My Love/Hate Relationship with “Parenting Styles”

Every so often, I actually get to cuddle with this sweet boy.

I was originally going to write about my love/hate relationship with attachment parenting but decided that if I was going to do that, I should probably know what parenting style I actually use. Turns out, there are apparently 5 “parenting styles” that are floating around out there right now.

**DISCLAIMER: This is my sarcasm font.**

Instinctive Parenting
Parents “go with their gut” or are influenced by their own upbringing. More likely to teach what they know and parent the way they were raised. (In other words, they are copy cats. They mimic the behavior of their own parents and decided to give it a name. Not original.)

Attachment Parenting
Strive to promptly respond to their child’s needs and be sensitive and emotionally available for their child at all times. They often believe in natural childbirth, a family bed, avoidance of corporal punishment, homeschooling, and may be part of the anti-vaccination movement. (In other words, hippies. May smell like incense, patchouli, and borax from homemade laundry detergent. Also known as the “crunchy” parent.) 

Helicopter Parenting
They hover. They smother. They cover. (In other words, they like their children like they like their Waffle House hash browns: smothered, covered, and… well… okay. Maybe not scattered. You can usually pick this parent out by the brown discoloration on the end of their nose…)

Authoritative Parenting
Typically establish rules and guidelines and expect their children to follow them. However, not quite to the point of “what I say goes” or “because I said so.” They are still nurturing, forgiving, and responsive. They are assertive but not restrictive and aim to support rather than punish. (In other words, they are not liberals. They aren’t conservative either. They can vote either side at any point in the game. It just depends on which party is presenting the best hand.)

Permissive Parenting
Indulgent. They have very few demands of their children because they have low expectations of maturity and self-control. Lenient. They try to be more of a friend than a parent and don’t like confrontation. (In other words, they are the ones who let their children run around like wild animals and sit back and shrug their shoulders while saying “Kids, eh?” Or flat out ignore the behavior while they tap away at Angry Birds on their phones. *I don’t actually have a clue how you play that game…*)

Clueless Parenting (I came up with this one… last second)
The expectant parent. I mean the “I-just-found-out-I’m-having-a-baby-and-I-have-no-clue-where-to-start-so-I-guess-I’ll-Google-everything-and-ask-everyone-I-know” parent. Like baby ain’t here yet and they don’t know WTF a “birth plan” or “mucous plug” is. They are brand.spanking.new. (Note: no sarcasm there!)

So after reading about each one of these, I have decided that I don’t fit a specific one. I have tried out 4 out of the 5 (Or 5 out of 6… I can’t bring myself to be the parent who is more of a friend than a parent) and not a single one worked for me.

I started off as a clueless parent. I knew what a baby was, how they were made, and that breastfeeding is the best source of nutrition for a baby. So, I did what a lot of expecting moms do: I went online. I hit up Google and the message boards over at The Bump. I asked my friends on Facebook. I learned all I could. I knew I wanted to breastfeed and I wanted to give natural birth a shot.

And so began my love/hate relationship with attachment parenting. I LOVED it… for the first 6ish months. I breastfed, co-slept, did baby wearing, baby led weaning, tried making my own cloth diapers, used all natural lotions, soaps, and creams… and then I started to feel like Waffle House hash browns. Smothered, covered, and definitely scattered. My son slept through the night from the time he was a month and a half right up until 4ish months. Then I hit the “4 month wakeful period.” That lasted until he was about 7 months.

But at 6 months, I couldn’t take it anymore. I couldn’t get him to sleep until 11 and I had to nurse him to sleep and try verrrrryyyyy carefully to get up without waking him so I could attempt to clean because, you know, I spent my entire day with him ATTACHED to me and couldn’t get much done. Then I’d crawl into bed. He’d wake up at 1:30, nurse back to sleep, up again at 4:30, nurse back to sleep, up again at 6:30-7, nurse again, and sleep (restlessly) until about 9.

