Friday, October 10, 2008

Chalk or cheese?

This parenting thing seems to bring out our judgmental and defensive bests. Every decision is fraught with choices and there is a huge need to justify and defend the choices we make and to prove all other possible choices and opinions wrong... And there are always equally good arguments for both sides of every parenting fence leaving you confused before you choose and mildly discontent and unsure when you do (or maybe that's just me?). Here are some of those choices and the judgments that come part and parcel with each of them...

If you bottle feed your children, you are screwing with their immunity and IQ. If you breastfeed, you have to go through the year wondering if the kid is getting enough nutrition and feeling bad that he doesn't look half as plump as the bonny, formula-fed babies, whose mothers have the benefit of knowing exactly how many ounces their child is getting.

If you vaccinate, you are unnecessarily pumping your kid's body with possibly dangerous biological material, interfering with his natural immunity and even putting him at risk of developing autism. If you don't vaccinate, you are irresponsibly putting your child at risk from potentially life-threatening diseases and also putting other kids at risk by reducing the herd immunity that everyone benefits from.

If you let your daughter play with dolls and kitchen sets, you are reinforcing gender stereotypes. If you don't, you are suppressing her natural instincts.

If you are a working mother, you are a neglectful, bad parent who puts her career before her god-given duty to her family. If you chuck it all up to stay at home with your kids, you risk becoming branded an empty-headed housewife who has given up her ambitions and wasted the investment that went into her education.

If you encourage your child to colour within the lines, you are inhibiting his creativity. If you just let him draw as he pleases, you are not teaching him the right way to do things.

If you send your kid to a traditional school (the kind you went to), you are not moving with the times. If you send him to one of those new-age schools, you are risking his future on something not yet proven to be successful.

If you turn to modern medicine for every cough and cold, you are destroying your child's natural immunity. If you follow slower and less effective remedies (home remedies, homeopathy), you are putting your faith in unproven stuff and making your child suffer needlessly.

If you don't allow them the 3Cs (chips, chocolates and cola), they will grow up to crave and binge on the stuff. If you do let them eat the poisonous stuff, they will grow up to be unhealthy and overweight.

If you stick to a schedule, you are not spontaneous enough. If you go with the flow, you are not providing a reassuring routine so that the child knows what to expect.

If you entertain him at mealtimes to get him to eat, you are not teaching him to eat food for food's sake and he's probably too distracted to realize and learn when to stop and is likely to have weight issues as an adult. If you don't, you are not making mealtimes fun and possibly under-feeding him.

If you are giving him fish, you are putting him at risk of mercury poisoning. If not, you are depriving him of brain food.

If you worry a lot, you are paranoid. If you don't, you don't care enough or are not careful enough.

If you follow the Ferber method, you are a cruel parent perpetrating child abuse. If you rocking them to sleep, you are not teaching them to self-soothe and develop good sleeping habits.

If you are into co-sleeping with your child, you are risking suffocation and compromising marital intimacy. If you believe in cot sleeping, you are isolating him and exposing him to higher stress .

If you don't shop for the baby till it is born, you are being stupidly superstitious. If you do, you are tempting fate.

If you have your kids at a younger age, you haven't given enough time for your marriage to mature. If you decide to postpone parenthood, you are risking genetic defects and you will be a doddering antique when your kid is an energetic teen.

If you tell them to respond to bullies in the same coin, you are teaching them to be agressive. If you tell them not to hit back, you are not teaching them to defend themselves. If you interfere in a bullying incident, you not letting them learn to cope by themselves. But if you don't step in, you are abandoning them.

If you spank your children, it's child abuse. If you don't, it's a case of "Spare the rod, spoil the child".

I'm sure there are many choices that I am missing. But my point is just that almost everything you do as a parent these days has become a choice. And the line between the choices is sharply drawn and your choice immediately brands you as a good or bad parent. And parents become almost rabid about not just defending their choice but even about attempting to convert others to their side of the fence. Since when did we go and make it all so complicated? I think we need a lot less of 'My Way Or The Highway' and a lot more of 'Live and Let Live'...


  1. Rohini, I think the key is flexibility and moderation. Each child is so different. But that said, in the old days there were no choices and children just grew. But then the competition to be super successful wasn't there. It's the need for that which is making the choices--I think.

  2. Well said Ro! Hear hear! I couldn't agree more. Why can't we just live and let live. All this judging, sanctimonious self affirmations, vindications and defensive arguments really get to me sometimes.

  3. i found myself vaccilaing between the choices reading your points!! so true so true...

  4. Very well said. I think it is the women especially who make it difficult for other women, constantly judging the choices, everything basically. Very rarely have I seen a dad say mean things to another dad or a mom just because he/she has a different way of bringing up his child.

  5. Anonymous12:15 am

    I LOVE this post!!! you have penned down stuff that SO many of us go through on a day-to-day basis!!

  6. Anonymous12:16 am

    Excellent true...btw first time de-lurking..i like the way you write.


