This morning I watched a kerfuffle erupt on Facebook over the issue of whether to co-sleep or Ferberize. It made me wonder: why are we as women so intent on judging one another?
I was an avowed co-sleeper when my children were small. Keeping your baby in bed with you (or at least in the same room) is a practice that goes back thousands of years and is seen in cultures around the world. I believe (and studies show) that it leads to better mother/child bonding and infant health.
As a young mom I’d shout this from the rooftops (it often went hand in hand with my evangelizing about how imperative it is to breastfeed and how unmedicated labor is the only way to go). Sometimes, moms on the “other side,” the “Ferber” moms who believed in letting their babies scream it out, would state their positions heatedly. Everyone would spew data and emotion at each other and, at the end of the day, feelings would be bruised and our own personal righteousness reinforced, but very little change had been made.
I don’t do that anymore.
Parenting is the most important thing any of us with the privilege to parent will ever do. We feel intense pressure to get it right. The paths we take vary. While we’re in the trenches, we need to feel like we’re taking the right course of action, particularly in the early years when everything feels so uncertain. So we get militant with the fervor of the recent convert.
I’m an “old mom” now. I know I’ve got this mothering thing down. I share a singular bond with my children. They are good and smart and talk to me about anything, even the hard stuff. There’s very little tension at my house. On the rare moments when we do disagree, we’re usually laughing about it a few hours later. Is that due to co-sleeping? My unmedicated births? The countless hours I held them and nursed them? I’d like to think so. But I’ve also done this long enough to know that relationships involve a special kind of alchemy and magic, a mix of personalities and place and circumstance that we only partially control. I’ve been a good mom, yes, but I’ve also been lucky.
So that’s why I don’t walk around telling people, especially new moms, that Ferber is wrong or that if they don’t nurse their babies will get more ear infections. Motherhood is laden with enough doubt without other moms telling you you’re doing it wrong. If I want to be a force for peace in this world (and I do), then I’d like to begin with moms. I’d like to help the moms I meet feel confident in their choices so that they can pass that ease on to their babies.
And when they ask me how I got so Zen and wise I’ll tell them it was all the co-sleeping 😉