• Fri, Jan 10 - 5:00 pm ET

Anonymous Mom: The ‘Natural Parenting’ Movement Can Kiss My Ass

HC4242-001I don’t treat motherhood like a job and I’m not terribly invested in doing everything just right. If I never spent time with other moms or went on the internet, this would probably make me feel totally fine almost always. The natural parenting movement specifically, though, is exactly the sort of thing that makes a mom like me feel way out to sea and judged by other moms.

For example, I use a play pen. It’s great. My eight-month-old son can play independently in there for a good 40 minutes while I check what’s going on in the world on my laptop with my morning coffee. He’ll look up at me and smile and I’ll smile back. Or he’ll make little noises at me and we’ll play back and forth sounds for awhile before he goes back to what he was doing and so do I.

But a play pen is a cage, right? Stifles creativity? That seems to be a thing now, something people believe. I’m not sure when this happened. Online people will say you’re being lazy. In person, you mention a play pen and there is a blank look or a sidestep in the conversation, the sort normally used to avoid uncomfortable conversations. See also exersaucers, otherwise known as Wheels Of Neglect. It really sounds like people are giving their babies and toddlers free access to entire rooms all the time and following them around to keep them and their stuff safe. This makes me feel tired.

I don’t make my own baby food. I’ve tried a little and my son prefers smooth purees still, after a late bloom into solids. Homemade is always a little lumpier. But moms I meet with go on about baby food recipes, and solids seminars put down commercial foods. One lady in charge even said the jars contain preservatives (They don’t. Vacuum sealing is a non-chemical preservation method) and I watched other moms shake their heads; no, they wouldn’t give their babies that. Well, I am. I was feeling pretty chuffed my baby was finally eating, but after one seminar I went home feeling deflated.

And the baby-led weaning people. Jesus. Okay, I fully support anyone doing whatever to put the calories and nutrients into their baby’s belly. If that’s your thing, do it, love it, and rock on. Take pictures, feel awesome about it and glow with pride and your baby explores food. But they all (Every one that I’ve met) want you to do it too. It’s the best. It’s just better. It’s worth the mess.

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  • jeremyabrams

    The very act of surrendering claws, fangs and fur and becoming the human species was unnatural, and we’ve been artificial ever since.

    We co-sleep, but only because my wife is Japanese, and because we like it. But our kids don’t know how to sleep in beds and we have to put both of them between us on a king-size in hotel rooms and sleep very lightly in case one of them tries to roll around.

    We love disposable diapers, and I cordoned off the dining room when the kids were toddlers (first house, we had no table and delayed getting one), turning the entire room into a playpen, except we didn’t have to call it that.

    Our boys (now five and seven) can download anything they want that’s free on a Kindle, after describing it, but they have to share it, and on any car trip, they have to read a book before they get the Kindle. No TV during the week, no Kindle on the weekend, except for long trips. To each his or her own.

  • Smack

    There are serious repercussions from this baby-centric parenting that seems to be in vogue that such parents aren’t contemplating and, perhaps, out of their own selfishness to fully suck the marrow out of ‘baby time’ are doing a serious disservice to their children.

    Its great when your six month old wants you hold them so they can fall asleep…its not so great when that child gets to be 3 years old and is up at all hours of the morning because they’ve never been taught to fall asleep on their own. Also not fun, having a toddler that does not know how to play themselves (always needing parent directed play) or otherwise entertain themselves, or know how to fall and brush it off without a nuclear meltdown, or know that failure means trying harder next time and not giving up so that mommy or daddy can do it for you, etc.

    Case in point, both of our children were placed in their own rooms by the third week we brought them home from the hospital. Each day that week, we would let them cry themselves to sleep and for each, after one week, they were able to sleep through the night on their own…at one month old. One of my friends took a different approach…constantly going to get her baby in the middle of the night when he’d start crying. She did this for an entire year. By age four and half, her kid finally slept a whole night.

    Sure, if you want a permanent 6 month old, then do the baby centric parenting…just know where the blame lies when little Johnny is starting school and cannot figure out how to follow directions on his own, make friends on his own, go to the bathroom on his own, be creative on his own, etc. The greater failure as a parent is not losing out on some of the closeness (or ‘bonding’ as some of the literature puts it) of your kid’s childhood, it is failing to teach your children to become independent and fully functional human beings. Parenting isn’t about what the parents get out of the deal…its about what the children get out of the deal.

