I’ve been thinking about how to word this post for a while (it may or may not have been almost a year… I am not a very good blogger). Laying in bed late at night I have tried to think of exactly what it is I want to say here and exactly how to say it. A few weeks ago I read a blog post by a blogger and it was called ‘Why I am over the attachment parenting community‘ and I thought “damn, she beat me to it”. Except… that’s not exactly what I wanted to say. Because this is and isn’t about parenting. So… here goes.
Around 6 months ago I received an email from a blog reader which is what started me thinking about this. The reader wrote that she was encouraged by my children’s birth stories side by side (to see that after my first labour that didn’t go to plan that I went on to have a natural waterbrith). She said some other things but then she wrote something that made me sit and stare at my screen for a very long time. She said that she was looking forward to the day that she would be accepted by the ‘natural parenting’ community because unfortunately, her birth (and breastfeeding) had not gone to plan and she was finding it hard to make friends because of this.
It transported me back to being in primary school and feeling left out because of something that now… seems so pointless. This lady out there who wrote to me was feeling like she couldn’t be accepted into the group she most identified with because her birth hadn’t gone to plan. And my heart was filled with such a sadness thinking about that.
It got me thinking… does it matter how a baby got out of it’s womb when I am making friends? Does it matter how a parent fed their child when I am making friends? No. Do I want to be friends with people who think these things are important enough to choose friends over? No.
I didn’t reply to this lady right away because I honestly didn’t know what to say. I didn’t doubt her story because I have seen first hand how this happens. And not just amongst ‘attachment parents’ but in all sorts of other groupings we label ourselves with (religions, foodies, athiests, hippies etc).
In my years of blogging it has become assumed that I am an ‘attachment parent’ (and maybe it’s because I practise (and promote) many of the AP methods and will continue to do so). The thing is, there is no label for my parenting. Attachment parenting?
No, I am parenting each of my kids individually. Let’s call it Priya and Theo parenting (and I should note Priya parenting is different to Theo parenting). We share our bed, we wear our babies and sometimes I like to bribe my kids. I am doing whatever works for each of our children and sits right with my conscience.
During this time of me pondering these labels and cliques and groups we adults like to give ourselves, and wondering how I could write this blog post I visited a friend of mine.
This friend was talking to me about her work running a very large facebook page where predominately the people who like it have very differing opinions to her own. I asked how she handled that – saying it would send me crazy dealing with so many people writing stuff I thought was uneducated or outright stupid. She laughed and said “But surrounding myself with people like me would be boring? I can’t change people if all the people around me are already like me!”
For a week after I visited with her I kept thinking about what she’d said. Had I inadvertedently been choosing friends based mainly on whether they were making the same life choices as me? If I was honest… yes. There is something in the human nature that wants to be supported and surrounded with people who are similar to ourselves. But maybe I’d been choosing friends on what they were doing moreso than who they were. And this is where it becomes less about parenting and more about openess. In all areas.
“We need to give each other the space to grow, to be ourselves, to exercise our diversity. We need to give each other space so that we may both give and receive such beautiful things as ideas, openness, dignity, joy, healing, and inclusion”
- Max de Pree.
What can I learn or give if I am only friends with people who are like me?
I remember a book I read while I was attending a Christian university. I don’t remember much of the book but the opening pages will stay with me forever.
A woman came to the author and confessed something too awful and unthinkable for me to repeat here and was desperately hoping for help. He asked her if she’d been to church and she cried out in horror “Church! Why would I want to go there?”. Instead of being a potential refuge in her eyes it was where she would feel most judged.
And I think that happens a lot. We gather excitedly with common belief but if we’re not careful exclude those that need those beliefs most. I want to be open, open to learning, open to diversity and open to people; regardless of the choices they’re making. I always want to remember that when my ideals overtake being loving and kind then they aren’t the ideals I want to live by. This doesn’t mean I don’t want to find things I love, find things that work for me and support groups that nurture these, it just means I want to do so with openess and the knowledge that no one really has all the answers – least of all me – we’re all just fumbling along together.
I have friends who baby wear, friends that sew garlands as offerings to Krishna, friends who bottle feed, friends who are deeply religious or spiritual, friends who are happily atheist, friends who birthed at home and friends who have had surgical births, friends that sleep with their 8 year old and friends who have a baby who likes to sleep alone, friends that eat meat and friends that are vegan, friends that are married and friends that are not, friends who have a partner of the opposite sex and friends who have one of the same, friends that parent like me and friends who do not and I am the richest for it.