I decided to move him to his crib because I wasn’t sleeping well AT ALL. Every time he moved, I woke. Every time he woke, I woke and HAD to nurse him to get him back to sleep. Plus, he had a tough time staying asleep because every time I moved, it would wake him up. So into his own bed he went. The first night was tough, but I stayed by his side until he fell asleep. The next time he woke, he barely cried and fell asleep easily. I slept in his room that night and stayed right next to his crib until he was sound asleep each time he woke. The second night was SO much easier. Eventually, we got to the point where he was back to sleeping through the night (from about 7:30 until 7:30 or 8!) and he no longer WANTED to be in my bed. He loved having his own space!

When he began walking, I became a helicopter parent. That was short lived. I’ve never been a fan of hovering, so I taught him to “brush it off” and move on. He’s excellent at it now and barely even bats an eye when he takes a tumble, unless he’s seeking attention. Speaking of that, let’s talk about the “terrible twos” for a moment.

He hit that phase and I went into authoritative overdrive. I set rules. I set boundaries. I used timeout. I was firm, but loving. I wanted him to recognize that there are rules for a reason and that they should be followed. I wanted him to learn to respect his elders and use his manners but I also wanted him to know that I would always be there for him and support him and love him.

This also led to my encounter with instinctive parenting. However, there is a difference in how I approached that one. Most parents that use this method do the same things their own parents did. In my case, I took a lot of the things my parents did and used them as guidelines for what I don’t want to do. Now don’t get me wrong – I am NOT saying that I think my parents did a terrible job or I that I didn’t learn any positive parenting techniques from them. I love both of my parents to the moon and back, but that doesn’t mean I agree 100% with their parenting styles.

Anyway, all of this led me to where I am right now with parenting.

I’m going to call it I-don’t-give-a-shit Parenting. And no, that’s not because I don’t give a shit about my kids. It’s because I don’t give a shit about what kind of “parenting style” I fall under. I use a little bit of all the above. Some days I’m more of an attachment parenting person than authoritative. Sometimes I still play helicopter mom. Sometimes I find myself doing things the same way or the polar opposite of how my parents did it.

Our society today has seriously screwed up views of parenting. Actually, PARENTS today have a seriously screwed up view of parenting! I see many parents who think they have to fall under only one of those categories and then they feel as though they have to follow it to a “T” when in reality, they don’t have to. No one out there has said, “If you’re going to do attachment parenting, you have to be all in or else you FAIL or you’re not REALLY doing it!”

The other thing I see is parents using their parenting style as a way to compete with other parents. This REALLY irks my nerves. Grinds my gears. It pisses me off.

“You started solids at __ months old?! Oh no, we’re waiting until the exact second baby turns 6 months old because that’s the recommendation.”

“So you’re kid just hit mine and all you’re going to do is hold them while they cry about how they hurt their hand? You can’t be serious right now…”

“Oh my gosh! Your son just tried to jump off the top of the slide! Thank goodness I just happened to be right there, watching my child’s every move, and was able to catch him for you!”

“I would NEVER let my child say/do something like that!”

“I can’t believe you are just letting her cry! How cruel! I could never do that to my baby.”

You get the point and I’m sure y’all can come up with more on your own.

The thing is, not a single one of these people ever stops and takes into consideration WHY those parents are doing things the way they are.

The parent that started their baby on solids at 4.5 months? Their doctor told them to. Why? Who cares. It’s not your child and none of your business. You want to wait until your baby is 6 months? Fine. It doesn’t make you a better parent, by ANY means.

Maybe the kid that hit your kid isn’t a bully. Maybe the reason they hit your child and are now crying is because they have autism and are having a melt down moment. You going over there and getting in mom’s face isn’t going to help. Try explaining to your kid that sometimes people don’t apologize for hurting people and that it’s best to just forgive anyway and move on (might help in the long run with relationships).

