I will admit to being extremely susceptible to all types of marketing. Cell phone camera doesn’t have a flash! Hair dye has glimmering highlights! Chicken at the farmers’ market is locally sourced and fed an organic vegetarian diet! Statements like these make me forget so, so easily that I don’t take pictures with my cell phone (except for when the baby or kitten’s momentary cuteness needs to be captured for posterity), that I don’t want to dye my hair while I’m nursing, and that like my feathered friends, I’m a vegetarian. With my incapability to resist ads in mind, it is remarkable that we have yet to buy the majority of the products that have been marketed to us as not only convenient, but totally necessary and also capable of turning us into the Swedish supermodel parents Sweet Pea deserves.
However, this doesn’t mean that we don’t have more than our share of baby “stuff.” In my closet, there are literally four devices for wearing Gwyn – some structured, some not – and this is AFTER getting rid of the ones that didn’t work (don’t worry, they were reused, not trashed.). There is an assortment of pacifiers, of bottles with different sized nipples, and of rejected toys in a cupboard in my kitchen. In our bedroom, there is an Amby baby hammock that Gwyn occasionally deems acceptable for a nap, and let’s not forget the amazing vibrating Boppy chair which allows me to vacuum and cook dinner safely.
Bafflingly, though, I’ve recently had a few heated discussions with my family over our apparent lack of baby stuff. I find this fascinating, as I literally can’t walk two feet without tripping over something bought for the littlest member of our family. From various sources, we’ve been told that we need a stroller, a playpen, or to give Gwyn a bottle now and then. Our answers are always that we enjoy wearing him when we’re out, that he would rather be held with us than playing on his own, that he’s home with me and so doesn’t need to take bottles. Here’s the hard part, though: we are then met with, “Oh, I don’t know HOW we managed to raise YOU!” (or some variant thereof). Immediately, the other party seems to believe they need to be defensive about their parenting choices, and refuse to believe that I respect their parenting choices as much as my own. The thing is that wearing him most of the time works for us. Holding him works for us. Breastfeeding works for us. Why change a good thing?
Obviously, this defensiveness and perceived slight doesn’t make us change our ideas about our parenting style. We enjoy our lives with the type of parenting we’ve chosen, which is largely exemplified by the stuff we have and the stuff we don’t. My problem, though, is the idea that because I have chosen a certain type of parenting I am critical of all others. My family isn’t like everyone else’s, and neither is our parenting – we choose bits and pieces that work for us, and thus become ourselves!
Does this difference in choice about stuff ever lead to a larger debate about parenting in general for you? How do you manage to talk about your parenting style while still emphasizing respect for other peoples’ parenting choices?