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Mothering Beyond Baby-wearing (and Cloth Diapers and Breastfeeding and...)

AppleMark

There is a common phenomena among the crunchy in our midst.  It is the self labeling of parenting practices.  

 

You've seen it, haven't you?

 

"I'm a cloth diapering, gentle parenting, long-term breastfeeding, baby-wearing, home-birthing natural mama!"

 

It's the tag line/self description on many a blog, e-mail, and profile.  Funny thing is, even though I have done all those things, I don't care for the label.  Much less a self imposed one.  

 

Wondering why?  It isn't because I buck against all labels.  It is because those things are fleeting. 

 

My youngest is two and a half now.  She doesn't nurse anymore.  I won't be having any more home births.  I have said GOOD RIDDANCE to those horrid cloth monstrosities.  (Yes, I am brave enough to admit to the Mothering audience that I don't for one second miss urine drenched fabric.  BLECH!  I must have a death wish.)  I still babywear on occasion, but to be honest, what four pregnancies in six years has done to my hips...yikes- let's just say that there is pain involved in having a toddler on my back no matter how wonderful and expensive the carrier. And gentle parenting...that just sounds so much easier on paper than it does in real life.  I can't claim that one either, not with my track record of imperfection.  

 

When I see women who define themselves totally by what they are doing for a few short years of their lives, I wonder what on earth they will do when those short years have passed.  

 

Babies grow up.  Even the longest nursing relationship will someday end.  Fertility vanishes and as you get into the years and years of parenting children who actually (gasp!) talk back and have their own ideas about things, parenting gets to be a touch trickier.  

 

I wonder what they will do when one day they wake up to a life no longer matches the label on the side of their website- the one they gave themselves.  

 

I define myself in many ways.  Wife.  Teacher.  Sister.  Daughter.  

 

But most importantly, I define myself as a woman and as a mother.  I see motherhood in women who have never baby worn or breastfed or even borne children.  Motherhood is holy calling, and one which requires a willing and giving heart, but not a home birth.  

 

So sad that there are countless arguments on the internet largely concerning these self-imposed labels.  As moms duke it out over how wrong a vaccine is or how damaged a child will be because of a technique, their babies are growing, and quickly.  While they grow, I think sometimes we forget that motherhood lasts far beyond the baby and toddler years.  

 

I love watching my kids grow.  I have never, for some strange reason, wanted to keep them babies.  Maybe I will change my mind someday.  Maybe not.  But no matter what happens, in 30 years I will still be a mother.  Even with my babies gone and holding their own babies (or wearing them!)  I will still be a mother.  But I won't be cloth diapering or breastfeeding.

 

I will be a mother who made many mistakes and sometimes had to search for who she was amid the messes and the books and the arguments and the sleepless nights, but a mother just the same.  I hope I can always remember the gift of motherhood, and remember too how fleeting it is; and how much bigger mothering is than a simple carrier or bottle.  

 

 

Sarah Clark is a mother of four, a natural birth teacher, and an instructor trainer for Birth Boot Camp.  She blogs at Mama Birth.

 

 

 

 

(Photo credit: amcdawes / Foter.com / CC BY-SA)

Comments (10)

Such a great reminder to keep that Big Picture of our lives front and center.  Thank you so much!
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I don't know. I think we need to give more credit to the self-labeling mothers in our midst. Those labels are not, for most women, defining factors of their identity. For some, sure. But my guess is that mothers of young ones claim those labels as a kind of shortcut to have conversations that interest them about topics that are--currently--front and center in their experience. I doubt they introduce themselves at dinner parties as "CD'ing, BF'ing, AP'ing, etc. (name)." But here at MDC, and on blogs, and maybe other places, it makes sense. I also don't think they are necessarily limiting their views of who they are as mothers and women. More likely--thinking, competent people that they are--they are relishing and claiming the space that they occupy at this fleeting time and place, and growing into what it means to be the kind of parents they want to be as they go.
well, good for you to be so much smarter then most of us!
 
before having kids, I would sometimes label myself as a marathoner, long distance runner. so what?
I don't really run anymore now, so the label doesn't fit me now. so what?
it did fit me then.
I have never really labeled myself in public (on internet or real life), but I like to think of miself in a particular moment of my life and give labels of who am I right now. when my labels change, it makes me realise how much I change and grow overtime. It makes me realise that some labels come and go, some labels tend to stay longer. 
I don,t think that women just define themselves as clothdiperusers and that's it. or they think they will be clothdiaperusers for ever. 
I have a 52 y.o friend, she weaned her youngest DD 25 years ago. she still calls herself a lactivist. she still helps moms with breastfeeding questions. it still affects her life. we wouldn,T have been friends, if she didn,t label herself a lactivist. we wouldn,t have met each other otherwise.  (I was looking for breastfeeding help).
we usually label ourselves when we are proud and very passionate about something. we know it is temporary, but things that are temporary have value. 
I might resume marathon running....or I might not. But being a marathoner for 7 years changed who I am today, even if I don't run now.  it was a real label then, and it changed how I see myslef today. 
thanks for this. i enjoyed reading the comments/counter arguments as well. just wish some of them weren't shaded with hurtful sarcasm.
personally, i never feel comfortable labeling myself, as i find that it creates an instant dichotomy that too often leaves people out. i feel lucky that breastfeeding is/has been a huge part of my relationship with my daughter, but i also know that my best friend was very sad that it did not work for her as long as she had hoped. though labels can sometimes unify groups of people, in my experience, it more often divides us, and i try very consciously to live and speak in the most inclusive ways possible.
I have recently looked at my new life as a mother and wondered "who I am now", I no longer have time for six yoga classes a week, or meditating when ever I feel like it, or spending days on end creating a new piece of art.....then I realized something so simple.  As we shift in life, our "labels"  change...but the labels themselves don't disappear.  We are human, we attach labels, we classify, we define.  Labels can be limiting, hurtful, or inaccurate, but they can also be empowering, uplifting, and insightful!  Label me a feminist, label me an artist, label me a co-sleeping baby wearing hippie!  I am those things!  Just as long as we remember there are wonderful, unique, complex, caring, shining people behind all these labels, I think we will all be just fine!  Fun article
This article spoke just to what I have been thinking. Thank you!
I wish there was more discussion in the AP community about parenting of older children, parenting of multiple children, how parenting evolves, how that evolution sheds light on the short term baby/toddler years. You have brought up the subject in  a certain way, and it was refreshing.  As for labels, i  dont have an opinion one way or another.  I dont care to label myself, but  dont mind if others do so for themselves.
AP avocates  might say that AP isnt centered on the baby/toddler years, but i think its clear that it is. 
Why do we care what labels other women want to assign to themselves?  If they want to be identified by what they're currently interested in or passionate about, then let them?  The only labeling that is wrong is labeling that is unwillingly externally imposed.
 
There's this "bad mom" affectation going on in the past few years.  Because none of us are perfect, it seems that it's in style to trash people who are aspiring to improve themselves and their parenting.  "We can't be perfect, so let's give up."  I know that's an over simplification, but I think that's the unintended result. 
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