    • jane smith

      While I tend to agree with you, I still think in the grand scheme of things, baby-centric raised babies will probably be ok. They are fed, cared for, educated and have parents who worry about their welfare in some way and certainly love them. Parents have personalities too- if letting the baby cry would stress them out that much, its probably not a good thing for the baby either.

    • Justme

      Unfortunately, a lot of those “baby-centric” parents turn into “child-centric” parents and that CAN cause a lot of problems in the grand scheme of things.

    • jane smith

      I might intuitively think this- and in the lack of controlled research go with my intuition, but I don’t think its clear cut enough to say they are producing future problems for society. Neglected children? yes. Abused? Of course. Children taught racist, violent beliefs? Yep, future problems. Children who are too coddled with parents that act like martyrs? Annoying maybe to me, but too complex and culturally determined to say this can cause large problems.

      There is a risk of the confirmation bias here on either side-lets say I subscribe to Y parenting style. Every kid I see who grows up to be a problematic adult who was raised X way is seen as confirmation of X being a bad way to parent. Those raised X way yet turn out fine are ignored/not noticed, those raised Y way who turn out fine are seen as confirmation and those that are problematic and raised Y way are just that way despite their parents ‘being great parents and trying their hardest’. The peer reviewed research on this is messy and all over the place- basically too many factors to consistently show which style is better. It depends on what you measure as well as a million other geographic, ethnic, individual differences etc. etc. intervening variables.

    • Justme

      I live and teach in an upper middle class suburban area. I see the effects of baby-centered and child-centered rearing on a daily basis. It’s definitely not the majority of the students I teach, but for those kids who have never had boundaries, never had to face repercussions of their actions, always had someone hovering over them and ready to protect them from adverse effects…it DEFINITELY doesn’t serve them well.

      I have parents who are going nuts because their child will receive a 94 for the six weeks and not a 95. Students who routinely forget to do their homework or test corrections all nine weeks, but whose parents swoop in at the last minute to see if they can redo all the work for deadlines that have passed. Students who are failing miserably in my advanced placement classes but whose parents refuse to put them in a class better suited for the student because they don’t want to damage their child’s self-esteem.

      These parents are their own worst enemy and although their intentions might be pure, the fact remains that their actions will not produce adults who are ready to face the real world and all that it entails.

      And yes, I have seen children come from terrible home lives to go on and be wonderful. And children come from wonderful homes who turn out to be menaces to society. But I think those cases are few and far between – ask any teacher about their troubled students and they will tell you that when they meet the parents…the student’s behavior makes more sense.

    • jane smith

      I don’t disagree and have heard/seen the same thing. I wasn’t teaching long before I went into research, but I felt the same way but I am not totally objective. I am talking about letting them cry vs. not at night etc. leading to major problems (like prison, unemployment). You can guess how these people parented, but you don’t really know. Parents may have selective memory of their parenting style 16 years ago in light of what is popular now- who knows what they actually did. I know I’m not changing your mind about what you intuitively sense- I just generally wish people would acknowledge the limitations of observation and intuition (like the AP types…). I am a scientist and biased towards that I guess. Though Stephen Hawking said “I would rather be right than rigorous” so you may be spot on here. Seriously, I think/hope you are. And honestly, my focus is on younger kids. I’ve also never met a parent who said they were an AP- just ones who had what looked like parts of it.

      In HS though there is a lot on the line for the kid screwing up. It might be worth the parents getting involved just to get them into the best possible college. Then, as long as they graduate, the better the school, the better their chances in life. Of course, going to graduate school requires good grades but for just getting a job, they don’t ask for transcripts. And some kids really do turn it around in college when they can study mostly what they want- not take high level classes is what they don’t etc. Probably some/many you describe will be in for a rude awakening but hopefully they will pull it together with parents out of the way. I also hope the parents in the case of asking to redo all the homeworks, while advocating for their kid so their record wasn’t ruined, also took away their computer, cell phone whatever else they enjoy. Do you feel like you have to give in to parents demands about making up work though?

