Giving up. Giving in. Giving yourself a break.

This post will start out looking like a sleep post but I’ll get to the point. The last two nights (not coincidentally the two nights I’ve been solo getting up with her) Ella has ended up in the sidecarred twin (‘her’ bed) in our room. It’s hard to think coherently at 1 am but for some reason I felt like moving her in our room was a night weaning failure. At some point real recently (when I was a little less exhausted maybe?) I came to the realization that having her in our room wasn’t a fail if it WORKED. Because she’s been up hourly pretty much for the last almost two weeks.Presumably this is a symptom of teething (PLEASE) because she had been sleeping ok the first few nights in her room.  Anyway in standard night, by the time I get up, soothe her back to sleep, go pee and then get myself back to sleep (which takes a while), I’m only getting 3 or 3.5 hours of sleep. This really helps explain the multiple hysterical breakdowns last week.  Anyway, she has been in there because it WORKS.

And while we’re talking about what works, let me get to the point. I know people blog about this alllll the flipping time but I’m not going to zip my blabbity lip just because I’ve read it 713 times on some other “mom” blog.

RANT COMMENCE: I call myself an attached parent because I meet the definition of attached parenting (you know, according to API). Hmpf. Whatever THAT means. We EC. We do baby led weaning (solid introduction). We co-sleep. I nurse exclusively for an extended period and do child lean weaning. We won’t circumcise. We cloth diaper. I discipline gently. BLAHBLAHBLABBITYBLAH.

But goshdammit if ANY of that should define who I AM as a parent. Because how do I REALLY parent? I parent from my gut. I parent how I feel. I parent to cope. Sometimes I parent to SURVIVE. I don’t feel like I have to constantly talk about how I parent because I’ve been parenting for 17 years and I KNOW beyond a shadow of a doubt I AM AWESOME constantly screw up. No. REALLY.

You know what the secret of being a good, dare I say it, GREAT, mother is? Oh. No, you say? Well let me TELL you. The secret of being a really kick ass amazing mom is knowing that YOU DON’T KNOW SHIT. I have four kids with a fifth on the way. I helped my stepfather raise my sister after my dingbat mother walked out on her. And what have I learned in 19 years? Well I’ve learned that just about the time you think you have it allllll figured out one of your kids will throw you a curveball and you’ll be like this… SHIT WHAT NOW?!?!

Your sweet little toddler who says please and thank you and shares her toys and never has a tantrum, will one day be 16 and she may very well tell you TO SHUT UP. No, really. It could happen. You may want to strangle her but you’ll recognize that being a teen is hard and you’ll take her phone and then you’ll make up. Likewise, your son who as a toddler threw a tantrum at the drop of a hat and made grocery shopping impossible and made you feel like you WANTED TO DIE? He may just very well kiss you square on the mouth right in front of his group of 13 year old hooligan friends and say, “Mom, I love you. You’re AWESOME.”  It could happen. Really. It happened to me.

Believe it or not, mothering, the most basic and encompassing of all jobs EVER, has CHANGED a lot in the last 19 years. Not the act itself but ALL the stuff attached to it. And why? I’ll tell you why. Lots of reasons but mostly…THE INTERNET. When I had my first baby there were no “mom” blogs or forums or Facebook or *gasp* TWITTER. The only way you could possibly compare yourself to any other mom was to sit face to face with her. FACE. TO. FACE.  And let me tell you, it is infinitely more difficult to feel like you’re doing a better job than someone else when you SEE the 2 hours of sleep bags under their eyes. When you know their husband is having an affair. When you know they have postpartum depression. When you know they can’t pay their bills. When you know thier son is smoking dope or their teenage daughter is pregnant. You could not feel like you were a better parent than them because the filter of the internet did not exist. And you wouldn’t say the things you can say on the internet if you had to look in their eyes when you said it.

I love all the new an awesome ways we can interact with our babies. I love baby led weaning and ec’ing and I loved babywearing and co-sleeping before they were really a “thing” but what I hate is that in SO many ways we are now made to feel guilty for doing or not doing or doing but not doing well enough all of these ‘things’. I MEAN REALLY? Shit.

Example: I EC. Well that is to say I EC by my own standards. We put Ella on the potty when she wakes (but not always) and if she needs to poop (most of the time). Otherwise she wears a (cloth, because I love the environment and I’m BETTER than all of you who don’t. Uh NOT.) DIAPER. I’d EC fulltime if I HAD time. But you know what I have 4 kids. I’m in my car two hours a day. Sometimes more. I’m at jazz festivals and football games and the store. Daily. Sometimes Ella just has to pee in her diaper. She just does. And she’s GOING TO BE FINE. The hardcore EC people would have you to think that I’m not doing well enough. Well they are welcome to come here, be 5 months pregnant, herd my chickens, feed my three dogs and two cats and fish, water the garden, do my laundry, mop my floors, help with homework and take care of my kids while I’m ALONE half the week because my husband works out of town. While they’re at it, they can rub my feet. Oh and kiss my snowy white backside.

I REFUSE to feel like I’m not doing enough. I am doing my BEST. The same thing goes for BLW. I don’t feed Ella purees but if I did, SO WHAT. She’s not going to be permanently damaged. I know this because I gave my first three kids homemade purees, with a SPOON, and they are FINE. And same goes with babywearing. I wore Ella constantly for 5 months. At five months of age she weighed more than 20 pounds. I STILL wore her because it was easier, even though it killed my back. Now I’m pregnant, she weighs 25 pounds. I have a HUGE belly. Am I going to drag her around the mall on my back just because I don’t want to look like I’m not an ATTACHED PARENT. OH.MY.GAWD. I have a STROLLER. And I USE IT.

