Google+ Authentic Parenting: Closet Parenting (rerun)

Friday, July 15, 2011

Closet Parenting (rerun)

When you're parenting against the mainstream, you get criticized. A lot. And often for every choice you make. Wether it is cosleeping, breastfeeding, babywearing, not or selective vaccinating, unschooling or any other 'crunchy' choice you make, you will always find someone to tell you - unprompted - that what you are doing is Evil and that your parenting choices will make you burn in hell. Or something of the like.
Some counteractions might be a little less frank, but basically, it all comes down to people rather having you parent in another way.

This can be exceedingly frustrating.

Another reaction one gets on alternative parenting choices is a lack of understanding. It seems as if all we do is explain and explain over and over again, cite research, confirm that it isn't utter madness, that what we do is actually a well researched choice.

Again, all very tiresome and frustrating.

So what do we do?

 We hide. We get into the closet and only leave the door opened a little.
It's not like we lie about it... Well, most of us don't. We just don't talk about it unless we are asked. We learned the hard way.

I often find myself in a conversation about parenting tactics that totally baffles me, that goes against every principle I adhere to. But I know that if I speak up, first, all will go silent, and then there will be a shit storm of people telling me that their way is so much better and that I am the crazy one.

Or when people talk to me in generalities, like all parents parent the mainstream... I don't set them straight. I have no need to explain unschooling to everyone I meet, nor do I have the energy.

Should we be standing on the barricade and scream on top of our lungs? Is this closet parenting wrong?
Maybe being a little more outspoken might create some awareness, indeed, but it would also generate hours of unwanted lecturing and preaching that you just can't expect a parent to take each and every day.

Image: Marcin Wichary on Flickr



  1. I know about staying silent. Currently that is all that is keeping our family sane, or at least civil.

    Personally I believe (because I have to) that the parenting against the norm ripple will expand with each generation and eventually it will not be necessary to keep quite.

    Mostly in the current state of affairs, regardless of the stats, research and other facts of common sense, trying to get your point across just stirs up a fight and unnecessary tension (regardless of the fact that I always tell people to do what works and each to their own - I don't judge people for using their methods, it's their choice). So I keep quite and only give advice when someone is out of options. That seems to work best and I have changed quite a few people's manner of operating in a singular area through just paying attention and listening for when the norm stops working.

  2. I find this odd. I'm crunchy and do many of the things you listed, but I also don't agree with many of my 'mainstream' friends and their parenting ideas. I never tell them they're evil, but I do try to inform, because information is power. We all judge, criticize, and look down at other people from time to time...especially as moms.

    Who is going to lecture you for hours? Who is going to honestly call you crazy? Some people may ask me why I do what I do, but I've never been lectured, called crazy or anything of the sort.

  3. @Lacey
    Good points, because I have rarely seen the words "Crazy" "Evil" or "burn in hell" applied one-to-one or in real life. I have seen those sorts of things said online, though, and maybe mamapoekie has as well.

    I think also it depends on the person you are. I am very outspoken about our lifestyle (not that I proselytize but if it applies ot the conversation I absolutely don't hide) and usually I can handle the flak that comes with this. Sometimes I can't though, and I keep quiet or, more commonly, I speak up, feel like shit, go home and talk to my supporters (my spouse, my mother, my friends, some of my online friends).

    I think it's awesome some people are outspoken/activists etc, but it is totally acceptable to hide too. Like mamapoekie says, "it [can] generate hours of unwanted lecturing and preaching that you just can't expect a parent to take each and every day." I support parents to decide on a case-by-case or day-to-day basis how much extra baggage of OTHER people's they want to carry or be subjected to!

  4. I am new to this blog but totally agree with this post! I have been lectured and told that my choices are "very bad". And this came from family. Fortunately my mother supports our decision to breastfeed past age 1, cosleep and attachment parent but I have a sister-in-law who keeps buying "sleep aids" to "help get him into his crib already." I think the intentions are good but I am usually just insulted that people think that our parenting style needs to be reformed.

  5. We do pretty much everything opposite from the other members of our families (well, except for breastfeeding...thankfully all of my sisters BFd and so does my SIL). We co-sleep, babywear, extended rear-face (2.5 yr old stil RFing in carseat), use organic/natural products, don't start solids until baby is ready (and at this rate she will be nursing in high school! But at 20 lbs and 7 mths, she ain't starving!), etc etc. Luckily, no one really ever says anything to me. Maybe small comments, but I blow them off with research and stats and that usually takes care of it. No one can tell me that me making all the meals for my family is being crazy. Being crazy is letting my kids eat McDonald's. I say don't worry about what others say. I don't. My kids are happy, healthy, and well-behaved little people. We must be doing something right.

