Our brains are limited. To a certain extent, we have to put people into "boxes" (label them) in our brains so that we can make sense of the world. I am totally fine with other people putting (some) labels on me, and I'm comfortable with putting some labels on myself. I am fine with that because I think it helps us to understand each other better. While we can't ever really know what another person is thinking or feeling, we can try. I feel like labels are a part of that process.
For example, I am comfortable with the labels "woman" and "female." This may seem like a very obvious thing to say, but that is because gender identity is often assumed and taken for granted by (cisgendered) people. The fact is, someone labeled me "girl" when I was born with the parts I have, and I have always been comfortable with that label. I did not choose it, but I identify with it. I feel it describes me accurately. I welcome others to choose how they would or would not like to be labeled in the context of gender.
What does gender identity have to do with types of parenting?
I used the subject of gender because I wanted to give a very obvious and easily-relatable example of how labels are a pervasive part of our culture (and, I might even argue, humanity as a whole). If you want to reject all labels, I'm cool with that, and I will absolutely try my hardest to respect your choice with the way I use language. I can't, however, turn off that part of my brain that naturally needs to categorize things to help them make sense.
I get it: you don't want to label yourself because you don't want to be put in a box/the box doesn't fit/you don't want others to expect things of you that you're not going to deliver on. At the same time, I'm not less highly-evolved than you because I do feel comfortable with labeling myself. Rejecting labels or accepting labels does not make one of us superior to the other. It just means we're different. (Though, if you think about it, even the act of rejecting labels is an form of labeling in and of itself.)
What disturbs me the most about the whole discussion about labeling is this recurring theme of mothers saying "I don't want to identify as X type of parent, because the other X parents will judge me for not being X enough." First, since when is it OK to tell another parent how to parent their kids? I realize that the dolling-out of unsolicited advice is a condition that lots of people suffer from, but I don't think we should just accept that without a fight.
Second, why are people judging each other in the first place for differences in parenting styles? And since when is there only one right way to parent? We're all unique and precious individuals, with equally unique and precious children who came into our lives. Every parent is different and every child is different. Even individual children in the same family unit need to be parented differently.
Third, and maybe most importantly, when did we hand our power over to other people? When did we all lose our spines?
|(Jack likes his box just fine.)|
I'm comfortable with saying, "My parenting style happens to agree with the principles of Attachment Parenting." I'm happy to say, "I had an unmedicated home birth and it was awesome." I feel proud to say, "We've been cloth diapering since Daniel was six days old." But those things don't mean that if at some point we want to use a disposable diaper (which we do, of course, sometimes) that I have to feel bad and feel that I've outright failed as a "natural," "attachment," or whatever type of parent. And furthermore, it certainly does not mean that I think you should choose to be exactly the same kind of parent I'm choosing to be, or that I think I am better than you are because I chose (the correct choice) X instead of (inferior) Y.
I feel totally confident saying I agree with AP, and still not want to (and more importantly, do not) sleep in the same bed with my child all the time. I can say I'm a natural parent and eat processed foods, watch television, and someday send my kid out of the home for his schooling needs. I can call myself an "attachment parent" and give my kid a pacifier, use a stroller, and selectively vaccinate. Does that make me less of a good parent than someone who doesn't do those things? Nope. Does it make me less "natural" or less "AP"? I believe that it does not.
Let's start trusting ourselves and our instincts about what we should do as parents instead of judging ourselves for not fitting perfectly into a box or judging others for choosing a different kind of box. Let's just parent our kids the best we know how, instead of spending so much time competing with each other. And seriously, let's get rid of all the guilt! We're all doing our best, and parenting is plenty hard enough without having to feel guilty on top of everything else.
That's how I live my life. Though I may care about you, fellow parent/mother/woman/human being, I don't care what decisions you make; I'm not going to put you down for making them. If you ask my opinion about some parenting issue, I will give it to you and then you are (obviously) free to make whatever decision you want. And if I'm talking excitedly about how much I loved giving birth at home or how I think breastfeeding is wonderful (when you have chosen differently), please please know that I'm not passive-aggressively trying to tell you that I think you made the wrong decision. I promise, I'm not! We can still be friends (and our kids can still be friends) if you choose not to do what I would do.
I don't feel limited or "boxed-in" by the labels I identify with. I hope you, also, will not feel limited by my labels.