      Try little kid’s parents though- they are bad too! I was told we had to allow a boy to take more blocks than he was allowed during play time (there was a class rule) because he earned them by asserting himself and that was his right. I don’t know what style this is but it was Kindergarten- we were working on sharing.

    • Justme

      I think we are saying the same thing, but in different ways. I’m talking about the more formative years of childhood, between 18 months and five years. It’s during that time that people become SO child-centric….and then continue that pattern on into a their child’s adolescence. I think there are parenting philosophies across the spectrum that aide in the idea that a child is the center of the household instead of a child being part of a household, and for me…therein lies the danger. My daughter is a very significant part of my life and who I am as a 30 year old woman, but she is not the ONLY part. I am a daughter, a wife, a friend and a teacher as well – and I think that’s the part that these child-centric parents are missing out on.

      My original response didn’t single out any type of parenting philosophy…only the idea that children should be the center of a parent’s universe and the fact that that expectation could have dangerous and lasting consequences.

  • rbeccah

    Good for you, Anonymous Mom! How did anyone ever raise children without Dr. Spock and all his “expert” wannabes, I wonder. I raised my children the way I was raised, and they turned out fine, as have their children, and I hope someday, THEIR children.

    • jane smith

      I would just say, women should probably try to think a little objectively about how they were raised and be comfortable with improvements where it makes sense- some people had pretty bad childhoods or even normal childhoods with room for improvement.

      I was allowed to engage in dangerous sports without effective helmets…because they were not available or popular. Now they are available for everyone and kids wear them.

  • Peggy Coffey

    I am so totally with you on this . I formula fed my babies because of C-sections and all of my cousins did too. Nothing wrong with this. I actually had to make my own formula from my grandmother’s recipe (diluted canned milk and baby vitamins, which my doctor said was fine) because of my son’s allergies. I did get bad looks because of that, no fancy allergy formula for me, too expensive. We had disposable diapers, feed on time and regular bedtime, no matter how much they cried. They are now grown and happy and well adjusted humans. Just what I wanted.

  • Katherine Handcock

    Totally with you, not necessarily on the “natural parenting” practices per se — I did do many of them — but on the “who cares what you do if it is right for you?” part! Things like no playpens, feeding homemade baby food, etc. worked for me; awesome. If they don’t for you, that’s great too. It’s not like you’re feeding your baby rat poison or locking them in a closet!

    I want to start a parenting movement called No One Solution, where we all finally admit/advocate to each other that different families are, well, different, and a solution is only a solution if it actually works.

  • sez-who

    God bless you! I am so sick of nosy parkers. When did smarmy know-it-alls become socially acceptable, instead of getting the frequent beatings they so richly deserve?

  • Teleute

    I agree with a lot of what you are saying, but I’d hardly consider “baby-led weaning” an extreme form of parenting.

    • Susan

      It’s not extreme if the baby leads the weaning at, say, a year. It is extreme if the baby leads the weaning as he’s entering kindergarten.

    • Teleute

      You’re talking about extended breastfeeding. I’m talking about baby-led weaning. You’re comparing apples and… breast milk. Literally.

    • Andrea

      Yeah except some kids don’t self-wean. When you are old enough to ask for it, it seems to me they are too old to do it. But I guess that’s my western-centric mentality.

    • Teleute

      Baby-led weaning entails allowing babies to feed themselves a variety of real “people foods,” as opposed to spoon-feeding them single-ingredient cereals and purees. It has nothing to do with when they cease formula or breastfeeding.

    • ChickenKira

      I think where the issue is getting skewed is that there are a portion of self-called BLWers who don’t understand the concept themselves.

      Letting your kid handle their own food is awesome. Preventing your kid from starting solids until 18 months is not awesome. Unfortunately, if you browse many AP boards on many parenting forums, you will discover that many have the point of BLW confused with “I don’t want my little one to grow up”.

      I’m part of an internet group for mothers with kids in born in the same month and there are two mothers in there who are adamant that they will not start solids until after one year old. They call it BLW, but of course, that’s not what BLW is. Especially not when one is always talking about her baby reaching out for food “but she also reaches out for the cat, so should she eat the cat too?”.

      It’s just another fad.

    • Teleute

      Awesome response. :-) And I’ve encountered such mombies as well. They tend to be the same women who find no fault in breastfeeding during sex.

