Wednesday, March 11, 2009

Fear of a unique path

There are days when I feel like we are on a totally original parenting path. Choosing not to conform to the parenting choices around us seems to mean choosing to blaze a new trail. No, not in the global sense (we are not inventing totally new ways of doing things), but in a local sense. Being the first of the 'real' people we know, the first among our peers to do things differently, has left us feeling like pioneers, and we've experienced the accompanying sense of aloneness.

I have found that parenting has no autopilot. Every day brings new choices. Even if it is a choice you made yesterday, you have to choose to make the same choice today, or to do it differently. What is more, each choice seems to lead to one camp or another. Once you take the first step in a particular direction, it is hard to know how long to walk that path. Like joining a religious movement or a political party, there is pressure to conform, and I wonder if the "others" will accept us if we don't buy into everything. Can I choose to cloth diaper, but not buy organic? What if I breastfeed, choosing even to nurse past one year, but don't wait for child-led weaning? What if I pick up my son when he cries, never leaving him to sob himself to sleep, but keep him happy in a swing or exersaucer every chance I get? Am I leading a false life if I profess natural parenting, but my home is filled with plastic toys?

Adding to the stress of these external influences, the various schools of thought that make up my internal landscape seem to be at odds with each other as well. Sorting out how to remain true to what I believe, and also parent in a way that is filled with loving kindness, overwhlems me. I feel like a walking oxymoron at times. How can I rectify my respect for leadership and firm moral roots, with my heart's longing for gentle discussion and understanding, and my head's logical assessment of the science behind behaviour? To simplify, how can I belive in both autocracy and democracy, or natural development and behavioural reinforcment, when these things seem to be consistently at odds with one another?

How much easier would it be to just join up with a group and go with the flow? To do everything the same as the majority at church, or in my neighbourhood mom's group, or at my breastfeeding support group, or as the professionals in my workplace... My head is tired from the struggle, from considering things from all the angles, from thinking and thinking about the choices we make for our family, our son.

Is there any way for me to describe sufficiently the longing I have to truly connect with someone in real life? Because of the internet and myriad of published books out there, I am never at a loss to read the words of someone who shares my perspective or passion in any given subject. But message boards and books always leave the speaker at arm's length, only giving such a limited view of that person. Okay, so I know your thoughts on how nuture a child. What about your thoughts on spirituality, nutrition, marriage, work, art, fitness.... and the list goes on and on.

I guess I am afraid of walking a totally unique path, both as a mother, and otherwise. I don't need the whole world to share my perspective on every little thing, but meeting just one other would be nice. My longing for the perfect mentor mom is so pervasive. What a load off of my shoulders it would be to be able to have someone to run to the next time I don't know which way to turn! In my fantasy, she would have just the perfect solution, complete with logical and heartfelt reasons, and it would marry beautifully with the rest of my life. I would leave my meeting with her feeling competent and empowered, knowing just what to do next.

The reality of course, is that my perfect mentor does not exist. Adult life is defined by the struggle, the doubts and regrets, the wondering if you did the right thing, and what you will do next. It is not surprising that these feelings are brought into even sharper relief when undertaking a task as complicated and important as parenting. So we move forward, persistently weaving together our spiritual, moral, intellectual, interpersonal and intuitive knowledges as we come to each fork in the road. May you have God's blessing on the journey.

1 comment:

Chrisy said...

Really enjoyed reading your piece. My children are grown but I loved being a mother...still do...and if I could go back I'd do it much the same...but without the worry....the agonising...with more confidence...more relaxing...more laughter (particularly when all that wellmeaning but demoralising 'advice' was given by others).

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