Wednesday, January 18, 2012

Perfection, Quitting and the Sanctimonious

I don't have much time for drama. As a busy mom to two special children and partner to one very busy husband, not to mention a full-time career attempting to help thousands of other parents find support, community, and learn about natural living, there is little room for theatrics. But it is drama over parenting that caught my attention this week, via the world of blogging. Two blogs, two different authors, one annoying proposition about perfection. And so they inspired today's rant.

Both involve parenting. Both involve the demand for perfection and, consequently, the intolerance of others. And both rail against sanctimony, particularly with regard to attachment parenting.

First is an attack on a popular blogger who was called out as a false representative of attachment parenting because she has referred to her children disparagingly on her blog. As parents, especially ones who champion a philosophy of respect for children and preaching empathy, we must never, ever feel anger, frustration, or, even jokingly refer to our children in anything but the most positive light. Our children are our angels. No matter the tantrums or backtalk, the vomit or coloring on the walls, we must smile - always - and insist that our darlings are the center of our universe. More importantly, we must be critical and judgmental of all those around us who dare to show genuine frustration, get angry, or have a difficult day with parenting. Clearly, that doesn't happen to attached parents.

Another blogger finds this sanctimony to be too much and instead proclaims herself an attachment parenting dropout. Interestingly, I have never found reference to kale chips or organics among the organizations that advocate for attachment parenting. Even the 7 Baby B's of Dr. Sears fail to mention this as a criteria for attachment parenting, although I will say that these are common among holistic parents, as can be the sanctimonious attitude. Holistic, attached, green, or organic - whatever you want to label your parenting - there is no need for self-righteous behavior. Judging other parents for their vices does not make you "more" of anything, other than intolerant and critical. Each of us is on our own parenting journey and there is no one right road for all. We are all doing our best with the resources and tools that we have in this moment, on this day, with these circumstances. If we opt to eat junk food today or lapse into a moment of anger or frustration with our children, are we then to be banished from the realm of attached, holistic, or positive parenting forever? And who shall be our judge? Who among us is the perfect parent to cast out the rest? What does such intolerance serve, other than our own insecure egos?

Intolerance and perfectionism will destroy our own self-confidence and inhibit us from coming together as parents. It will create obstacles for supporting each other, prevent us from feeling empathy, and divide us on our parenting journeys. It will create an air of false superiority and judgment. And it will give all of these parenting styles a bad name.

It is no better to proclaim yourself a "dropout" either. You brand yourself a failure even though you are parenting within your own personal ideals. Good parenting is not an all-or-nothing proposition. "If you can't embrace all of it, why bother embracing any of it?" will get you nowhere, fast. If you can't eat healthy every day, why not indulge in junk food all the time and say the heck with it? If you lose your temper or don't feel like wearing your baby at the moment, let's drop all pretenses about connection and throw in the towel. Let's show our kids that quitting is the optimal solution when you're not perfect. There's an example they can live by.

Sarcasm aside, it's time parents - and particularly mothers - get off each others' backs. Most of us are trying to do the best that we can. We don't have perfect information, unlimited resources, or idyllic lives. We have real, authentic parenting experiences. We have days when our kids are our angels and days when they are brats. We have days where cheese poofs make us happy, no matter what their ingredients, and days where kale chips are a delight. And none of these days indicate a failure on our part. It simply means that we are human.

Forget the drama and the dropping out. Exercise a little tolerance - for each other and for ourselves. Kumbaya.


  1. Well said. Although my children are older, and when I was raising them I never found an organization like this or the concept of attachment parenting, I certainly found plenty of attitude like you describe above. Too many parents see their children as trophies whose perfection somehow brightens the parental halo in the eyes of society. We are all just human. Parents have bad days, so do kids. Instead of sniping at each other or talking badly to ourselves we need to accept that we are real, this is life.

    Thanks for putting this into words. It's an important message that people need to not only hear, but to remember.

  2. Great post. It does seem to be an all or nothing thing lately. It can be hard to find that balance sometimes. I've been saying for a long time that people are confusing Natural Family Living with Attachment Parenting, or maybe they've put them into one big mixing pot. In any case, it's getting out of control. I do the best I can for my family with what I have to work with, just like the rest of the parents in the world. I don't care if you use disposables or cloth, if you eat organic or not. We should be looking for more and better ways to support each other, not tear each other down.


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