  7. just another mommy12:55 am

    I agree with every*single*thing!
    I was gonna put up a similar post titled "mommy guilt"...but you've summed it up so much better!

  8. LOL! Very well written! We have turned into a judgmental lot, second guessing and rationalizing our actions. But we need to be reminded "Easy does it!"

  9. I think God gives us something called Mommy instinct along with the baby - and it works very well. People keep commenting and judging - forget them and trust your own gut instinct. The result will be a happier parent child relationship

  10. articulate as ever!!

    have to agree- we just need to live and let live and same holds for all the others who offer unsolicited gyaan

  11. Go, Ro, you tell 'em! Next round of drinks on me :D

  12. *Clap Clap*

    That is all I have to say for now.

  13. hey ro, great post. i think it's because as women we're a fairly insecure bunch, and here we're talking about the biggest projects ever - our kids! since we can't really calidate our decisions for years to come and we're never sure what we're doing is right either, we want others to do exactly as we do. anybody that doesn't do what we're doing is obviously a bad parent! obviously. :/
    you're so right, we just have to accept that there's a host of ways to go about doing these things for our kids and to each his own. we've got to learn to not make judgements, at least not verbally. it doesn't make this not-so-easy job of parenting any easier, all this mudslinging and criticism, non?

  14. ha. landed here, and smiled. maybe somewhere we think too much about parenting, and getting it right. our parents did it without much thought, thanks to their circumstances. and thanks to the fact that they had no idea that there was such a thing as traumatised kids! : )

  15. Very, very well written...You have summed it up so perfectly..Yeah we definitely need more of "Live and Let Live"..

  16. [Hillgrandmom] The competition and also the (misplaced, in my opinion) belief that these choices will make or break the kind of person our children will grow up to be...

    [Aqua] More than it getting to me, I hate that it makes me question and doubt my choices with alarming regularity...

    [Itchy] Me too, while writing it. Especially the link I found that trashes kids sleeping on their own...

    [Blinkandmiss] True. That is the basic insight behind the hugely successful saas-bahu serials!

    [V/ Sud/Asaan/ Anu] Thanks :-)

    {Just another mommy] Post na. It will be interesting...

    [Nidhi] Thanks. This parenting thing can be more high stress than my job on most days

    [Ritu] That's the ongoing attempt. Blogging doesn't help though - as people are more vocal about their choices and the downsides of the opposite choice than people you would meet in real life...

    [Artnavy] Ah.. unsolicited gyaan - that's a subject for a whole other post!!!

    [Parul] Now there's a powerful motivator!

    [Mona] You bet it doesn't. And the biggest killer is the self-doubt that gets created

    [Agent Green Glass] You bet! Our parents had it so much easier!!!

  17. My thoughts exactly! Very well said! No matter what you do there will always be someone criticizing it. A lot of people think that being a parent makes them an authority on parenthood and gives them the right to criticize any choice that is different from theirs.

  18. great observations and so so true

  19. wow..not a mum yet...but looks like u have covered pretty much everything... is being a parent all about deciding what to do?? Thank god I have a Libran husband and I’ll leave all this weighing and balancing to him :)

    First time on ur page and like it here...

  20. Nah, to hear my mother tell it, this parenting gig is always about everybody disliking the choices you make for your child(ren). Always has been that way.

    It bothered me the first year, now I don't care any more.

  21. well said. One of those posts that had me nodding in full earnest and full veiw of office staff! here are my two cents: I choose and I shut up about it. And just merely add tch, tch, to those who indulge in opinion sharing and therefore changing drives.

  22. A lot of commenters here emphasise on ignoring what "other people" say. I think other people are fair in having an opinion on how you raise your kid. The kid is a part of the society. I get enormously mad at parents who bring in very tiny infants who keep bawling at concerts or theaters or let their kids run around in the aisles of supermarkets possibly tripping other shoppers. So it is in the interest of "other people" that you raise your kids well. This includes parents of your child's classmates possibly. I consider it the parents fault when kids in school taunt an adolescent who is different from the rest. Like the bullying faced by obese kids, kids with too much acne, etc. These are signs of being brought up badly. So over all, I understand that the choices you need to make are tough, and that you have to defend those choices.

  23. the judging descends to the kids themselves at some point. which is also when you want to go smack folks.

  24. ouch!! will i be a bad parent of i ahvent thought about any of these things as yet?!

    but seriously its ridiculous how there are two sides to everything and none are 100% right or wrong! it all sod epends on the situation and all that jazz!

    so many factors that make up every decision we make!

    as of now I am in one day at a time mode! others be damned! :p

    BRILLIANT post!



  25. Two months into motherhood and I find myself nodding a big aye to all the points u made..

    Simple child there no such thing?

  26. [Naina] You know, I think everyone is equally insecure. The criticism comes less from authority and more from a need to feel justified in one's own choices...

    [Asha] Thanks :-)

    [Iya] Wait and watch. It's always the mum who gets all twisted about the choices. Dads are perfectly cool with going with the flow pretty much, atleast the ones that I know...

