not a parent is tweeting too much instead of spending her time elbow-deep in Play-doh, bottle vs. breastfeeding, baby-wearing vs. using a stroller, dads who stay at home, or about parents who choose to circumcise their boys.
I get it. We all have opinions, and we’re entitled to having them. But having the right to our own opinions doesn’t always give us the right to voice those opinions — much less judge others because their parenting style doesn’t fit into the boxes we’ve constructed for our own lives and the lives of our children.
So, let’s put away the pitchforks and torches — let’s stop bullying each other and putting one another on trial. Let’s face it: parenting is not for the faint of heart, and kids will often make you want to lose your sanity. Wouldn’t it feel better to know that instead of making the currents we find ourselves in rockier, we had a community of supportive parents in our boat, picking up an oar, and helping us row?
I know it would feel a lot better to me. I couldn’t care less whether you’re breastfeeding your baby, letting him cry it out, or feeding her just-pulled-out of the ground carrots — I just need you to help me keep afloat.