      I never did BLW with my son, but I sure as hell wish I had! I stuck with the traditional recommendations, and four years later my child is still subsisting on a diet of milk (from cow, not Mom), Cheerios, and bananas. Meanwhile, I have BLWing friends whose one-year-olds could be gourmet food critics!

  • http://shameonbetterbirth.wordpress.com/ Shameon Betterbirth

    I’m pretty sure patriarchy is set up to punish all women for whatever they choose, and then blame them for it.

    • richard40

      Except all lf the people she is complaining about are other women. Stop this patriarchy BS. Women are usually much harder on other women than any men are.

    • nadadhimmi

      There is no such thing as Patriarchy in the US today. The culture is completely feminized from top to bottom with detailed, encoded, institutionalized mysandry in place for the last 2 decades. As a woman, you fail to see it because EVERYTHING is programed to go your way based upon your sex and sex alone. Militant feminists have won the war on boys and men thru hatred and sexism. It’s disgusting: and TRUE.

  • Alborn

    For all you moms out there that think there is anything to the breastfeeding crap just know that it is just another government created recommendation to try and save some money from the WIC program. Formula fed is just as good no matter what you have heard. Some babies have to try a few different formulas to get the right one just like some babies cannot tolerate breast milk. So relax and get to know your own baby and what works best for you. The best expert for me was my mother-in-law who knows more about babies than any of the so-called specialist today or any other day for that matter. Just love motherhood for it is a gift to have a child.

    • http://Mommyish.com/ Eve Vawter

      wait.. what?

  • Susan

    I totally LOVE you.

  • Kira

    You could be writing about me! Except I use disposable diapers. Thank you for this! My kids are 2.5, healthy, happy, easy going and….great sleepers. Thank you for writing this. Sometimes we 80′s moms can feel awfully alone in 2014

  • Naiad

    This essay reminds me of Fox news railing against the war on Christmas. Your parenting practices are totally mainstream. You are in the majority. When you are out in public, how many kids do you see in strollers as opposed to carriers? Look at breastfeeding statistics: only a minority of babies are exclusively breastfed for even three months, never mind six. There is a whole advertising campaign against cosleeping in the US, and at least if Mommyish is anything to go by, sleep trainers seem to be in the majority. I see tons of babies out in public with pacifiers–they are hardly a rarity. Yet you act like you are some renegade fighting against intense pressure. Maybe it’s the websites you choose to look at, or maybe it’s the people you socialize with, but I think the whole issue is in your own imagination. You are part of a trend I’ve noticed in the mommysphere of a kind of reverse sanctimommy who makes a big deal about what a retro mean mommy she is as if she’s some rebel bucking the trend because she’s too savvy and independent-minded to give up her own happiness like those other grim, sexless martyrs. You’re the norm–why are you so defensive about it that you feel the need to attack imaginary stereotypes?

    • jane smith

      You are the norm or the minority depending on which population you sample from. World-wide- who knows? Maybe spoon feeding is the minority. But, she doesn’t live in the entire world, or the whole country or state or city for that matter. Her day to day interactions are in a smaller subset of people in which she may be the minority.

      This is like telling an Asian-American to stop complaining because they are the majority (in the world).

      Its also incorrect that ‘babies breast-fed at 3-months, let alone 6, are the minority’- among women not eligible for WIC (supplemental program for low-income women)- the MAJORITY are still breastfeeding at 6-months and more than a quarter (almost 30%) are still breastfeeding at 1 year! That is the whole country- imagine how much of a tiny minority a non-breast feeding woman would be in a progressive, somewhat educated area.

      http://www.cdc.gov/breastfeeding/data/nis_data/

      There is also the issue of judgement- regardless of majority/minority status, the parents she described seem to me to be more outspoken about their methods and openly critical of others. Breast feeding may be important- but low maternal stress levels are probably more important.

    • Sara H

      Um… According to your link, the CDC data completely supports what Naiad said, which was “Only a minority of babies are exclusively breastfed for three months, never mind six.” Their tables show about a 30% rate of exclusive breastfeeding at 3 months during the 2000s.
      Not making any statement on the larger debate, but you may have misinterpreted the tables.

