The parenting debate these days is roughly where religion was at in the Middle Ages. A recent Slate article was subtitled, “How the mindful parenting movement is setting parents up to fail.” This seems a bit harsh to me. Or at least sensationalized. You won’t find an article titled “How The Christians Are Setting Us Up For Failure” or “Red Wine: The Blood Of Christ, For Realsies?” And thank goodness for that. These debates are so five hundred years ago. Maybe you follow the Ten Commandments and I prefer The Sermon on the Mount, but we’re not going to argue about it. It’s not socially acceptable. And how can we anyway? The entire debate hinges on our own personal assumptions.
Arguing about parenting is really no different. That's why parenting approaches are bundled. If you use cloth diapers, you probably nurse beyond the APA recommended minimum. If you cosleep, I guarantee that you own several slings and baby wraps. Do you favor breast milk over formula? Is cloth better than disposable? Essentially, who wins in an arm wrestle, Mother Nature or technology? It all comes down to our assumptions.
Mostly, we're all doing the best we can, parenting according to our own particular set of assumptions.
So I don’t know that it’s worth it to attack each other’s parenting styles. In the recent Slate article that I mentioned, Hanna Rosin makes an excellent case that Mindfulness Parenting is just another way of getting our kids to behave in the particular ways that we want. I agree; of course it is. Isn’t that what every parent hopes for.
And I even understand her concerns about mindfulness that "breathe" and "live in the moment" are just two more things you didn’t get to that day. And that "the last thing American parents need are more goals that they are failing to meet." I get it. I wonder if, like me, she has glared at a photo of the serene, ever-loving face of the Dalai Lama and challenged, “Let’s see what you look like after three consecutive snow days.”
Parenting is the best thing ever and at the same time it can be sheer torture. But it's not mindfulness’ fault. Mindfulness is just a tool like any other in the parenting toolbox.
And I know that it’s fun to poke at the mindful hippies. Always has been. We’re weird. We don’t know when the Super Bowl is, our teething children wear amber necklaces, and we pack gluten-free cake to parties.
But I think maybe it’s time we agree to disagree, just like we do for religion. There may not be one right answer in the stroller verses wrap or cloth verses disposable debate. Maybe we just need to respect our differences and realize that the right way to parent comes down to our own assumptions. Down to our own particular parenting religion.
What do you think?
About Brian Leaf
Brian Leaf is author of the forthcoming parenting memoir, Misadventures of a Parenting Yogi: Cloth Diapers, Cosleeping, and My (Sometimes Successful) Quest for Conscious Parenting. You can find him online at www.misadventures-of-a-yogi.com.