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How Parenting Theories Are Like Organized Religion

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Last week I was banned from a fellow mom blogger’s Facebook page. My offense? Cautioning restraint when categorizing other people’s parenting styles and encouraging compassion towards other parents.

In all honesty, that ban made me feel like a badass. I own it like a badge of honor. Ban away, you close-minded individuals who decry being shunned in a close-minded society!

This particular banner advocates for attachment parenting, the approach to baby raising that's all about co-sleeping, baby wearing, unschooling and elimination communication. Not to be flip, but some of my best friends and family are into attachment parenting.

RELATED: What is Attachment Parenting?

My issue is not about attachment parenting. Have at it, I say. Birth those babies at home, breast-feed those little ones until they can cook for themselves, unschool to your heart’s content, carry that bum bowl around all you want. Full disclosure: I really wish you would vaccinate, because, you know, science. But I know you, too, think science is on your side in the vaccine debate, and there is no reasoning there.

A few days after my ban, I saw that a friend posted an article from a “peaceful” parenting page. “Huh,” I thought to myself, “What is peaceful parenting?” That’s when I made the mistake of clicking on the article and reading that African Americans use corporal punishment because “they” come from a “culture of violence.”

Shut the front door. Enough people. Seriously.

I’m going to say this loud, and I’m going to say this proud: I DO NOT FOLLOW ANY PARENTING THEORY. That does not make me a bad parent, just as it does not make those parents who rely on parenting theory good parents.

The way I see it, the older I get — and the fact that I am now raising a third baby — parenting theories are quite a bit like organized religion. They answer unanswerable questions. They provide structure and security where otherwise there would be chaos and endless questions about the unknown. They purport to know the right way. Those that practice and follow a particular one may tend to proselytize the merits of their chosen belief and condemn those who do not do the same. They, like their religious counterparts, often result in war. In this case, the mommy wars we are all so tired of hearing about. It's virtual and bloodless but full of righteous indignation nonetheless.

Attachment parenting is all about unconditional love, being attuned to your baby and demonstrating compassion towards that baby.

Just as I do not practice an organized religion, I do not subscribe to a specific parenting theory. I just can’t embrace that there is only one right way to parent. I can easily believe that there is one right way for individuals to parent – I mean we all look for something that fits our unique needs, skills and values – but I can’t endorse condemning others for following their own, perhaps different, style of parenting. Doing so requires a moral smugness that is beyond my comprehension.

The Facebook parenting page that banned me had posted an article about the practice of letting babies cry it out. The followers of this attachment parenting page appeared to be very happy and content to refer to parents who practice Ferberizing, or other sleep-training methods for babies, as “lazy shits” who are abusing their children. More than one questioned why people even chose to have children at all if they were just going to neglect and ignore them rather than care for them.

RELATED: The Science of Mommy Wars

There was the occasional timid comment from a parent, usually a mother, who would admit to putting the baby down for a few minutes to settle, just so they could settle themselves. Those posts were met with either a condescending, “We’re so glad you’ve come here to learn a better and loving method to raising your babies,” or the more condemning, “What you are doing is abuse and violating the rights of your baby.” A few went so far as to compare allowing your baby to cry it out to rape or, inexplicably, incest.

The social worker in me couldn’t help but leave my own comment. It was along the lines of, “Wow. There are some very judgmental comments on this thread. I wish folks understood that there are all different types of parenting and allowing a baby to cry it out, while not your preferred style, is in no way akin to rape or incest. Attachment parenting is all about unconditional love, being attuned to your baby and demonstrating compassion towards that baby. I wish more of you showed that same compassion for people choosing to parent differently than you are.”

BANNED. You just have to shake your head at the ridiculous nature of it all, the sad irony.

I can’t help but wonder whether those messages and values, which allow one to refer to perfect strangers on the Internet as lazy and abusive, trickle on down to those babies who are so loved and adored and exalted that they never pine for their mother’s arms, not even once.

When we start to tune out the parenting methods of others, when we refuse to allow that there are different styles and means in which to raise healthy and loved human beings, when we only wish to be exposed to like-minded individuals, well, folks, we’re missing out.

I can’t help but wonder whether those messages and values, which allow one to refer to perfect strangers on the Internet as lazy and abusive, trickle on down to those babies who are so loved and adored and exalted that they never pine for their mother’s arms, not even once.

I reject the hypocrisy of it.

In those months leading up to the birth of my first child, when I was pregnant at the same time as some close friends, and when, together, the topic of conversation would invariably turn to this parenting book or that parenting book, I learned to tune it out. I said to my husband, so clearly that I remember it still, “You know what my parenting theory is? Love my baby. That’s all.”

Ten years and three babies later, it’s still working.

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