Friday, May 13, 2011

Role Models, and Owning Your Challenges

Me, one of my first nights home, with my Dad.
Only recently have I thought about where I was introduced to natural parenting ideas. I liked to think I "just decided" it was the best way for my family, but I know there must have been some kind of influence to even explore ideas that are not the mainstream, and certainly weren't expected from me.  I realized that while I didn't have anyone to directly role-model an attached parenting lifestyle, there were several small exposures that helped shape my views.

A rarely seen cousin at a reunion nursing her walking toddler.

A neighbor I baby sat for practicing co-sleeping and full-term breastfeeding.

An aunt who nursed her allergy prone, sensitive child. And making the food sacrifices herself to meet those needs.

None of these parents talked about being any kind of "attached parent". I never set out to be an "attached parent". Between my own experiences with my parents, 3 siblings, baby-sitting, and working as a nanny, I had seen what children responded best to and what didn't work out in the long term. I wanted to have a relationship with my children that was based on respect, communication, and love. I knew that breastfeeding, baby-wearing, and possibly co-sleeping were on the list. What I didn't know was how hard it was going to be to follow through with my "grand ideas".

Because I didn't have the kind of community that supported our family ideals, I remember feeling so alone those first few months. The few friends we had who did have kids didn't parent this way. We weren't raised this way. We even hurt some feelings when we told people this was how we were doing it, so no thanks for the offers to "help" that weren't conducive to our choices. I was drowning, and needed some knowledgeable support.

It wasn't until L1 was almost 5 months old that I attended my first Le Leche League meeting.  When I had considered it before, I thought it was for breastfeeding problems. Besides, the meetings were held in an unfamiliar church, adding to my apprehension.

I finally went, and have since developed my "tribe," sort of. Sometimes I still feel lost. I know I have friends that care and understand, but so often fear they might be too busy dealing with the same problems and don't have the time or energy to take on mine. I don't blame them, I also fear I can't call on them because they will need me when I am needing help! Then I feel guilty (Momma Guilt: Its a horrible thing!) that I can't be there!

But, reaching out is really important. Being honest about who we are, where we are in our parenting paths, understanding that our ideals are important, and even if we slip, getting back to it and working to find what works for each family is what is really the crucial thing. When we hide our shameful, disappointing, not perfect moments, we perpetuate the idea that we should all be living perfect lives and further ourselves from really making our world a better place.

Being role models for a more peaceful, respectful relation ship with our children is powerful. Doing the same with the adults in our lives is too. We all need a tribe, we all need acceptance. Who inspires you? Have you ever talked to them about the challenges they faced making those decisions? 

1 comment:

  1. I babysat for a family--the Dad was a Physical Therapy and the Mom was a Physician's Assistant--and they were the first people I spent a ton of time with who had advanced education degrees--the first people outside of my family culture. They did AP and were wonderful about my asking questions. They also had books around the house that I'd read when the kids were quiet.

    But mostly, I think it was Sharon (the mom), and how great she was with ME that had me want to grow up to be like HER. We did talk about the challenges she faced, with her clinical co-workers, her parents, her friends of a more strict religion. It was her honesty and vulnerability, too, that inspired me.