  6. The problem is, even 'mainstream' parents face criticism all the time for their choices, and are made to feel guilty and as though they've made bad choices re: sleeping arrangements, vaccinating, starting solid foods, breast/bottlefeeding, etc.

    The reality is that as moms we all make choices based on what we think is 'right' and 'best' for our children.

    I myself fall somewhere on the crunchy side of the spectrum, so most of my mom friends are co-sleeping, breastfeeding, non-vaxing, BLW, babywearing, intact, etc. I do some of these things, and not others based on what works for us, and what I feel is best for my kids.

    I think no one should be made to feel ashamed for the parenting choices she makes, and no one should feel as though she has to 'hide'. We have enough guilt to cope with as moms without facing criticism for our parenting styles, be they 'crunchy' or 'mainstream'.

  7. Hmm- a tough one. I get some comments even from family.

    But my mother has stopped- she sees how joyful my children are and thinks it is because of the parenting choices we are making. Heck a few weeks ago she was thrilled for my friend to come nurse the baby!

    My friends are mostly 'crunchy' like ms so I am not so out there, but I tend to be loud about a lot of things. Sometimes I am quiet about it sometimes I am loud and proud

  8. I think I may need to stop posting my views on facebook, I had no idea how many people, really DONT like or dont agree on my choices. That is ok with me, they just seem to pick and pull apart our lifestyle. I'll post a link that clearly states the research about a vaccine and get a awful reaction out of a "friend" and the next thing I know is they've de-friended me! Great post

  9. That's interesting. I have the opposite problem, I think. I tend to go on the offensive (pun kinda intended!) and speak up first, sometimes a little too strongly. It puts people off sometimes, and I know I could be nicer about it. I guess I figure if I strike first -- if I sound completely confident and make it out like *their* way is crazy, they'll leave me alone. Neither are good ways to do things.

  10. For me, it isn't so much about staying in the closet as it is about getting tired of explaining my choices to people who just don't get it (in my case, mostly my husband's very large, extended Italian family). A lot of people know that I still nurse my toddler, but I don't make it a point to bring it up. Same with the fact that he was born at home, and a lot of other things I do.

    After 6 years and 2 kids, I'm confident in my choices and anybody who wants to call me crazy to my face is pretty brave :)

    But I think this "closet" mentality particularly applies to newer, first-time moms who are still making sense of their own choices and tend to be more sensitive to criticism. It can be hard to defend yourself when you're still trying to figure out if you truly believe in what you're defending. I think the more we become sure of ourselves as mothers the less we care about what other people think. I'm guessing that there are probably a lot more "closet parents" out there than you might think - great topic for a post!

  11. I preach it loud to the singles and the childless so that I set the stage for the next set of parents showing that "this" way of responding to cries and sleeping w kids and being with our babies at night too is very healthy and happy and normal. It worked on me. I used to make such negative comments about the mom that "still" breastfeeds and "still" let's her children sleep in their beds and ewww homebirthed. Now I do all the above. Happily. I think it was when I (at age 25 - 5 y before mt firstborn)asked an attached mom if she always nursed as soon as the baby cried and she said "no, I don't let her get to the point of crying" that my path to attached mommy was set.

    stylish slings pull me out of that closet. I'm talking about it w/o saying a word

  12. At one point, women couldn't vote and slavery was mainstream. However, do we consider this correct now? And, what did we do before all this recent changes in child raising (cribs, seperate rooms, formula, etc), what us closet moms are doing now.

    I purposely will let my DD potty at the park (on a tree of course out of the line of play) just to show off the fact my baby is not in the mainstream.

    but, more so, to get the conversations going. I explain enough to make them question me (maybe question their own practices).

    I have learned, those that critize the most seem to be the most apt to feel guilty and threatened for the decisions they have made.

  13. I agree with you! It's a lot easier. In the end the proof is in the pudding!
    I do the same with regards religion. I stay in the closet about my different views...

  14. Thank you for saying that out loud! I totally feel that way. There are better days than others: some days you just want to be deaf, other days you have the patience to talk and explain your reasons. Since I got to know NVC (non-violent communication) it's been better because we integrate that people are only concerned about our well-being and although their principles are disagreeing with ours, they still believe that we should do as they say because it would "be best" for us. So, I mentally turn a nagging neighbour into a well-intentioned person.
    Carry on with the good blogging!

  15. Anon says: have learned, those that critize the most seem to be the most apt to feel guilty and threatened for the decisions they have made

    I have found this to be very true with friends and family alike. I seek to change one generation at a time, starting with my own children & leave the ones that already come before me alone with their own emotional hang ups and issues. It's just not worth the emotional energy to explain why I do what I do. My relationship with my children reflects my parenting philosophies & that speaks louder than word ever could.


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