On not being an ‘Earth mother’…

It’s weird, but I feel now like I can’t remember a time when I wasn’t aware of the stupid debates and arguments that all new mums seem to face, so I can’t really remember if people without children are aware of the debates. The most popular is breastfeeding vs. formula, of course, and I think most people are aware of that one, but there’s also cloth nappies vs. disposables; baby-wearing vs. not; slings vs. puschairs; helicopter parenting vs. ‘Free Range Kids’… the list goes on. And we’re all expected to pick a side on everything – and defend it to the hilt. It’s not bad enough that mums are criticised by the media for every choice they make – we’re now in the business of criticising each other too. 

Currently on-trend is the kind of ‘Earth mother’ stereotype – and there can be a lot of contempt online for mums who don’t meet these strict criteria. 

For example, I don’t breastfeed. I gave it a try, but it really didn’t work for me. As this wasn’t enough of a crime in the parenting world, I am actually pleased with my decision to formula feed. SB is healthy and happy – she’s strong as anything! -, D can help with the feeding, I get to sleep at times – it’s great. Sure, it would’ve been more convenient to be able to breastfeed – being able to just sit and feed anywhere – but with enough planning, I can make up a bottle out and about in a matter of seconds, cool it down and SB is being fed. At the end of the day, I gave it my best shot, but SB didn’t want to latch, nothing was working, expressing wasn’t doing the job and she was hungry. I’d have been a much worse mum if I’d made her hungry and uncomfortable through my desperation to breastfeed – I made the decision to formula feed for her benefit, not for mine. 

I also don’t do ‘baby-wearing’ – carrying baby in a material sling. I’d love to, but slings are bloody expensive and I always have this fear that SB will fall out. We have a baby-carrier, a black contraption with clips everywhere, but we haven’t really had chance to use it yet because she doesn’t seem too comfortable in it. If there was a local sling library – a group where you can try out different slings for a deposit and hire fee – I’d go for it and give it a try, but I don’t want to pay over £40 for something I might hate, SB might hate and then it’s wasted money. 

As for parenting style… I don’t understand what these styles are all about. Maybe I will when SB is a bit older, and I have reason to either be a helicopter or free-range parent – that is, either hovering over your child constantly, or letting them run free and making their own mistakes – but I think in my parenting style, I’d rather aim to emulate my own mum. She was a nice combination of the two – letting us make our own mistakes, but always being there to pick up the pieces and give us a hug if it all went wrong. She encouraged us to live our own lives, make our own choices and to take every opportunity – but there was never any pushing, and we’re still extremely close because of this. If, in 19 years time, SB has the same relationship with her mum that I feel I have with mine, I’ll know I’ve done a good job as a mum. 

As if you haven’t already guessed, I use disposable nappies and a puschair, rather than slings everywhere. I don’t disagree with babywearing and cloth-nappying… it just isn’t right for me. I’d never use it as a stick to beat someone who does find it right for them, though. For me, a lot of the decision has to be financially motivated, and designed for convenience – especially seeing as in September, SB will be going into a nursery while we return to university, so our choices need to be ones that work, not just for us, but for her and the nursery too. 

Again, this is a decision that many people disagree with – the decision to return to work or education after having a baby. For some people, the normal length of maternity leave is sufficient. Others never return to work, and others – like myself – return sooner, whether through necessity (my third year starts in September), or simply wanting to get back. This is fine. The problem comes when people decide to verbally attack others for not choosing to do exactly the same. Stay-at-home parents are lazy and privileged. Working parents are cold, harsh and uncaring. Where do these stereotypes come from? Stay at home parents are working hard and good for them that they’re able to save the money on childcare! And working parents are making sacrifices to be able to provide for their family. It doesn’t get much more caring than that! 

The stupid thing is, I don’t think I’ve ever seen these battles take place in real life. I’ve yet to see two mothers get into an argument over whether their baby will wear organic cotton or not, and how soon they’ll wean. It’s only online that you actually see these debates take place in such a heated and offensive fashion – because somehow, hiding behind a keyboard turns us all into the perfect mother, and woe betide anyone who isn’t as perfect as us. I think in these cases, people should employ the old saying that’s always seen me right – if you’ve nothing nice to say, say nothing at all. 

I’ve only been at it for five weeks, and even I could tell you that motherhood is tough – and it can be lonely. So why are we so desperate to make it even more lonely, by separating mothers into attatchment parents, tiger moms, stay-at-home vs. working, babywearing, breastfeeding, formula feeding – all these different sub-categories that only serve to isolate us even more. Doesn’t it make more sense to stick together? And really – as long as your own child is happy, healthy and not being shut in a cupboard, does it really matter what someone else’s baby wears on their bum? 


One thought on “On not being an ‘Earth mother’…

  1. The Wanderer Returns (@caffeine_lights) says:

    You are wise beyond your years!! I got so sucked into the whole parenting style and defending it thing and it really held me back from working out what actually worked for us. Keep doing whatever works for you and please do pick and choose from anything that sounds fun and/or useful!

    I would be surprised if there is no sling meet at all in your local area, unless you’re very rural (but given you’re at uni I’m guessing not very rural). They tend to be arranged on facebook nowadays although there used to be a forum called slingmeet.co.uk.

    And yeah, after a while you just ignore the bunfighty threads on the internet.


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