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.