Google+ Authentic Parenting: The Paradox Of Individualism

Wednesday, January 12, 2011

The Paradox Of Individualism

Image: misterjared on Flickr
Our modern world is highly focused on individuality. We try to push our children to be individuals as soon as possible: let them sleep on their own, have a bottle, let them cry, don’t pick them up too much, don’t spoil them... as long as - gasp - they don’t get to attached to you, their parent, anything goes.

We all pretend to be individuals, yet we are all so very dependent, wether it is on our status, our job, our financial situation, our wardrobe, our eating habits... So many of us are just clamping onto trivial things, to keep up our artificial sense of self, because we lack the true self-assurance and support we should be getting. And the very things we are fixating on: money, clothes, property... they further demonstrate our dependency, our sheeplike adherence to the mainstream. Our obsessive quest to belong.

This lack of basic and internal support has made us sheep. Sheep who just love to have some one dictate what to wear, how to live, what to eat...

Individualist society is a myth... We are in no way individuals, and neither should we strive to be. Man hasn’t evolved out of solitary specimens, it has evolved out of groups of people working and living closely together. We try to break this legacy with this false sense of individualism. We try to deny our need for company and closeness. Instead we look to other Gods, we worship the Big Brand and the Mega Movie star... All symptoms of our need to be attached... to something.

The saddest thing really, is that, although we aren’t the individuals we pretend to be, we do value the self more than anything, and especially more than anyone.
This manifests in the mother choosing not to breastfeed because it might mess up her schedule (let’s leave it wether she is culturally determined to make this choice), in things like scheduled feeding and sleep training, in elective c-sections and inductions and everything else that’s wrong with modern day child rearing, basically, our culture tricking generations of women into believing that she should value herself (and her consumerist tendencies) over her child.
Be as cross with me as you wish for saying this, but before you throw that rock, think long and hard if any of these so-called choices consider the child’s wants or even needs ever so slightly.

Mansel Lewis - Mother With Child (1878)
In traditional societies, these choices simply don’t exist, neither would one think of dream of creating them. When a baby is born, it’s about the baby’s survival, because, from an evolutionary perspective, that baby is more valuable than you are, that baby is the one who will be carrying along your genes, so the thought that you would rather go to the movies instead of feeding your child is simply not a question.
In traditional society, one would seek to ensure the infant’s safety and to fulfill it’s basic needs, and the best way to do both would be to keep that child close.

You can argue that the world has changed, that traditional society has it backwards. But is this so? Why would our hedonism be praised over decent childcare? Isn’t a society that values the current generation above all doomed to fail - eventually? If we do not invest in our future and couldn’t care less about our past, do we then have a future at all?



  1. BRILLIANT and ARTICULATE!!!!!!... I could not have said it better. Everything you have said needs to be considered and re considered. You are speaking the truth.

    I would add one thing though- I have many friends and family who adhere completely to Western ways of child rearing. I have seen the love they have for their children. It is immense. It is best described as you have mentioned on my blog before " Bad parenting is a disease". This disease is spreading and has been created by so called professionals who have not done any neurological research into the affect on the brain development. People are simply morally disengaging because it appears normal and ok to parent like this. After all, it is the people they respect and love the most giving them this advise.
    In all honesty, it is easy to fall for- if you do not sleep, then you will end up being a bad mother anyway". etc.

  2. Hear, hear. Sometimes it needs to be said as it is rather than beating 'round the bush all the time lest none be offended.

  3. Ouh, this one is good. Very good.

    Also, I agree with Najla, about the Western ways of child rearing and the "bad" advises we get, in all honesty, by well-meaning people, which are so easy to fall for. "If you do not sleep you will end up being a bad mother". Indeed. "Better a bottle given with love than a breast given with disgust" was the one I heard so many times while pregnant with baby #1. Yes, easy to fall for.

  4. Hmm...I wrote an article on my own blog along the same topic-lines although it's possible our views differ slightly. You could check it out here:

    Basically, I believe with every fiber in my being in raising a child with respect, love, and all that comes with that territory---breastfeeding, baby-led weaning, cosleeping, EC, natural birth choices, etc...

    HOWEVER, I DO believe that it's not all about sacrifice. There should never be a point at which the mother is actually SACRIFICING to a detrimental effect upon the mother-child relationship. (I gave an example in my blog post that articulates this concept really well.) To quickly restate the example used in my blog, if you are sacrificing needed sleep to the point of utter exhaustion, physical duress, and emotional angst, which is being taken out on your child in a manner you perceive as detrimental, then something should CHANGE about the way you are night-time parenting. That DOES NOT mean the sacrifice of core values...nor does it imply that the mother should simply "suck-it-up". Simply that a different night-time solution should be worked out.

    I'd be interested to hear your thoughts! I'm not exactly sure if we're disagreeing, but I thought I'd add my two cents ;-)

  5. I don't think parenting requires sacrifice, not at all! At the worst, I think parenting is about trade-off, which means you get stuff in return for not doing something else. But mostly I find parenting much more rewarding than anything else in the world one could be doing.
    I was wondering why you raised the topic of sacrifice, and I think it is probably based on the last paragraph?
    When I say that in traditional society there is no choice, I don't mean that the mother is giving herself up for her child, I just mean that there, parenting is just a fact, a given, there aren't a million and one reflections to be made about it. The mother wouldn't want to do anything else, she doesn't even have other options (and now I am expecting a whole feminist response, but it really isn't like that...) parenting in traditional society, especially mothering is like breathing. It's natural

  6. I have an inkling that traditional societies provide a lot more support of mothers in general, but I suppose I could be wrong.

    I was fortunate in that my mother works nights and was more than willing to take my son for several hour stretches at night so I could sleep, but never at a detriment to his nursing schedule.

    Many mothers in my culture (United States) have no such help, and are hard-pressed to get any kind of break from 24 hour mommy-baby time... which will wear on ANYONE'S nerves, methinks.

    I suppose what I'm saying is that it's not that moms don't want to parent, necessarily (though that may be the case sometimes), but rather that there is little support for them to do so without feeling they must deprive their babies to maintain any sense of self and sanity.

    All I can do to fix this lamentable situation is offer to help any and all women I come across who need a break. You can be a good parent without being a sole provider of care, and our western culture seems to miss that point. I think mothering is seen as so natural, sometimes, that nobody thinks she needs help.

  7. I totally agree with so much of this post. I lament how far we have come from the strong sense of community that tribal societies offer mothers and babies. However I just wanted to make one point. I would dearly have loved natural births but due to some serious medical conditions I've had 3 inductions and one elective c section. I truly believe that in some cases these interventions are in the best interests of mother and child.
    Enjoying your blog, some very interesting articles here!

  8. Hi Suzy, thanks a lot for your comment. I just want to say that I would never state that interventions are useless. There are indeed situations where they are necessary and it is wonderful we have them for these situations, however, very often they are routine, when they are not needed, just to top off the bills and because the medical system does not believe in natural birth. Medical professionals are often taught nothing about the natural state, so it leads to a distorted vision of birth.
    I would also never blame a mother for getting an intervention, even if it wasn't necessary (not saying this is the case for you). Mothers get bullied, they are not given full information and it takes oodles of time and lots of resources to get to the bottom of these issues, not every mother has this time and


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