That woman who’s son tried to jump off the slide? She wasn’t being inattentive. She has learned that he’s a daredevil and can totally hold his own when it comes to doing something daring. And your child, who you are smothering with your hovering, has been watching her kid and LONGING to show off their jumping skills too.

The person who’s kid said/did something you would never allow? Maybe they are going through a divorce or some other hardship. I’m not defending rudeness or disrespect, but what I am doing is pointing out that there are situations that can have a major impact on children and cause them to act out more than normal. And if mom/dad is stressed about something, they may not have a whole lot of energy for dealing with poor behavior. A pat on the back could make their day.

The mother who is “just letting her cry” has already tried everything she can think of to calm her baby/toddler and is removing herself from the situation before she ends up ripping her hair out. Again, another situation where a pat on the back could make all the difference to her.

I guess the point of this whole post is this: 

Figure out what works for you. Maybe you like some of the ideas behind “attachment parenting” but want to be more authoritative in your approach to discipline. Maybe you’re a chronic helicopter mom and want to be more laid back. Maybe you have been too permissive and want to transition into being more attached. Try it all out and stick with what works.

Don’t feel like a failure if you don’t follow one style completely. I have a friend who I’m pretty sure is convinced that attachment parenting is the ONLY way to go. If it works for her, more power to her. However, I have watched her feel like a failure from time to time simply because she didn’t do something exactly like most other attachment parenting moms have done.

Take other people’s reasons into consideration. You will encounter other parents with different parenting styles for the rest of your life. Just because they handle a situation in a different manner from you does not mean they are doing it the wrong way.

Don’t act as though your parenting style is superior. It may be to you, but that does NOT mean it will work for everyone else! This is the second part to taking other people into consideration.

Be kind to one another. You may not agree with their methods or views, but that doesn’t mean you shouldn’t be kind to them. Besides, it sets a good example for your children, right?

Stop giving a shit about what other people think. Seriously. Just stop. What good is it doing anyway? Are you going to let them be the one to decide how to raise your child or are you going to do that yourself?

…That’s what I thought.

 

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Marriage is not a game (Part 2)

“I looked for every loveliness, it all came true. I wished on the moon for you” -Billie Holiday

Since there was such a great response to my first post on marriage (you can read it here), I have decided to do a second part. However, I want to touch on the topic of how children can affect a marriage.

Many of my readers are parents as well. I’m an admin for a Facebook page called Mommies With Boys and I post links to my blog on there sometimes. I hope that many of you will be able to relate to this topic and hopefully it will shed some light or offer some insight to situations you may or may not be going through in your marriage. I know there are some of you who probably won’t agree with me, and that’s okay. Hopefully, many of you will.

Some of the things I want to discuss will go back to things I said in my last post. Others will be based off my personal experiences during childhood and now as a parent.

One of these topics is respect.

Respect should be a two way street, like most things in marriage. Not everyone feels this way though. I know a lot of people who feel that before they can give respect, it has to be earned. While this is true, people sometimes fail to remember that their spouse has already earned their respect. You obviously respected them enough to promise to love them “for better or for worse, in sickness and in health,” so why would that ever change? (If you are in an abusive situation, I personally feel this does not apply to you and I STRONGLY suggest seeking help!)

I actually have a pretty good example of this type of general respect. A couple of months ago, the kids and I went to watch my husband do a jump (military jump, usually from an airplane or helicopter) and, naturally, we were there with a lot of the men he works with. While we were out there, an ice cream truck came out to the drop zone. I wanted to get some for the kids and myself and asked my husband if he was okay with me using his card to make the purchase. He said it was fine and I offered to get him something as well.

Had my card been with me and not in my truck, I wouldn’t have thought twice about the purchase. But I was holding his wallet for him and because I was using HIS card, I respected his property and asked him first. One of his buddies overheard the exchange and, according to my husband, proceeded to say, “You mean your wife actually asks you before she buys stuff?! Can you give me lessons?” My husband responded by telling him that it isn’t because he has some kind of “rule” dictating that I ask him, but rather because we have a mutual respect for one another.

