I’m fed up with baby labels and mummy labels. Stay-at-home mum, working mum, single mum, attachment parent, baby-led baby, the list of mummy labels goes on and on.
Maybe it’s just because I’ve now got four wee ones, maybe it’s because I’ve never been very good at following the latest trends but I am just so sick of baby labels and mother labels. Babies are babies, they all have their own unique temperament and they all like different things and they all respond to different things. Not one of our babies was the same as the other and so we couldn’t have labelled them and our parenting changes on a daily basis and so we couldn’t have labelled ourselves. What worked for one, didn’t always for others. There is no one-size-fits-all method for parenting and there definitely shouldn’t be judgement when one mother parents in a different way from another.
One of my main problems with labelling mum’s or their baby’s is that I never know what camp you fall into if you don’t follow a particular method wholeheartedly. We didn’t co-sleep until Orla came along because our other children didn’t like it, but Orla regularly slept with us from age two until she was nearly three. I breastfed three babies and formula fed one and haven’t noticed any difference between them. One child refused to take food from a spoon and so was baby-led weaned before this was even a term. The others happily enjoyed to be spoon-fed and had finger foods on the side. Today, our laziest-loved-to-be-spoon-fed baby is our most adventurous with food and our baby led baby is the fussy one so she breaks with all the current BLW research.
I have worn all my babies in a sling, but mostly at home so I could make dinner or get some jobs done around the house. I had the buggy for outside and used that unless it was a woodland walk, when I would carry my babies in a sling but could never call myself a traditional babywearer.
And then there’s even labels for the babies. Is anyone going to care when he graduates University if he was baby-led weaned or not?
The craziest ‘fad label’ I’ve heard recently is ‘Gentle Parenting/ Natural Parenting/ Attachment Parenting ‘. Aren’t we all parenting to develop a bond with our children? Aren’t we all parenting in the most gentle way possible? I don’t get up thinking ‘today I’m going to try the harsh parenting method.’ (Even if their crazy antics do drive me to distraction!) Am I not a ‘Gentle Parent’ if I allow my child to sleep in her own bed where she’s happy and comfortable? Is my baby not healthily attached to me if I don’t breastfeed until it’s over two?
I’ve read articles suggesting you’re not a ‘Natural Parent’ if you vaccinate or send your children to school. This is preventing parents from being able to make informed decisions about crucial things such as vaccines and schooling because they’ll just blindly follow a method that they think defines their parenting. And since when is sending your children to school such a problem? It’s ridiculous and incredibly classist to believe everyone can home-school, even if they’d like to. What if the mum can’t stay at home to home school? Home schooling (although a wonderful and enriching way to educate your child) is swiftly becoming a luxury of the middle classes. What if a mum needs to work for the security of her family? What if there is no father to help with providing for the child? And, come to think of it, where is the father’s role in attachment parenting if the baby is meant to be permanently pinned to the mother?
“Last thing mum’s need is another set of rules and regulations to follow and to make them feel inadequate. There is already too much mum guilt floating around. “
You see, the problem with all of these labels is what happens if you set out to be one type of mummy and it doesn’t work out? What if you want to be a baby wearing mum but your baby doesn’t like the sling? What if you wanted to breastfeed but found you couldn’t? What if you thought you wanted to be a Stay at home mum but you missed your job? Last thing mum’s need is another set of rules and regulations to follow and to make them feel inadequate. There is already too much mum guilt floating around.
What happens to the mothers, like me, who are cobbling it all together and just getting by? We figure it out this parenting lark the best way we know how and we often get there with a dose of all of these different labels. My problem with labels is the exclusivity of them. You’re either in the club or you’re not. If I’m not an attachment parent because I (shock horror) put my baby to bed in his own cot which he quite seems to like, I then must be a bad parent who doesn’t care how attached my child feels. And likewise, if I can’t stand Gina Ford’s strict regime because it means I can’t leave the house to go to the park with my toddler, then I am storing up troubles for myself and allowing my kids to rule the roost.
Maybe we’ve all got too much time on our hands, maybe ‘labels’ are a first world parenting problem. We like to make parenting even more tricky for ourselves by inventing restrictive methods we have to follow. In the 1950s, I don’t believe they judged each other over whether they were following a particular parenting ritual, they just got on with it and chatted with friends to find ad-hoc parenting gems. Oh how I wish we could take a leaf out of their book and meet with mother’s, simply because they’re mother’s and not worry if they don’t parent exactly the same as you. We don’t need to create restrictive tribes, we can just be parents at the end of the day.
My favourite saying of the moment is ‘The Kid’s are Alright’ because at the end of the day, no matter how tricky the day has been or how many ‘parenting struggles’ there have been. If they are warm, safe , fed and happy than that’s alright by me, whichever method you used to get them there.