Monday, March 15, 2010

Eclectic Mom

Every once in a while, I think there are aspects of me as a mom that other people find surprising. Not long ago, a friend told me she was surprised that there was some "Ann Arbor mom" in me. If you live in this general area, or know anything about the city of Ann Arbor (home to the University of Michigan) then that comment will make some sort of sense to you. Ann Arbor moms are often pretentious (sorry but it's true) and are also known for being trendy and on the cutting edge of what's up and coming in the world of baby gear and baby care.

I agree with my friend--none of those characteristics accurately describe me. However, it is surprising yet true that I have chosen to do things with Charlie that definitely fit me into the label. Things like cloth diapering with Bum Genius diapers, making my own baby food and wearing my baby when and where ever possible.

About a week ago, a fellow blogger, Jen posted a great entry on her blog about how she's adapting to being the mom she wants to be. Her post got me thinking and I've been meaning to write this post all week but instead it's been rattling around in my head as I've sped through my days. In my comment to Jen I called myself an "eclectic mom" and that's exactly what I am. I wholeheartedly agree with her that it's best to break free from any of the various "parenting camps" and just go with the combination of your heart, head and gut when it comes to the question of how to parent.

I guess (at least in part) I'm able to do this because I am educated when it comes to early childhood development, theories, and practices. That background gives me comfort that I know what I'm doing even though I'm pretty sure I'd know what I was doing with my baby even if I didn't have the jargon to accompany my knowledge. To me, being an eclectic mom is all about one magical little word, balance. Among other things, it's about the equilibrium between being:
  • laid back and rigid
  • natural and convenient/practical
  • knowledgeable and open to new ideas
  • child focused and career oriented
But none of that is to say that I've got it all down. I'm nowhere near having all the pieces of the puzzle in place! I guess that's the whole point of this post though...that I try my best to lead with my instincts and to use my knowledge of my son's unique needs and personality to decide how to raise him, rather than steadfastly sticking to one way or method of parenting. In this way, I'm able to get the best of all the different schools of thought out there, and I'm able to stay centered on my baby's unique needs and abilities instead of fitting him into some standard measure or expectation of the things he "should" be doing.

With the seemingly endless plethora of parenting advice/opinion books and information out there, you can find at least one book that supports just about any parenting technique you want to try. And as I mentioned in this post, way back when Charlie was a tiny little thing, it can be absolutely maddening (especially to an overwhelmed new mom) how two books from two equally qualified "experts" will completely contradict one another. That's why, to me, it's essential to lead with the heart first, closely followed by the head.

One of my favorite professors used to say, "Ask Ten, Get Ten" as his reminder that opinions are exactly that, unique thoughts that can vary drastically from one person to another. That saying holds true with parenting too. If you have an issue on your mind, you can ask ten different people what they think and you are practically guaranteed to get ten different answers. That's both refreshing and infuriating!

As a mom, I honestly think one of the hardest things is the decision making...the weeding through all the information and resources to get to the bottom of what's really best for baby or what's really worth worrying about versus what should be left alone. The weight of that responsibility, that knowledge that another person's life is entirely dependent upon my decisions and my actions. Well I have to say that I'm so very thankful I have an amazing husband with whom I can discuss big decisions. I like being able to find out what he thinks and weigh my own ideas against his before I have to decide for sure. I like that our parenting decisions are (at least for the most part) a combination of his gut feelings and mine. I like that I have a partner in this consuming yet overwhelmingly joyful experience of raising a child. I am comforted by the knowledge that I don't have to do this all alone.

Whew, that was quite a lengthy and loaded post! I definitely rambled a bit more than I originally intended but it surely does feel good to have a place to purge all these thoughts and share my ideas. As always, I can't wait to hear what you all have to say in response! :)


Tweety said...

I totally agree with your idea of being a eclectic mom. I have purposefully steered away from reading too much on the subject of parenting and just follow my gut instinct. The key seems to be about balance and realizing that no one is perfect.

Good luck following your heart and gut. I think you are doing a great JOB!!!

Rachel said...

I love it! I know Little Man is only 2 months old, but I'm starting to find I'm throwing away what the "experts" say and finding out what works for us. I do have one book I'm waiting on, but mostly because I want to know what's healthy...not necessarily "normal," but I want to know he's healthy.

It's hard to know what to do, though. I want to make sure...well, I should just write a post on my own blog instead of in your comments :)

Way to go, Eclectic Mom - I love it and may steal the title :)

And I love love LOVE the picture!!!

Rebekah said...

I, too, am thankful I don't do this alone! Living out your guts is the best way to go. You're a beautiful mom and walk it out so graciously. Being an "eclectic" mom is a great analogy, as many of our philosophies on parenting are pulled from here an there. Some practices are old, some are new. And we all have a little Ann Arbor mom in us :).

BB said...

I LOVE this post. I think about this kind of stuff all the time. After telling my step-mom not to hold my seven month old while she cooked, she gossiped to my sister that she thinks I am uptight mom. It got me really thinking.. am I? The answer is yes and no. There are certain things (diet, paci/bottle weaning) that I do feel strongly about, but there are tons of other things that I am completely easy going about (food messes, playing in the refrigerator and dishwasher, sleeping, falls, rough play). But, screw my step-mom for gossiping about me anyway! 
I think the key here is to make sure that you are educated (by reading more than one book), and that you still think for yourself and make your own decisions. Sometimes it is really hard and even harder when others are passing judgment, but you just have to go with your gut. I do think the most important things are love, time and affection. The other stuff isn’t quite as important, but they still definitely matter.
My SILs both just do whatever their mom tells them she did. Now, I have no problem with this, but what I do have a problem with is the eye rolls I get when I decided NOT to give my eleven month old potato chips even though her kids didn’t keel over and die from it.
I like to google stuff. I love that there are so many forums out there that will answer my questions from hundreds of different moms so I can see others’ points of view, and then take what I like.

I like being an eclectic mom! I think it suits us!

Anonymous said...

That's great you've found your own mommy style! That is such an important step and you've managed to do it early, I think. Go you :) I think it's funny that the things you listed as being "trendy" like cloth diapers, babywearing and making your own baby food are actually old-fashioned, traditional practices that have simply been resurrected by we smart, trendy modern mamas.

Anonymous said...

what you are truly is sweetheart ,post more pics of your lil man :),I like your blog and find you to be a wonderful woman .Your Dh is truly lucky ,pleasant woman

Denver Jen said...

I LOVE the title that you assigned to this. Being from Colorado, I think your friend would have called you a "Boulder Mom":). This is so well-said. It's so hard being a mom and even harder if you are supposed to subscribe to a rigid philosophy. I like the eclectic motherhood philosophy for sure! Thanks for the link and the reassurance- you're the best!

Holly said...

This is a great post and you are a great mom. In fact, if I am ever blessed enough to become a parent, I plan on getting most of my advice from you and Nan, even if you haven't published your own parenting book at that point. (You could, by the way, and I'm not just biased because you're my big sister).