As some of you know, I'm a little obsessed with breastfeeding. Also, co-sleeping, baby-wearing, among other things. I'm also a little judgmental when others don't do these things. A lot of times it's because I love it so much I can't understand why you as a parent don't. Soft, stretchy baby carriers make me happy in a way that strollers just cannot. But I think a lot of my judgmentalness stems from my own insecurity as a mother. I don't really like playing with my kids. I don't really like doing a lot of things, like giving them baths or taking them to children's museums. I'm kind of lazy in a lot of ways when it comes to parenting. I do these things most days (except the baths) because I know it will be healthy for them and their development and I want what is best for my kids. But when I'm feeling like a particularly unfit mother, I know I have one thing that I'm really, really good at, and that's breastfeeding. I can nurse my babies exclusively for 6-7 months, and it's not that much more difficult to keep it up through the toddler years. It's the one thing I have (ok, actually, I'm really good at putting my kids in expensive car seats and rear-facing them forever and installing them very, very correctly), that I KNOW without a doubt is best for my kids. And while it is tempting to use as a crutch, like "ah, he can eat a hot dog for lunch, I breastfed him for 2.5 years" or "one more episode of Caillou, he is still breastfed at least" I usually don't. So, when I don't read them at least 11 books a day or let them watch a little more TV, I won't feel quite as guilty because their little brains got all that yummy deliciousness as babies.
I think a lot of the mommy wars stems from insecurity. We are so busy criticizing others' parenting styles, because unless ours are the absolute right way, then we aren't doing the best by our children, and in this day and age, that freaks the hell out of mothers (I really shouldn't exclude fathers from this discussion because I've heard many a dad debate the pros and cons of co-sleeping and baby-wearing with the best of them) We need research to back our decisions, we need science to know that we are good mothers. Which in a way, is really quite sad. What about happiness as an indicator of well-being? Mom's happy, baby's happy, life is all good. Why do we need to know that TV is kiling brain cells or BPA will disrupt endocrine function or rooms with corners will hinder creativity?
I guess I can see how knowledge is power on so many levels, and the more educated you are the better decisions you can make for your family. But with that education comes terrible, guilt-inducing responsibility to be the absolute best parent you can possibly be, and in order to be that, you have to compare yourself to make sure you are being such. And when you compare, you inevitably judge others for their decisions, and are occasionally vocal about those decisions which in turn can hurt other's feelings when they aren't living up to the arbitrary standard you set for them on their behalf. Their insecurity then leads them to think their way is THE way and the cycle repeats.
Tim's been reading the attachment parenting book written by the artist formerly known as Blossom, and listening to her has made me think a lot about my own attitude. I've listened to bits and pieces so I'm not one to pass a judgment on her lifestyle or choices, but her tone is that of "this is the absolute best way of parenting and there is no other legitimate way to do so." I agree with her that our kids are over-vaccinated and over-academiced and over-sleep-trained but I don't think the answer lies in swinging to the absolute other side of no vaccines or ABC books.