Listening to Myself

Monday, July 11, 2005

Belonging

Someday I hope to find a group of families where my family can feel like we belong. I was at my mom's club meeting tonight, and I realized that while all these women are generally nice women and all, I really don't fit in all that well. I get along just fine with all of the women I've met, I just don't really find myself becoming particularly close to any of them, and it has been a little hard for me to figure out why. But I think I may have figured out something this evening while I was at this question and answer session meeting. The women present were asking questions about all the usual child-rearing stuff: dealing with bottles, sleep habits, potty training, pacifiers, etc. And while I didn't really disagree with any of the answers people gave as they seemed to be reasonably child-friendly and sensible, the whole meeting left me feeling depressed. I realized that the main problem is that their framework is quite different from my framework, so while their recommendations made sense within their framework, and seemed like the best recommendations given the circumstances, they just didn't apply to me. I didn't feel like I could ask them anything and get a useful response, because we are operating under such different paradigms.

Their basic assumptions are that you give birth in a hospital with an OB/GYN, put your child in a crib, use a swing and various other mechanical baby holders, go to the pediatrician every time their child is the least bit sick (and of course you always do exactly what the doctor says), plop the child in front of the TV at a young age (they were only talking about Baby Mozart and such, at least...), introduce a pacifier and a bottle very early on, even if the Mom is staying home with the baby, define breastfeeding for a long time as ten months to a year, and send the child to preschool at three then on to public school. Whereas I visit midwives, am planning a homebirth, co-sleep, don't watch any TV, baby-wear pretty much all the time for infants (and toddlers!), don't go to the doctor unless someone is very ill, am planning to homeschool, don't bother with the pacifier or bottle and breastfeed past toddlerhood. It is just such a fundamentally different way of looking at child-rearing. Now that I've realized this difference in framework, it makes me understand why I left this meeting feeling so empty and depressed.

I've tried to get a group of moms together who do practice a similar style of child-rearing, but it is difficult to do. Part of it stems from the fact that we seem to be rather few and far in between around here, but also it is hard to figure out how to find the people who I do have more in common with. I think I need to try harder though, because I think it would be good for me (and probably for Emma too).

It makes me wonder about moving though - how important is the community for us? Should that be a major criteria? The other side of this is that I also didn't fit in when I lived in Santa Cruz either. Yes there were a lot of people who practiced AP-style parenting, but many of the people there where just way too new age-y and/or hippie for me (and I too straight-laced for them!) So going somewhere that has a reputation (like Santa Cruz) doesn't really seem like an option, but going to just any old town probably isn't exactly a good bet either.

Sometimes I think it would be so much easier if I could just turn the part of my brain that thinks about all this off, stop being the way I am, and just conform and get over with it. Oh, but conforming for the sake of taking the easy path is not the way we are meant to be, I think, and if I were to do that I think I would be placing myself in peril.

4 Comments:

  • Hi - I'm a friend of Emily's; that's how I found your blog.

    Stick to your guns. You're the one who has to answer for your own child, so you're absolutely right to do what you see to be best for your child (and about not watching TV you're even empirically right! there's studies to back you up! :) ). I'm sorry you're having trouble finding kindred spirits, it's really hard to feel good about doing something without support, but for what it's worth, it sounds to me like you're being a great mom!

    . . . though maybe if you're friendly while you stick to your guns, some of them will get interested in your methods, and you'll end up having a good impact on more than just your own brood! :)

    By Anonymous Jess, at 2:44 PM  

  • You should come join all of us down here. :) You'd fit right in with our mom's group.

    By Blogger Emily, at 6:03 PM  

  • Hi Jess, thanks for stopping by! I really appreciate your comments. After further reflection, I realized that I really can't imagine parenting any other way, this is just the right way for both my husband and myself. It would be so wrong and unfair to my daughter and myself to try and force myself into another mold just so that I could try and fit in.

    I definitely try to be a gentle influence, especially on new moms who seem to have a little bit of interest already. It is sad though to see how many moms move away from it as their children get older because of pressure from other moms and from their families.

    Emily - believe me, there is definitely a strong temptation to live down there! It would definitely be a decision made entirely for community though, as the environment down there does not feel very welcoming to me (or Matt, for that matter). No offense, but it seems hard to imagine living somewhere so crowded and congested... and the air quality down there... eww! *grin*

    By Blogger Amber, at 9:25 AM  

  • Yeah, but the air quality at the beach is great!
    -Jess

    By Anonymous Jess, at 10:21 AM  

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