It’s really as simple as following the “golden rule.” You know, “Do to others as you would have them do to you.” (Luke 6:31 NIV) That’s all it is.

I touched on that some in my first post; I discussed how I always do my best to take my husband into consideration. In my most recent post (which you can read here) I talked about how once we become parents, we really learn how to be selfless and that we should take that selflessness and direct it towards those around us as well as our children. But learning how to be selfless shouldn’t start with our children – it should start with our spouse. I think that we know what unconditional love is when we get married, but I believe that we don’t fully understand it until we have children.

Now, I’m not saying you should be selfless to the point that your own health or mental well being is suffering. It’s extremely difficult to take care of others and make them happy if you aren’t taken care of and happy yourself. Everyone needs time for themselves too. What I am saying is that if you’re craving Italian and your spouse wants a burger and you got to pick the last time you went out to eat, set your own desires aside and let them pick. Chances are, they will be more likely to do the same for you another time.

You have to pick your battles.

While we’re on the topic of “picking battles,” I have a bone to pick with some of you moms (and dads) out there. Mostly new moms. Now let me go ahead and get this disclaimer out there: I know that what I’m about to say does not apply to y’all as a collective group. But if you find yourself thinking, “Oh crap. I do that sometimes,” then it probably applies to you.

To the new/first time moms (and some of you who have been moms for awhile now)

I know firsthand how exhausting it is to care for an infant. I’ve been through it with two of my own and am now caring for my friend’s son during the day while she’s at work. Earlier this week, I realized that it had been two (maybe three?) days since I had showered because I had been THAT busy and too tired to give a shit. Yes. I know the struggle is real.

I know how tiring it is to wake in the middle of the night (sometimes multiple times) to have to feed your tiny human (those of you who bottle feed, I give y’all MAD props! I have NO clue how you do it). I know how much it sucks to change a diaper and get peed on or better yet, have them dirty the fresh diaper before you can even get it secured. I know how repetitive it can all get and how you’d love nothing more than 10 minutes alone to shower or shave your legs or whatever (see paragraph above).

However, cut the new dad some slack! If you’re a stay at home mom, chances are he spends even less time with baby than you do because he is out working to provide for y’all so that you are able to stay at home. Respect and appreciate that. Don’t attack him when he walks through the door. It’s like hitting him with a brick that says, “I’m pissed because I’m the only one who cares for this kid and you have no clue how hard it is for me!” Real nice, right?

Aside from that, because he spends less time with baby he is NOT going to know how you usually handle things. Don’t expect him to know exactly how to handle something or know how frequently you feed baby, how to tell if they have a dirty diaper, or when nap time is. I don’t know anyone who can read minds, especially out of the guys I know. They don’t have that motherly instinct that is ingrained in us. You have to tell them and teach them. 

On top of that, they may not be comfortable with how you handle some situations or maybe they just don’t agree with you on something. Listen to their opinions and take them into consideration. After all, they are the other parent. I have found that it’s usually just best to take a step back and let dad and baby figure out what methods work best for them. It also encourages their bond.

I’m sure I pissed off some of y’all by saying those things, but it’s the truth.
And guess what?
I don’t care.

Want to know why?

Because I have been guilty of those things and I have witnessed firsthand how much of a negative impact they can have on your marriage.

What you can do instead of those things:

TALK with your spouse and explain to them how tired you are and how motherhood carries a much higher workload than you imagined and it requires a lot of you emotionally. Let them know that there will possibly be days where you need to vent to them about stuff that seems meaningless to them, but that it will make you feel better if they offer a listening ear (and maybe a box of tissues). Maybe set up an agreement with them where they get 30 minutes to unwind from their day when they come home and then you get to take 30 minutes to yourself while they watch baby. Or vice versa. Whatever works for both of you.

