The Only Right Parenting Style is Yours

So it seems that this wonderful post by Ministry of Mum has inspired a fair bit of chatter, a couple of follow up posts and had me rowing on twitter with an egg with no followers. If it was a Bot it was dang good at impersonating a zealot – perhaps it was Zealot Bot 0.1 to be followed shortly by Bigot Bot 0.2 before launching with Total Lack Of Tolerance Bot to the general public but I digress – she / he / it pushed my buttons. An overriding theme, particularly of my early posts is not to judge other parents. There are some obvious and not so obvious exceptions but we’ll get to them in a bit.

In her post Claire notes that if you’re still breastfeeding your child at 3 that’s fine with her as well as going on to name the various in vogue parenting styles. I’d go the other way and add that if you bottle fed your child that’s fine with me too and not just because we did. Ok – technically we mix fed them – but they were not exclusively breast fed. Boy didn’t latch and my wife seemed not to be producing any milk so to stop him dying of hunger the mid-wives in hospital supplemented his feeds with formula. When we got him home she guilt tripped herself because he still wouldn’t latch and, when we should have been recovering, we scoured the county for a breast pump so she could express. In the mean time though he was getting used to the formula. An advantage to this was that I could help with night feeds because even the breast milk was expressed. This formed a bond between us that I firmly believe has led to us being closer as a family. He bonded with both parents equally and my wife wasn’t building up a wall of resentment against me as I slept soundly while she struggled to produce milk to a tired and vaguely latching Boy. This does not mean we don’t think breast is best – we do. I have subsequently used this and my twitter account to find local breast-feeding councillors for a fellow blogger who was worried about their new born. We just made a choice.

When Baby was born she latched perfectly and breast fed really well but she was a hungry and sicky Baby and she threw most of what she took in back up before demanding more. Eventually we couldn’t keep up and she ended up mix fed too. Again this helped form a bond between all three of us. When we discovered how much she liked Baby Swimming it meant I could take her and happily feed her straight afterwards. Let’s reiterate – she got breast and formula, we were less guilty this time and it was a decision we made as a family for the good of us all. But like Claire, if you’re still breastfeeding at 3 I’m fine with that. In fact I admire it.

We haven’t bothered with cloth nappies either. Sorry environment.  We live in Brighton, home of the first Green Party led council in the country. We are NCT members, home of breastfeeding and cloth nappy championing. We had a lot of friends with kids, some of whom were Brighton friends and other who were NCT friends and I can’t think of more than a couple that used cloth nappies.  Most parents are on Pampers. So judge me if you like but you are also judging the vast majority of parents in this country who, I guess, having not slept properly in months, having tried desperately to decipher crying intentions, perhaps dealing with PND or post-baby relationship issues found that learning how to  safely fold a real nappy so it didn’t leak, scrape the shit out of it safely and hygienically every time, even in the middle of the night, and generally having enough washed and ready to cope with anything, is a bridge too far. That’s not to say I judge you if you do. Your choice is the right one for you and better for the environment. In fact i feel a bit inadequate. Just not inadequate enough.

We didn’t do controlled crying. We couldn’t. We’d heard of it of course but my wife’s instinct when they cried was to pick them up and see what they wanted, even if we’d just put them to bed and it was my instinct too. Strangely Baby, though she woke up regularly at night, was ace at going to sleep as soon as you put her down. This decision meant going without sleep but it was one we made together, again as a family. If you have used controlled crying though again that was your decision and you weren’t wrong. There is certainly an argument that if you are well rested at night you have more time to play with and attend to baby in the day and are far less likely to do anything demented or mental to them.

Talking of which the last thing Zealot Bot said to me before her account was suspended was if I would judge parents in abuse cases. Of course almost any parent would feel tremendously sad and angry in such cases but judging? That’s the job of the judiciary surely?

Co-sleeping? If we must. Boy comes in to our bed if he’s had a nightmare or is feeling poorly else he sleeps in his own bed. He knows he’s welcome but at the same time he knows he needs to be independent, in his own room, in his own bed. Want to build a great big family bed where everyone sleeps together? Go for it. It’s no business of mine.

Also, sometimes, I feed them sausages, chips and beans.

I feel almost awkward bragging here but mix-fed Baby was walking at 12 months and is close to swimming before she’s 2. Her speech is said by other parents to be excellent. Certainly at 21 months she’s just started whole sentences (sory MoVo, only happened last week). Mix Fed Boy meanwhile is registered Gifted and Talented for Maths and missed a whole 2 days of his reception year due to illness.

Everyone has a different family dynamic and no-one should feel guilt tripped in to parenting in a different way to the one they’re comfortable with. Where real failures exist – and they don’t often in the middle class world of parent twitter – there is a system of justice and Health Visitors and social workers ready to start addressing them. If you’re an attachment parent and it works for you then I’m truly happy as it means your child and your family will be a happy one. But ditto if you’re using controlled crying and routine. So long as you’re bought in to it for the right reasons I’m pretty sure you’ll end up with a happy well adjusted kid.

How can I support both methodologies? I don’t. I support the methodology that says the only right parenting style is yours. If you’ve thought about it and taken the decisions together you are investing time and effort in to your family and this is surely all anyone can ask.