    • Justme

      But even if they are the norm in the world, when you break it down to their specific income-level, neighborhood and social circle, they might not be and that’s where the intense judgment and scrutiny from others might show up.

  • kristen

    Everyone should just do what works for them, only offer advice when asked, and mind their own freaking business. I save my judgment for santimommies and non-vaxers.
    I baby wear and use a stroller, we do BLW at home but she eats baby cereal at daycare, we cloth diaper but she’s been sleeping in a crib in her own room since day 1.

    • kristen

      Oh and I loved my epidural. Thank God for epidurals. Before labor I was always like to each there own, I respect people who go med-free. After childbirth I’m baffled by any one who doesn’t get pain mefs.

  • Justme

    My sister-in-law is one of these people. It’s not her dogma that bothers me, it is the superiority complex that she attaches along with it that drives me absolutely insane (and consequently, turned me off the whole “natural” parenting movement).

    • Bethany Ramos

      You should write an anon mom on this :)

    • Justme

      I could write an anon novel on the crazy things that have come out of her mouth. But…at the end of the day, she loves her three boys, so who am I to really judge?

      Well. I do judge, let’s be honest. My husband and I both come from an educational background. We know kids. We understand how they are created, how they function and how they will go on to become adults. I know that in a scientific forum our opinions don’t go for anything, but there must be something said for the experience we have with students and their families.

  • richard40

    I would call it competitive mothering. They got tired about bragging about possessions, homes, and vacations, so now its natural mothering. These are the same kind of people that have to get their kid into the super selective preschool, that only takes the best children from the best families, so they can qualify for the selective kindergarten.

    • nadadhimmi

      It’s called the pathological need to control other people’s actions, word’s and even thoughts. This is just one small aspect of this pervasive American problem. It’s called Totalitarianism. It’s called “Progressivism”.

    • richard40

      Yes, once you carry those kind of attitudes to the political realm it becomes progressivism or leftism.

  • SusannahJoy

    It’s so sad that you feel the need to defend your choices like this. And I don’t mean sad as in “you are pathetic” but sad as in “seriously why the hell would anyone need to defend themselves like this? obviously you love your kid and are doing the best you can, isn’t that enough?” For the record, we used to use cloth, but are switching to disposables because the cloth ones just don’t seem to hold in his poop. I give him a microwaved sweet potato that I mash up, but that’s the only food I make, everything else is baby food. I do breastfeed, but I hate it. The kid just WONT take a bottle, and since he’s underweight, we can’t exactly do the whole “he’ll eat when he’s hungry enough!” thing. And I LOVE Ferber. The kid went from waking up screaming every hour to sleeping for 10 hours straight within a week. We haven’t used a playpen yet, but that’s because he’s only just barely learning to crawl. We have one that’s not set up yet. This all works for us. It won’t work for everyone. And that’s ok. Do what works!

  • nadadhimmi

    Every goddamned Liberal on Planet Earth wants to tell everybody else what to do. We’ve got food nazi’s, smoke nazi’s, car nazi’s, excercize nazi’s, salt nazi’s, sugar nazi’s, play date nazi’s, cotton diaper nazi’s, and every other type of Liberal nazi you can possibly conceive of. This woman’s initial response is the correct one of course; “Kiss my ass”

    • Justme

      Last time I checked, it’s not just the “liberals” that are out to tell me what to do. I live in Texas. The state legislature – full of mostly older white gentlemen, mind you – is trying to tell me what to do with my body.

  • Raeronola

    Sing it, sister. I had a c section. It was AWESOME. I do the baby wearing thing and breastfeeding, but I will also happily plop my kid in the Ring of Neglect and let him stare at spongebob while I red my morning internets.

    I have a friend who recently had an at home water birth after a c section. On her birth announcement it said “baby name so and so, born at home in the water, healing home birth after a c section.”

    So I really wanted to send out very belated announcements like,”baby raeronola jr, surgically excised from my body in a state of the art medical facility. Delicious morphine included.” Husband thought it might be a bit antagonistic.

  • pontificatrix

    Damn, I wish my kids would have sat in a playpen for forty minutes by themselves. !!! Neither of mine would tolerate thirty seconds in there. I used to leave them in there wailing for just about thirty while I went to pee, that was about the max use I got out of the thing.
    And the ten hours of sleep thing? Where’d you get your kid, if I could guarantee I got one like yours I’d go on and have another.