    [Sue] But I think the number of things on which one has to make the 'right' choice has multiplied manifold, na?

    [Nino's Mum] Sensible, that is.

    [Vallath] With all due respect, people may have an opinion on how I bring up my child but unless it impacts like their life (public behaviour like you mentioned), they would do well to keep it to themselves. Whether I breastfeed my child or let him sleep in my bed should really be no one else's business...

    [Choxbox] Yeah, that really sucks

    [Mamma-mia] No, I think that makes you a sensible, grounded parent.

    [RV] If only there were :-(

  27. oh i never played with dolls or tea sets.. i was the most scruffiest dirtiest, muddiest little girl in my neighborhood and now i cook with the best of them and can make a razor sharp edge , folding my bed linen.

    girls will be girls. ALWAYS.

    i think, when bring up kids, each one is so different and and as always. what mama says is right!!!

  28. Hi. A very well written post. Very thought provoking. For a new mum like me there are several instances like these when I have to choose a particular way of handling something. Initially I used to be very upset about how any different style is unfit when bombarded with ideas. But now I am learning to be mute to such things and slowly gain confidence about what I feel is right. Of course, my own ways are usually well read about in books/internet before I decide on them. My golden rule is ' hear everything do your own thing' :)

  29. Nope, the way my mother says it, the number of choices are pretty much the same. :) She brought us up in the thick of a joint family so she had to fight for every decision, poor soul!

  30. Rohini, I agree. It's your boobs after all. :P

  31. As Salman Khan very WISELY said in HDJPK...Zindagee may jitna bhee karo (Pardon my French-my words) saala kum parh hee jaata hai.
    Will trace the words, stitch and convert it into an embroidery sampler to frame it in the nursery once the baby arrives.

  32. Who said parenting was easy? Your blog shows just how hard it really is, and how many decisions go into every day of parenting

  33. [Grafx] I, on the other hand, did the dolls and kitchen set and can't cook to save my life. No guarantees, I guess...

    [Preeti] Yeah, I need to learn to activate the mute button too. I's not like I change my choices but it still makes one feel mildly discontent

    [Sue] Oh well, there goes my 'they had it easier' argument :-)

    [Vallath] Truer words have never been said :D

    [Aneela] And now we are taking parenting advice from Salman Khan???!!! :D

    [Richies] True. Though I do wonder if we make it harder than it has to be...

  34. so well irritates me when someone snidely brings in their parenting methods as "THE" best one...

    i've learnt to go deaf at the right moments...

  35. Hear, hear! This from someone who is always being told she is doing the wrong thing and warping the brat for life.

  36. how the hell did i miss this most precious post! i think i will print it out in multitude copies and next person opens their mouth to tell me ANYTHING about parenting i will give them the print out...

    and to think its the mothers who are MOST judgemental! i tell you, my male friends, non parents, have been the biggest support and the closest pals to my kid...they imagine they know nothing and end up doing the most useful things for me and the kid...

  37. Great, Great post Rohini.

    And why just motherhood/ parenting... the "my way or the highway" extends to ALL walks of life in certain blogs... it's sad.

    What's most saddening is that one is labeled right or wrong, based on whether one has the same beliefs as them. Sad.

  38. Hi there,
    Wandered over here from a few of the Indian momblog sites I visit (but never comment) until yours. This post is so artfully written with no apologies for any viewpoint. I loved it! And you know regardless of where one lives or whether it's first child or third, the issues are always the same, and no answers but what you and let live, respectfully.

    We have a TV show in the U.S. called "Trading Spouses" in which 2 mothers live with each other's families for 2 weeks and inevitably it's a completely different lifestyle. More often than not, there's war and the families just don't get it...that there are many ways to live one's life. As long as we treat each other with dignity, provide love and understanding and a relatively clean and safe environment, we're okay.

    (Sorry for the long comment).

  39. Excellent post, Rohini.

  40. Great post, Ro! And so very true.

  41. What a kickass post!

    The black and white choices are bad enough, and I also find that there's pressure to stick to a consistent parenting philosophy e.g. the idea that a breastfeeding Ferberizer is like a pro-life Democrat.

    Like we really need society's marbles tossed our way while we do the slippery mommy jig. Bah!

  42. well said. It's true - almost any choice you make for your kids has someone rabidly advocating the opposite and in our quest to be super parents, we drive ourselves mad by debating what we're doing. Sometimes, you're better off not having alternatives :)

  43. Ha! No wonder we need a manual! Wait, it was a lot simpler before all the manuals came out, wasn't it?

    One small note: I was forbidden pop growing up. Yes, I did binge for a short time when I had constant (free) access to it at my first job as a teenager, but I soon discovered that I didn't actually like it that much. If you train your children's tastebuds to nutritious foods at an early age, they will have a palate for it when they are older.

    Sorry I haven't been over here much. Hopefully, I'll be catching up soon!

    Miss you, friend!d