Zealots everywhere beware, there are an awful lot of us somewhere in the middle. And a lot of us are starting to write about it.

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  1. #1 by @SAHDandproud on July 30, 2012 - 4:57 pm

    Excellent post. Nice one matey.

  2. #3 by Mother Eartha on July 30, 2012 - 4:58 pm

    Perfect post. Was in the middle of writing a similar one, but I think you’ve summed it up. Thanks x

  3. #5 by Anoop Singh-Best on July 30, 2012 - 4:59 pm

    Sausage chips and beans? Really? Well I never!!!!! 😉
    You’re clearly great parents, not solely because of the choices you make but because of the thought that goes into making those decisions. I’m glad the rantings of ill informed, judgemental people won’t change this. Xxx

  4. #7 by Jules on July 30, 2012 - 5:08 pm

    It’s nice to know there are sensible people out there. I find it amazing how judgemental and insane some people get over such things. I had 2 breastfed first for 3 months and 2nd for only 2 weeks as it proved impossible, I firmly believe happy parents have happy children so what suits u and ur family is the right thing to do!

  5. #9 by Lucy on July 30, 2012 - 6:50 pm

    Brilliant. Well done, Sir. So sick of this current trend in the media of labelling parenting styles & pitching tribes against one another. And so many parents get sucked in by it, thinking they must take a stance & defend it to the death. I bet the vast majority of us are muddling through, doing the best we can & doing a great big mixture of everything.

  6. #11 by @babberblog on July 30, 2012 - 7:11 pm

    Well said chap, Zealotbot can keep its evangelising to itself 🙂

    • #12 by slightlysuburbandad on July 30, 2012 - 8:38 pm

      Cheers. Sort of felt I was spamming you at one point this afternoon but I just bite at stuff like that!

  7. #13 by Tom on July 30, 2012 - 8:38 pm

    Fantastic post mate; I often fret about whether my parenting style is the ‘right’ one and if I’m doing the ‘right’ things for my sons, so this piece was warmly received here!

  8. #15 by @eddsnotdead on July 30, 2012 - 11:53 pm

    An excellent subject, an excellent message, an excellent post written…excellently. 🙂
    You hit it on the head. Well done. Home run.
    First thing I do after writing this is go and retweet the link.

    • #16 by slightlysuburbandad on July 31, 2012 - 8:50 am

      Thanks Ed. It’s really good to have some comments on the blog from people who seem from their own blogs and feeds to be caring, well adjusted parents.

  9. #17 by thenorthadventure on August 1, 2012 - 7:15 am

    This is the philosophy we have used in bringing up out 15 month old so far. It seems to be working so far, and we are happy with all the decisions we have made along the way. Babies are all unique, and naturally, so are parenting styles!

  10. #19 by christiana83 on August 3, 2012 - 12:10 pm

    It’s so crazy how people take sides so quickly and defend their position to the death! It’s seriously as bad as political parties. But in my experience this has really only been the case on the internet. In real life I’ve found that most people are pretty civil and respectful. Maybe they are judging me internally, but at least they are nice about it!

    I read “The Baby Book” by Dr. Sears (the one which basically started attachment parenting) and in it he is *constantly* emphasizing that you should pick and choose from the things he’s writing about – that you don’t have to feel pressured to follow everything – only what works for you. I think the main point of his book wasn’t that you should do XY and Z, but rather that you don’t have to feel pressured to follow the strict “independance-promoting” methods of previous generations such as cry-it-out) For example regarding baby-wearing – older generations often say things like “you’re going to spoil that baby if you never put her down!” Dr. Sears points out the benefits of carrying and holding your baby a lot, and de-bunks the myth that you will spoil your baby by paying attention to it. This is not to say that you should never use a stroller and never leave your baby alone for 15 minutes. It also doesn’t mean that the mother should give up her whole life for the baby. It is merely to say that if you want to hold your baby, you CAN without fears of ruining it for life.

    Some people who get all up in arms over attachment parenting obviously didn’t actually read the book!

    I agree with you 100% that you just have to do what works for you, and what you feel comfortable with. I enjoy some aspects of attachment parenting, but I don’t do everything, and I don’t feel like I have to, either. Ultimately, babies are pretty resilient, they can thrive even when our parenting is pretty awful!

    • #20 by slightlysuburbandad on August 4, 2012 - 7:01 am

      Thanks for leaving a long, well though through and insightful comment. I approved it yesterday on my phone but wanted to sit at the laptop and write a proper reply.

      I certainly think you’re right about the internet. The fact that it’s not face to face can certainly make people more extreme.

  11. #21 by AlwaysARedhead on August 4, 2012 - 12:50 am

    Nice post. Parenting is what works for you and no one else! My mother’s best advice – I don’t remember, thus letting me and hubby figure it our ourselves and we did…..eventually.

  12. #23 by morander on August 10, 2012 - 1:18 pm

    Well said – all of it. There’s no right or wrong way. Just the way that works up until it doesn’t. It’s too easy for parts of the media to sit on the sidelines and comment.

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