  • Stevee Eliza Campbell

    I had to share this post!! Im so in love with every part! I breastfed for 6 weeks, but formula fed from then on due to him making me bleed. I cloth diapered for a few months but disposables are a lifesaver! My son is healthy and happy and he was born in a hospital, formula fed, ate baby jar food, self settled, goes in a pram instead of being worn. Babywearing, co-sleeping, etc didn’t work for me and having it thrown down my throat really gets me cranky. Ive even been told that formula is “baby poison” -.-

  • Lucy

    My mom didn’t breastfeed me or my 2 siblings and we all turned out healthy and fine. I had someone once be all horrified when I mentioned that, and be like, “does that upset you?” Um, no. Why would it? I’m alive and healthy and my mom is awesome. Why the fuck would I care what I ate as a baby?

  • val97

    Yeah, don’t worry about it. Some day soon, when your kids are all in kindergarten at the same time, none of it will matter. You cannot look at room full of 5 year olds and determine which ones were put in play pens (except I would guess that those kids are better behaved, but I’m biased).

  • Sherri

    I think I love you. I can’t think of one thing that we differ on. I need to stop apologizing for not breastfeeding. It isn’t anyone’s business why I’m not. I don’t want to. Period. Any reason is a good enough reason, so leave me alone.

    I work (THE HORROR!!). I formula feed (GASP!). I use a stroller and an exersaucer (EVIL!!1!). I’m okay with it and myself.

    If you live in VA, let’s meet up!

  • http://www.twitter.com/ohladyjayne allisonjayne

    I haven’t read through all the comments yet, but just wanted to say that this article was actually really great. I truly hate articles that disparage ‘judgey’ parents and then go on to be really judgey about what other parents are doing, which quite frankly was what I was expecting from this article (I’ve seen so many like that – “I hate how judgmental some people are about X! I did Y and it was sooo much better than X and if you did X, you’re just ridiculous!”). But this totally wasn’t like that.

    Like I (we) do with all parenting decisions, I (we) looked at all the options, talked to other folks about what worked for them, and then figured out what worked for us…and if it didn’t work for us, then we tried something else. So a lot of stuff was half-assed for us, or a modified version of whatever, or we did X for however many months it was working until it wasn’t working anymore.

    And I really truly try my best not to be judgey or shitty to other people. Unless asked, I don’t really talk about what we did. Mostly because really, once you are out of the baby phase, none of it seems all that interesting anymore.

  • Paul White

    nooo! You’re parenting style is different than ours and therefore invalid, regardless of any extenuating circumstances. BAD PARENT!

    (if anyone ask, yes, that’s sarcasm).

    People are adaptable. If people give you hell tell them to mind their own business.

  • Polyamorous Mom

    I can tell you, I did cosleep with the last one and it is one of my biggest regrets EVER. I want this insanely mobile, hot, limb flailing, two and a half year old that takes of 3/4 of a wueen size mattress OUT. ive asked Eve if I can write about it. lol

  • Pappy

    80′s mom! I freakin’ love it. Can’t we make this a new parenting trend? Like, parents who do similar stuff can smirk at the crunchy, judgy mom and say “I go old-school. I’m an 80′s Mom in a new century.” That’s what I’m gonna do. :-D

  • Counterculturalist

    What I find hilarious about stupid and lazy parents (such as this one) is the fact that the Natural parenting community doesn’t even give a damn about what you do to your kids, but when surveying articles you all seem to be the most hot headed and angry about these hippie parents doing their own thing. If you want to fill your kid with BPA, and all the other toxins and chemicals found in plastic and formula cans, go right ahead. If you want to inject them with every flu vaccine until they become autistic for Mercury poisoning, be my guest. If you want to make your child scream themselves to sleep while you put ear =plugs on , do it. Watch TV to the point it cognitively defects them? Sure! Feed them junk food so they can die from heart disease like millons of americans already sure! Oh! Oh! And if you want to be part of the reason why the earth is in a ecological turmoil, go ahead. It just goes to show how lazy inconsiderate and selfish you all are, and how you’re so angry that there are parents out there who care about their kids more than themselves. Peace!