Please explain "Mainstream" - Mothering Forums

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Old 01-29-2003, 05:36 PM - Thread Starter
 
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Honest question here.

One of my good friends (Thanks Piglet!) introduced me to this site. I find most of it very interesting and informative even if I disagree with some of the parenting that others do (meaning it is not right for my family)

So it got me thinking, what the heck is mainstream anyway?

I never thought about co-sleeping (it scared me), I don't let dd CIO, I formula feed (after attempting bf), I plan on public schools (strong feelings about homeschooling I won't even get into), but I respect my dd's spaces, needs, I hold her when I can and let her play in her own space when I can, I speak to her like a person (ie, I let her know what I am doing and I ask her questions about the world instead of baby talk).

How is mainstream defined? Some people here I think would call me mainstream and others would say AP.

Just curious what people really think "mainstream" is?
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Old 01-29-2003, 06:22 PM
 
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i think everyone's definition is different, and some people don't even use the term "mainstream".

personally: i would say the general public, especially in the usa, encourages a sort of parenting that is most often directly opposite what nature intended. for example, mammal babies are not supposed to sleep alone and were not designed to by nature. yet parents are encouraged to put their offspring in cribs in seperate rooms- for no reason, except the parents 'should have their space'.

i believe in my heart that i was provided by nature everything i need to nuture my child: i have the ability, on my own, to grow my baby in my womb, to birth him well, to nourish him with my perfect milk, and so on. i do take advantage of all that our culture and society offer when i feel that it is useful, it's not as if i live in the primitive past. i just know i don't need it, and my son does not need it.

so, i guess i would answer your question like this:

for me, natural parenting runs parallel to nature, and so called 'mainstream' parenting runs perpendicular to nature. i feel most comfortable and confident mothering the way my instints tell me to.

tabitha

Hi, I'm Tabitha. I'm a homeschooling mother of four: ds (11) dd (9) ds (7) ds (5) And I'm expecting a fifth in 2014! Find me at http://www.omelay.blogspot.com
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Old 01-29-2003, 06:54 PM
 
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I've always thought of "mainstream" as just the way it sounds....how things are done in the "main stream" or by the majority of the population. So in the world of raising children, one might follow the mainstream with some things - say, disposable diapers - but not follow the mainstream with others - like co-sleeping.

As with everything else, it's a label and those are probably never as black & white as we all would like to believe.
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Old 01-29-2003, 09:29 PM
 
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I think that "mainstream" kind of means that you don't really question the way the majority of parents do things. Like:
Birth in a hospital, with drugs and machines.
Crib sleeping.
Cry it out.
Formula feeding.
Sticking to immunization schedules.
And so on. Many people do not research things for themselves, and don't really think things through. They just kind of follow along with what everyone else is doing. The reasons for that are endless, from fear of questioning what we deem an authoritative figure to not really believing we are capable of doing things as nature intended. I, personally, give all that I can the "natural" way... ie, cosleeping, homebirth, breastfeeding for 2 + years, etc. But I do realize I'm human and sometimes I do resort to doing things the more "mainstream" way, like letting DS cry sometimes, using disposables, that type of thing.... so there are different shades of gray here. Most people definitely lean one way or the other, though.
Edited to add: the idea of "mainstream" can also get into the environment you choose to raise your child in. Such as organics, and vegetarianism. Also, someone "mainstream" may jump for Tylenol, Motrin, and antibiotics when their child gets sick... the alternatives would be herbs, or aromatherapy, or supplements, that kind of thing.
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Old 01-29-2003, 11:11 PM
 
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I think 'mainstream' is tending toward the things that most of society does. But i think the most important thing you can do as a parent is to think and research. If you have considered all your options, researched all your options and still choose to CIO, bottle feed, vaccinate...etc...than I would hold nothing against you. The only thing that really bothers me is parents who just do what everyone else does without giving it a second thought for whatever reason.
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Old 01-30-2003, 12:12 AM
 
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Good question, Foo!

I have been thinking about this all day. It is hard trying to come up with a definition of "mainstream", just as it is hard to come up with a definition of AP.