ENCOURAGE them to spend time with baby alone. Don’t jump down their throats when they do something the wrong way or differently from you. It took you some time to learn the ins and outs and it’s going to take them some time too. Be patient and helpful without being patronizing.

COMMUNICATE your feelings to your spouse. Don’t get mad at them for something and then storm off and say something like, “Well I guess I’ll just do (insert whatever)… like I always do.” Tell them how their actions make you feel. “You know, when you say/do/act like (insert action/words/whatever), it makes me feel (insert feelings).”

LISTEN when your spouse brings something up. Hear them out on whatever it is they have to say. If they are offering their opinion on something, take it to heart, and try your best to find a solution that works for both of you. When they come to you to express their feelings, don’t turn it into a competition by saying things like “Oh yeah? Well you (insert whatever it is that pisses you off)!” Again, hear them out.

BE APPRECIATIVE of all they do to provide for your family. They work to provide (or to help provide, if you both work) for your family. It’s not exactly fun to work hard for pay you know isn’t going to be spent on the things you’d like to go and do or buy (working moms, I know you know the feeling).

To the new/first time dads (and some who have been dads for awhile now)

On behalf of all moms, I would just like to say, “Sorry!” We’re all kind of crazy and hormonal from time to time. It’s nothing against you guys.

I have no clue what it’s like to be a dad (I don’t have the right parts for that!) but I do know that the responsibilities y’all have are different from those of us moms and equally important. I am a stay at home mom and I know that if it weren’t for my husband working his butt off, I wouldn’t be able to stay home with our kids.

I know that it took longer for my husband to get the hang of the whole parenting thing. He still doesn’t like diaper duty and toddler tantrums or crying in the truck are probably two of his least favorite sounds. He sometimes takes a “suck it up” attitude in times where I’m more likely to comfort. But he can throw them in the air higher than I can and wrestles with them and takes them on adventures and so much more.

But I also know that after working all day, he really wants to come home and have a little quiet time before he has to put on his Super Dad cape and rescue his wife in distress. Sometimes, he takes what I think is a little too long for quiet time and I’m left feeling like I’m alone on handling kids. Sometimes he’s had a rough day at work and it’s still so fresh in his mind that he doesn’t realize I’m on my fourth cup of coffee and struggling to focus on cooking while the baby is playing with tupperware and the toddler is throwing cars across the house. It’s in those moments that us wives are most likely to rip you a new one. Not because you actually deserve it, but because we’re so tired and we just want SOMEONE to pay attention to us and help.

With that being said, help her out! She is only one person and can only do so much before she reaches her limit. And when she reaches that limit, well… bless your heart! Be attentive to her needs. Don’t bring work issues home with you – your family needs you. Take time for yourself, but don’t forget that she needs alone time and the kids need time with you.

If you need help figuring out how to do something for baby (diaper changes, feedings, dressing, etc.), don’t let your pride stand in your way. There is no shame in asking for help or asking to be shown how to do something. You and your wife are a team. Teammates work together towards the same goal. Don’t forget that.

Don’t assume because she’s with the kids more frequently that it means it’s okay for you to make plans to do things that would involve her having to stay home alone with the kids. She is NOT your personal baby sitter! Yes, she is their mother, but YOU are their father and that means you share an equal amount of responsibility.

So, dads, here’s what you can do:

CONSIDER her feelings. When you come home from work, ask her how her day has been. Tell her you’d like to change out of your work clothes first and then you will spend some time with the kids while she grabs a shower or gets dinner ready or whatever it is she needs from you. Offering to do that for her will help her more than you can imagine. It reassures her that you have her back and support her.

TELL her how much you appreciate everything she does for your family. Taking care of tiny people all day (or even after she gets home from work) isn’t always the most fun job in the world. It’s taxing – emotionally, mentally, and physically. Not to mention cooking and cleaning. Show your appreciation for the things she does for you too. Folding your laundry, fixing your lunch, helping you get ready for work, etc.