I was talking with my friend Staci last week (and Staci has one 16 year old child, no babies anymore) and she made this astute observation. She said something like this (totally not quoting) … the thing I see the most with this whole AP attitude isn’t that more people necessarily DO those things for their kids but that there is the competition between moms *to* do those things. How right is that? What kills me is that someone OUTSIDE our community can so easily see what’s happening inside our community. As mothers we are doing the most difficult work, wouldn’t it make sense that we should be lifting each other up? And yet we belittle, berate, judge? Even in ‘friendly’ conversation there is the tone my kid is obviously better than yours or I am clearly better than you. It’s disguised sometimes as ‘information’ and ‘sharing’ but often it’s most  blatantly just mean.

I worked in a busy hospital labor and delivery unit for several years. I left because ultimately policy conflicted too much with my personal beliefs (too much intervention, too little education) but while I was there I noticed one overwhelming thing. Motherhood is universal. Be she white, black, Asian; poor, rich, middle class; intelligent, functionally illiterate; educated in every aspect of birth, not even aware where the baby comes from; the feeling is the same. ALL mothers love their babies (Ok there are some exceptions to this rule but you get what I’m saying). The one universal thing is LOVE. And I believe that while some mothers don’t mother how I mother (and sometimes that hurts my heart) I believe that they are probably usually TRYING. Probably. Usually.

Can we just accept, even if may not be true, that most mothers (at least the ones in our social circles) are TRYING? That they are mostly doing their best?That they love their children and want a good life for them? That maybe their idea of what makes you a good mother isn’t the same as your idea? Can we then take that one step further and use this amazing thing social media to uplift and encourage, to hug and support, to be THERE without being judgmental? Can we accept that even if they don’t parent at all like we do or if they parent like we do but not the same WAY we do that it doesn’t mean their kids are ruined. It just means they are different.


Can we? Ok great.

Because one of the other things I’ve learned in 19 years? Competitive mothering doesn’t end up doing anything positive for the kids involved. Nope. All it does is divide us when we need desperately to be united. We need each other now more than ever because this mothering thing? It’s HARD dude. Hard.


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9 Responses to “Giving up. Giving in. Giving yourself a break.”
  1. Stef says:

    WOW. I don’t know what inspired that rant but, man, if someone made you feel that way then I think THEY have the problem – definitely not you.

    I’m a good mom. I know I am. I listen to my kids and I mother them in a way they need. But I’m not a perfect mom. I get tired. I get cranky. I get frustrated. But I keep my emotions in check (most of the time) and do what I can FOR THEM. That’s all you can do. Do the best you know how to do FOR THEM. Screw the arbitrary definitions or classifications people try to impose.

    We’ve talked about this before – but I know so much more now than I did 10 years ago. At this point when I know 1st time pregnant moms I try to share some info that I wish I had known (I mostly just tell them to read your blog – haha) but if they don’t take my advice or if they parent in a way that is different than what I would do (now that I know so much more) then what am I to do? I do nothing. I said my part. They are doing the best they can. They aren’t actually harming their children. I don’t like or love them any less because they use formula or disposable diapers or cry it out. I cringe, but I’m not going to beat them up for it. They are doing the best they can with the knowledge they have.

    All that and I should have just said what Tannis said: WORD.

  2. Krystal says:

    Can I just say how much I enjoy reading your blog?? You truely should write a book one day! :-) I agree…whole heartedly with this post, and well all your other ones as well. I think I am an AP mama. We homebirth, don’t circ, I babywore…till T got SO insanely heavy my back just could not take it, we cosleep, he is still nursing at 2.5….BUT we don’t cloth diaper (i tryed and lets just say it was a wet soggy mess…so i gave up. We don’t EC (just didn’t really have enough info or the energy to tell you the truth), and i fed my baby purees and still do! I’d rather him eat my purees full of flax seeds, coconut oil and veggies vs plain applesause. Am I a failure bc of we didn’t EC or do babyled weaning? Nope…but sometimes I wonder, could I have done better? Guess it’s just what we do as mom’s.

    I owe you everything btw….still looking for my fairtail.

  3. Stephanie says:

    I absolutely love this post, it is exactly what someone needs to read when they are feeling down and out about being a mom.

  4. Michele says:

    Thank you, Joni. Moms: you do what works (not each and every time but overall) for you and your family, you do it with love, and you help/empower others to do what works for them and theirs, with love, however different their way may be from yours. It’s just that simple.

  5. Michele says:

    Me again! :) I also wanted to share this, my own blog post from a while back:

  6. Jess says:

    Perfectly said.

    I think it’s too easy to label. I have a special needs kid. But she’s not Special Needs. She’s just My Kid. It’s not as complicated as people make it. I formula feed. I baby wear. I cosleep. I use disposable diapers. I don’t spank. I let my kids play outside without me. I don’t let them watch violence on tv. I use homeopathic methods for sickness and health. I use all natural cleaning products. I cook fresh.

    And who cares. Because none of it says a single thing about my relationship with my kids. I love them. They love me. We love spending time together. It’s simple.

    Or, it should be.

  7. virginia says:

    Beautifully said. You have some really amazing notions. I really enjoyed everything about this entry Joni. Huge applause to you from me.
    Keep doing what you do: you have an amazing, beautiful family. You know that phrase “I don’t know how she does it?” Well it applies to you. I have no idea how you juggle all that you do with such grace and charm. Whatever you are doing, it is working for you and your family. You are an inspiration. :)

  8. Genny says:

    You continue to inspire me and others that much I know. I know I am by no means a perfect parent, but I am glad that I can read your blogs, relate to them and learn from them.

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