I've come to the conclusion that both are not so much what sort of practices you use, like cosleeping, BFing and so on, but rather the attitude behind it. If your child sleeps in a crib because they honestly sleep better there than in the family bed, then I don't think that makes one "mainstream". If the child sleeps in a bed b/c the parents think that a child's place is in another room, that sleeping alone fosters independence, that the parents' bed is no place for a child, etc...I think that is mainstream.

Whenever I think of what it means to be truly "attached", I picture nature shows of monkeys with their little babes clinging to mama's fur. To me this is the quintessential image of "attachment", of how we are truly designed to be (by evolution, or creation, your pick, lol). The baby is always there, free to nurse when it needs, comforted by mamas warmth and breath, watching what is going on and learning, and unafraid to venture out on it's own when it feels "brave" enough, knowing it can return to the safety of mama's arms when life gets too much. To me, this "mother/infant dyad" is the ideal to strive for. It may not be realistic to wear your baby 24/7, and others may provide childcare at times, but the philosophy of AP pays a real honour to that image and I always return to it in my mind.

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Old 01-30-2003, 12:14 AM
 
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... but I do "hold it against" people who "research" and use it to justify mainstream.

Let me start by saying that I define mainstream as going with the flow, with the main-- stream. As in, doing what the larger group does. The majority of parents in this country-- 87%-- put their babies in cribs, 83% of those who attempt breastfeeding never breastfeed to one year, they immunize on schedule, put their children in strollers and leave them in car seats, despite health risks, women "labor" taking drugs they would never have considered at any other point in their pregnancy, ignoring the risks to their children, parents start solids too early, with inappropriate foods, they disposable diaper, despite health risks to their children and the environment, they allow themselves and their children to be pumped full of antibiotics-- even when they won't help get them well, they rely on comfort objects, such as pacifiers and teddy bears to love and hold their children, and have to come up with silly names like "tummy time" so they remember to let their babies play- and when they do, the parents don't usually get on the floor and play with them, they put them in playpens and let them play by themselves- or just cry by themselves. They spank-- over 65% and I hear them use the word "No" all the time. I haven't even mentioned the ritualized mutilation of their children's genetalia, based on whatever reasons, that disfigures 60% of American boys' penises.

My opinion is that most American parents think of parenting in terms of themselves and what is convenient and easy for them and not of the child and the fact that their child is a real, feeling person. They call them "the baby" instead of Persephone or Tristan, and make decisions based on their feelings instead of their child. they justify any pain their child may feel based on those decisions by saying to themselves that they did it and their child will do it-- the world isn't always fair, and life is hard. I wonder, will these children will thank their parents for their sacrifice, compassion and dedication?

Basically, mainstream parenting is doing it like everyone else. Funny, how our country is plagued with violence of all sorts, institutionalized sexism, classism, racism etc., full prisons, millions of drug and alcohol addicts and a plethora of other horrible societal woes, yet in countries where babies are nourished at the breast, sleep with their parents, are treated like people, are respected and are a true priority in their parents' lives, the society itself is healthier and these problems are fewer and not a rampant trend eating away at their community.

I am very passionate about the subject of parenting, children and babies. Let me say that I in no way direct this at any person, and that my anger and fristration is with the acts of a large group of people. There are shades of gray, yes. I take humans one person at a time. If you are offended, then this post has been misread.

Lauren

edited to add: Piglet, you are so eloquent in your description of the mother/infant dyad.

Let me say that I have some passionate views on what parenting SHOULD be, that are not negative or angry, but sometimes just going out into the world and seeing what parents do to their kids makes me rage.
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Old 01-30-2003, 12:50 AM
 
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I think that "mainstream" means doing what is normal in your community. It isn't necessarily bad and it isn't necessarily good.

I was thinking about this today because around this neighbourhood, breastfeeding is completely "mainstream" and formula feeding elicits the "oh, the poor kid and mom" response. Nobody has ever said anything to me that makes me think that they consider extended breastfeeding odd. Drug-free birth is considered optimum, but not all moms were well-prepared for their birth experience, so I would say that a natural birth is more of a dream for most moms than a reality, so it wouldn't be mainstream. On the other hand, cloth diapering is very uncommon, so I'd consider it to be not "mainstream." That's my neighbourhood, though, not yours.

