You’re at one of Oklahoma City’s many delicious restaurants. You skim down the menu and see all the pre-planned meals. You could get a number three, a combo, a boxed lunch, or a house special. But, you don’t feel like any of those are right for you. You’d rather choose the side item from the number two, with the entrée from the number eight, and the salad that comes with that other combo meal.
So instead, you order à la carte.
Just like every appetite is different, so is every child. It may be an unpopular belief, but I think there is no right or wrong way to parent. There aren’t parenting “styles,” guidebooks, or steadfast rules. Instead, we’re all picking and choosing what works for us and ordering up our motherhood à la carte.
As a new mom, there’s an overwhelming need to feel like I’m doing everything right. And there are naysayers and supporters around every corner. On top of making decisions about what I feed my son, in what room he sleeps, or what childcare provider is best for our family, I struggled (really struggled) with the idea that I had to fall into a specific parenting style. I used to think there was a reason why established parenting styles existed, and that I had to find the one for me.
I’ve been accused by onlookers, friends, co-workers, family, and complete strangers of following every type of parenting style out there. It made me anxious, fearful, and even guilty until I realized it’s ridiculous to think I can fit all of my parenting decisions – whether good or bad – into one square box and throw a label on it.
Free range, attachment, positive, helicopter, permissive, instinctive, slow, strict, tiger.
What happens when none of those labels fits your version of motherhood? Look at me, for example.
I’m a helicopter parent because my anxiety leads me to it. I’m not a helicopter parent because I’ll gladly hand my kid off to the first person who offers me a break.
I’m an attachment parent because I co-sleep due to my baby’s extreme colic that warranted extra attention. I’m not an attachment parent because there are supplemental formula cans in my kitchen.
I’m an attachment parent because I love to wear my baby. I’m not an attachment parent because I don’t plan to practice extended breastfeeding.
I’m a free-range parent because I want my son to explore his independence. I’m not a free-range parent because I don’t trust the world around him.
I don’t practice sleep training, yet I believe in routines and structure. I believe you can’t spoil a baby by picking him up, though discipline is important to me. I try holistic alternatives to medicine, but I don’t use cloth diapers. I’m a working mom with a corporate career. My child attends day care, and his pacifier is his best friend.
There is no box for me to fit into. There is no label to give me.
Like all moms, I’m doing what is best for my baby and my family. And that rightness varies from child to child. You just figure it out as you go, and you go at your own pace.
I wish it was easy to ignore the judgments of others. Even though it’s hard and the negativity hurts your pride, there is something we can do to fix this “parenting style” epidemic. Instead of tearing down other parents for their choices or questioning their decisions, lift them up instead.
For every person who gives you a funny look for wearing your baby in Target, there can be someone who gives you a high-five or approving smile. For every stranger who glares at you for letting your baby cry in public, there can be someone who helps you with the stress of figuring all this out.
Because when it comes down to it, I don’t believe there are one-size-fits-all parenting styles. I think we all have our own style and it looks like this:
[Your name here] style.
It has taken me a while to get here, but I’m proud of Heather style. It’s my à la carte version of motherhood, and it’s all mine.
Be proud of yours, too.