OFFER to take the kids out for a few hours so she can get housework done or relax for a bit. Or offer to stay home with them while she goes out with the girls. If she’s a stay at home mom, chances are she is DYING for some adult conversation and a good glass of wine!

TAKE the initiative to help her. If you see that the trash can is full, take it out. If the dishwasher is full of clean dishes, empty it. Don’t wait to be asked. You are an adult and just as much a part of the household as your wife is – don’t let ALL of the chores fall to her, especially if it’s obvious she is having a rough day or could use a helping hand. Your wife is not your mother. It is not her job to constantly pick up after you and put your things away.

 

Now that I’ve laid it all out there, I have something I want to add on that is directed at both parties:

Always try to one up yourself.

I have read a lot of posts that say you should never stop courting your spouse, and I completely agree with that. However, I feel I’m taking it a step further here by saying that you should always act as if you are your biggest competition.

If you are usually the type to do a random act of kindness for your spouse once in a blue moon, then start doing them more frequently. Tell your spouse how much you appreciate something they have done for you and compliment them. Do it every day. Tell them how much they mean to you and how thankful you are to have them in your life.

Those are all examples of things my husband and I do for each other. We don’t do them once a week, every 4 days, or every other day. Those examples happen every single day, multiple times a day, in our household. I am constantly telling him that I love and appreciate him and that I am blessed beyond measure to have him in my life. I do the same for my children.

Doing those things creates a spiral. Not a downward one towards destruction, but rather an upward one – constantly rising higher and higher.

Marriage is not a game. It’s not a battle of “he said, she said.” It’s not a power struggle. It’s two people accepting the person they married exactly as they are and helping them learn how to grow in their strengths, conquer their weaknesses, and succeed in their dreams. It’s lifting each other up, with love.

Sweet Tea, Chocolate, and Laundry

My in-laws came to visit yesterday, stayed the night, and then headed home this afternoon. It was nice having them come to visit. I know they came to see me and the kids and spend some time with us, but I was thanking them for coming by the time they had to go home. Life has been hectic around here lately! I’ve had clean laundry sitting on the couch in my laundry room for weeks. Needless to say, the holidays kind of threw me off track. I’m pretty sure that anyone who has ever fallen behind on household chores knows how difficult it can be to catch up… add two tiny people to the mix and it’s even more challenging.

We got up this morning and I made chocolate chip pancakes for breakfast. After we finished eating, my father-in-law went down to the laundry room and started folding all my laundry. What. A. Lifesaver. I went down and helped out some, but I mostly just carried it all upstairs and put it away. And my mother-in-law folded all the clothes in my son’s room and put them away for. I will forever be grateful for this!

So now all my laundry is folded and put away – WOO HOO! I feel as if someone came and lifted a giant cinder block off my shoulders. To add on to that good news, I actually got a full night of sleep last night! I’m usually up pretty late, but I was worn out last night. I climbed into bed at 11:00 PM and slept like a rock until 8:00 AM.

Despite getting a full night’s rest, I started feeling sleepy again by about 11:30 AM. So I did what just about any southerner would do – I poured myself a glass of tea. I grabbed the spoon I set out on the counter, before pouring my glass, and dunked it into my tea. I stirred it around a couple of times before I finally looked down and thought, “Oh wait… this isn’t a spoon!”

And it WASN’T a spoon. It was a knife. The one I had used that morning to cut up my son’s chocolate chip pancakes. And it was still covered in chocolate.

I sighed and then proceeded to make a face at the knife that was similar to this one:

Then I inspected my tea to see just how much chocolate had ended up in my glass. I decided it was safe enough and that I would hate to waste good tea, so I did what any mom who hates to be wasteful would do – I drank it and decided I was far too tired.

So now I’m going to go do what any exhausted mom would do – go to sleep!

Thank you SO much for all the help today John and Jonie! I appreciate it and love you guys!

(PS: My in-laws are the best. Hands down.)