Wednesday, 20 October 2010

I hate labels, and who doesn't?

The one and only German blog I follow (I know, it's sad, but I haven't found any that keep my interest) is 123windelfrei. It's an attachment parenting blog and has really well written and researched posts. The most recent post is about pressure exerted by some mothers on others, and how some seem to believe that if only you do everything according to the Attachment Parenting book, all ills will be avoided and your child will be picture perfect. Only that, of course, there are no guarantees, and Attachment Parenting doesn't work.

At the same time, a comparison was made that implies you are an Earth Mama if you breast feed, wear your baby, and co-sleep. Which made me defend my choice to wear baby, highlighting why it works for me (no pushing of pram after c-section, so it gets me out and about above all).

I thought a lot about this blog post (do read it if you read German), and how I came to even read her blog, as well as the label of attachment parenting and earth mama. And many other labels for that matter.

As to AP, I didn't even know the term until Cubling was about 6 months old. I don't follow AP, I do have the Sears book but only skim through it on occasions. However, I've learned what works for baby - in Cubling's case this was carrying her (she would scream in the pram, honest, we tried!) and I ended up cosleeping because it allowed me to get some rest and cope with her 2-3 hourly wakings so I could still function at work. I breast fed until she was almost 2 years (I weaned her at that point). Now, I wear Snowflake to sleep, breast feed and happy to co-sleep should this prove the only option to get sleep (so far it's not needed). I do not believe in crying it out just because it felt wrong to me. Basically, I've tried things and stuck with what worked and that happened to be rather close to AP (Incidentially, I don't do EC and wouldn't even consider doing it, and apparently that goes with AP).

Similarly, when I think about what is good for me (I am selfish!) and for my children, and how to contribute towards a future world that is fair and has resources for all, I try to make choices that work towards it. I consider what is important, what makes sense, and I try to look at everything from different angles so I don't end up in a dead end. I'm looking into creating a more sustainable lifestyle, into which changes are doable for us and acceptable for us, and I blog about it in the hope of discussing it with a wider community and maybe even inspiring others to think along new avenues - as I do when I read other blogs.

And yet I react against any implication of being labelled. And maybe many people hate to be labelled and shy away from making changes, choices or talking about it for fear of being labelled. I'm not an earth mama, just selfish and trying to get sleep and peace, and a happy child above all (like all of us). As far as the bigger picture is concerned, I'd like to have food in 40 years time, I'd like to have a planet that hasn't gone into chaos and where people can live and make a life without fighting for food, oil and other resources. I'm not a green warrior, honestly.

What bothers me is the discourse that puts labels on us and as a consequence alienates people from one another. Take AP and what 123windelfrei found when she was told by a mum that she must have done something wrong if her child developed cavities. There are no guarantees of course, but following AP religiously, and believing it to be the solution for everything is just plain wrong. It then becomes an ideology and you'll get people like me, who previously were quite happy with the label, suddenly backing off and not wanting to ever be labelled with it again. As a consequence, people may also end up changing their ways, e.g. stop co-sleeping/breast feeding a toddler (or stop "admitting" to it) just to avoid being labelled, thus de-normalising such practices (which to me is the greatest danger of all).

Similarly I'm at odds with other labels. I'm exploring the Transition idea at the moment, to great detail in fact. It's a perspective on things that I share and that inspires and motivates me. It's outlook is positive, realistic. Both many people practicing AP and involved in Transition, however, are at odds with my view on vaccinations and I find it truly difficult to be sat at a table with people who all agree on the evil of vaccinations when I see it as a blessing.

So again, the label doesn't cut it for me because we are diverse and who will ever fully fit the label and all that comes with it? Exactly, nobody. So let's not be so categorical, let's discuss and yes, even argue (I love a good argument as long as it's good natured). Just somehow I feel that labels do more harm than good. I'd rather describe myself as a mum who breast feeds (for a variety of reasons, not out of ideology), co-sleeps (because it works for me and I love cuddling my girls), and carries her baby (because she's happier that way and will sleep, and I can get on with chores or playing with the big sister while my hands are free). I'm not an attachment parent, I'm not an earth mama or an eco warrior, even if I use cloth nappies (I actually use them mainly because they are cheaper and nicer though I won't pretend that it doesn't feel good to pat my back about reducing my contribution to landfill).

Let's label each other less, and listen - and in the end do - more. Let's do this gently and with generosity towards each other.
Sermon over.



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