Oct 4, 2011

Parenting Double Standards

So, last night, I accidentally stumbled onto a conversation regarding a parenting decision. I want you, right now, to think of the parenting choices you have made that you would FIGHT for. That you would tell anyone and everyone that wanted to hear about it why it was a good or a bad thing. That could be breastfeeding, co-sleeping, vaccinating on schedule or not, circumcision, putting baby in a crib from day one.....or even things for older children like nutrition....whatever. Think of one.

Let's say, I believe that every child, everywhere, should have a pony for their first birthday. And I have all kinds of important and valid reason for that argument. And maybe I have research studies, and doctors and specialists, and big stars like Oprah doing specials on why every child should have a pony for their first birthday.

But.....what if you didn't want your kid to have a pony? What if you lived in an apartment, and having a pony would be too messy, or too loud, or your landlord wouldn't approve? What if you couldn't afford to pay to feed that pony? What if you felt really strongly about the fact that they absolutely HAD to have a certain amount of space to run around and play, and you didn't have that space? What if you had been kicked by a pony as a kid yourself, and the idea of having a pony sends you into a panic attack?

What if having a pony isn't right for you, or for your family? And so, you decided to sit down, and think about it, maybe do some research, maybe ask friends with older kids what they did about having a pony....and even though most of them loved it, or was happy to have made the decision to have a pony...what if it still wasn't right for you, and your family?

Should you get a pony?

Let me answer that for you - NO. We like to sit here, and assume, that issues that we find important to us, are important at the same level for everyone. Or important for the same reasons. Or that logistically it's something that everyone can do. Or that we all agree on the data, and what the specialists and the doctors say.

Truth is, we don't.

But, we all have the CHOICE to have a pony for our one-year-old. We all have the RIGHT to make the decision on whether or not we get one. We all have the ability to do our own research and DAMN IT we have the right to come up with a different answer for our family.

And ya know what? That really important thing, that I asked you to think of earlier? Someone has the right to make a choice that doesn't fit inside your decision on that too.

Or maybe (and I'm just gonna get crazy here)....they don't place it at the same level of importance as you, and they decide to have a different opinion. 

I really hate to burst anyone's bubble here, but your opinion may not be right for everyone. And their opinion may not be wrong for everyone. What is important, is that they assessed their needs, as an individual and as a family, and made a decision.

Just like you want to be able to do for your child. 

This of course brings us to another place - there are things that are somewhat irrefutable.Think back again to your hot button parenting topic. Think about all of the research and information you utilized to make that decision. Or, think about what you WISH you had known then, and most certainly do now.

Now, let's pretend that your best friend, your brother or sister, your son or daughter - let's pretend that they don't think it's as important as you do. Or, they plan on doing the opposite of what you think is right. Hmmmm. They must not know the things I know. Or, they must not care about their baby like I care about mine. Or, they just need to get ed-ju-macated.

As a doula, I work with new parents, and sometimes not new parents in making those decisions. We talk beforehand about breastfeeding, and circumcision, and co-sleeping, and vaccinating, and interventions during labor and birth, and everything else you can think of that falls within my time frame that I serve this family. But ya know how I begin every single one of those conversations? Like this -

"You know you're having a boy. You're going to be asked about circumcision by the staff, do you know what you want to do? And, would you like any more information on that?"

I'm not going to sit there and jam my opinion down your throat. EVEN, if I think it's the most righty-right-correct-and-you-are-so-wrong opinion of all times. Because I wouldn't want someone to do that to me. I wouldn't. I would want to know I could get an opinion and information if I wanted to, or was ready. I would want to know that I HAD an option. I would want to know that I could talk about it after I had thought more on it. I would want - TO HAVE THE ABILITY TO MAKE A CHOICE.

This was my status update, and I think it wraps up how I feel about this - 

I get so frustrated with this - if you want the ability to hold a strong opinion about something regarding the care and raising of your child (breastfeeding, co-sleeping, vax, circumcision) THEN YOU MUST AFFORD OTHER PARENTS THAT SAME RIGHT EVEN IF IT DOESN'T AGREE WITH YOUR OPINION. It is such a double standard. All we can do, if we are to do anything at all, is to educate, advocate, and allow parents to come to their own decisions. Jamming your opinion down my throat won't make make it my opinion.
Taking away a parents right to make decisions on behalf of their own child leaves us with the thought - then who ultimately gets to make that decision? Do we want the government to decide? Are you going to decide what is absolutely positively right for every child? And....what if you're wrong? Or what about the people who slip through the cracks? Or what about these people -
  • Every time I breastfeed my baby I want to grab her off my breast and throw her across the room. Maybe it has to do with some sexual trauma I experienced as a kid. All I know is that if I keep breastfeeding her, I might hurt myself or the baby.
  • I really want to co-sleep, but my husband is a large guy who is VERY hard to wake up. I know it's supposed to decrease the risk for SIDS, so I guess I'll just have to hope that he doesn't roll over on the baby and suffocate him to death. Maybe I'll stay up all night and watch, just to be sure.
  • I know vaccinations aren't always cut and dry. And even though our family travels outside the country, my stance on no-vaccinating is so strong that I don't even think I will worry about those. I'll just try to look for and avoid all of the things we vaccinate for that actually still DO exist in other countries, even though we aren't blessed to have them here.
  • I want to circumcise my son, I am Jewish. But, you didn't circumcise your kid and told me it was a bad awful thing to do. And ya know, my friends and family will look down upon us if we don't. And while that seems like a righteous price to pay for protecting the foreskin that I don't actually have a big opinion (guess what, it's not important to everyone...), I guess I'll just have to deal with the lack of support and friends right after my baby has been born because you said I would be a bad mother if I circumcised my son. Oh, and fuck my faith as a decision making tool, btw. That's something only crazy people do.

COME ON PEOPLE. We all want the right to say what we want. We all want the right to decide what is important to us, and to our families. And by asking for that right, and demanding it - we must appreciate the differences and rights of other people to have the same opinion that we so desperately want to protect. Because - you're shoes don't fit everyone. And instead of TELLING everyone why you're right, maybe you should shut up, LISTEN to what they are saying, and learn a thing or two about individuality and the right to make choices for yourself. I don't even care if you offer to give them more information, but remember, they have the right to say no.

And, not everyone wants a fucking pony. So please, get over it.