I'm a rebel. Well, sometimes I think I am. There are certain circles in which I feel totally integrated, very encouraged by the like-mindedness and support as to the parenting style we've chosen. And in others...well, I just feel...different. Somewhat painfully so. So I'm choosing to label those times my "rebel mom" times, because it gives me a bit more confidence than using a term like, say, "freako mom".
Here are some reasons why I am a rebel:
- We do not use physical punishments with our children. We most definitely believe in discipline, but choose to use other methods to guide our children's behavior.
- I do not believe in sleep-training infants.
- I don't believe that responding to a baby's cries will cause them to become needy, manipulative, or over-dependant.
- I do not believe that infants can be spoiled by nursing them on demand, whether for hunger or comfort.
- I practice extended breastfeeding/child-led weaning.
- I do not believe that babies/children must be kept out of the "marriage bed".
- I deeply believe that my Christian faith supports each and every one of these conclusions, and that there is no Biblical basis I have found which contradicts them.
There are many people in my life who would disagree with some, or even all, of these things. I respect that, and I would never for a second allege, or even imply, that any of my mama friends are doing the "wrong" thing because they choose to parent differently. Everyone needs to choose the parenting style and techniques that work best for them.
But why did I have to end up in the road-less-traveled group? Here's the thing about rebel-dom...it can be a lonely place. And it's particularly frustrating to find that I most often feel alone in Christian circles. It shouldn't be surprising, since the prominent Christian parenting literature, resources, and gurus out there right now mostly seem to line up on the side of a different approach. And again, it's not that I think those things, in and of themselves, are "wrong"...but the ideas and methods suggested often just don't make sense to my heart personally.
Before I had Maya, I pored over parenting books, so desparately wanting to do the "right" thing. But when she was born and I was actually in the thick of parenthood, my heart led me in other directions. This, understandably, caused me some massive feelings of guilt in the begining, as I worried that I was failing as a mother, particularly as a Christian mother. And yet, somehow, I felt that it was God himself who was leading my heart. It wasn't until I found myself in an online community with a group of women from different backgrounds, areas of the country, and experiences, that I learned there was actually a method to my madness. Not only were there other people out there who were parenting the way we were, but there were resources, books, doctors, etc. that whole-heartedly endorsed and supported this approach, and from a Christian perspective! What a blessing! What confirmation!
Two-and-a-half years later, I am so certain that the decisions we've made have been the right ones for us, in spite of the many mistakes we've no doubt made so far. Our daughter is bright, well-adjusted, empathetic, cooperative, loving, and independant, even though I nursed her for two years, fed her on demand, never let her cry herself to sleep, and have never used physical correction. Our marriage is stronger, in every sense, than ever before, even though Maya spent many a night for quite some time sharing our bed. And I'm approaching our second round of the newborn stage with a confidence I didn't have the first time, knowing that the choices we will make are ones that feel right to us and line up with the example that we believe God sets for us as our Heavenly Father.
And yet, why do I sometimes still struggle with feeling like a rebel? Why does it only take one pointed comment or a discussion in which I feel like an outsider to suddenly make me feel so...lonely?
I'm a rebel. With a cause. And it's one I'm intensely passionate about. But sometimes, I have to admit, it sucks.