I think it is important to make concious decisions about your parenting. Doing what everyone else does is not a good way to relate to your children. On the other hand, rejecting an idea just because it is the thing that everyone else is doing is kinda stupid too.
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Old 01-30-2003, 01:11 AM
 
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Oops!
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Old 01-30-2003, 01:11 AM
 
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Oops again.
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Old 01-30-2003, 01:15 AM
 
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Gosh, a good question.

I'm not sure how to definite mainstream, but I tend to think most people don't want to believe they're part of it, regardless of how they parent.

My sister bottle-fed both of her babies from day one. She never once attempted breastfeeding - and she sincerely believes this choice makes her non-mainstream. To her, breastfeeding is mainstream because it has become "popular" in the United States.

My mother said the same thing - "Oh, breastfeeding is just the "in" thing right now." Again, breastfeeding to her is mainstream because everywhere she turns she sees women doing it.

I, on the other hand, like to think I'm not mainstream because I'm doing something that no one in my family ever did. I'm the "weird" one for breastfeeding.

So I think what we perceive as mainstream is based on our limited life experiences. And since we all have different experiences, our idea of mainstream is different too.

Even if it's true that the vast majority of women in the United States don't breastfeed, if everyone on say, your street does, and you don't, then you'd probably still feel like you're not mainstream, even tho' statisically you are in the big picture.

Mainstream or not, I try to stay away from thinking my parenting choices are superior to another mother's. Even though my sister parents *very* differently, and many here might argue *mainstream-ly*, she is a wonderful mother. She truly is.

By the way, Foo, I think you're doing a wonderful job too.

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Old 01-30-2003, 02:18 AM
 
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oops, double-posted, sorry!


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Old 01-30-2003, 03:06 AM
 
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The world isn't always fair and life is hard at times.

As a society, we adopt ways of doing things that suit our overall way of living. It isn't bad or ugly, it just is. In other cultures where things are done differently (because there isn't a Target to buy that super-cool stroller) their "mainstream" is different.

It doesn't make our "mainstream" altogether bad. It's different.

I didn't co-sleep exclusively and I didn't breastfeed my older two children til they were a year old. We took walks with the stroller. We vax. We send our kids to public schools.

I'm confident I'm not turning them into violent criminals.

For me and other mothers I know like me, it's not a matter of what makes Mom and Dad happy, it's what makes our families function and thrive.

"Mainstream" is simply a word used here (often in a more demeaning manner than is probably necessary) to describe those who do not subscribe to a majority of AP principals. However, if you read the API website, it specifically says you do not have to subscribe to each and every principal to be an attached parent.

It's unfortunate we live in a society where parenting isn't celebrated and held in high regard. It's also unfortunate that women's desire to be "equal" to men and work outside the home and leave their babies in someone else's care was so strong that it was insanely and overly successful. It would take MAJOR reform in our society and government to undo what's been done. In the meantime, I have to parent the best way I can, implementing what works based on my instincts and by watching others (which doesn't necessarily mean reading books written by men) to provide my children a safe, healthy, happy and nurturing environment in which to grow so that they may grow into safe, healthy, happy and nurturing adults we can all be proud of.
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Old 01-30-2003, 03:10 AM
 
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I have to add...

Every time I reply to a thread in which veganmamma is passionately participating, it takes me so long to write my reply, I have to log-in again.

Lauren...please, if you're ever in my state, let me know. I would love to have coffee with you. I'll buy. I haven't had such stimulating conversation in ages.
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Old 01-30-2003, 12:50 PM - Thread Starter
 
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Thanks for your responces. I appreciate them and I am not offended by them. I honestly want to know what people think.

I find it funny because IRL and on other web boards, I am in the minority by formula feeding. I find it intresting that many people find this mainstream simply because it is not natural even though there are a lot who are breastfeeding these days!

I generally avoid reading too many parenting books. They just confuse the issue.

DH and I have decided on the major parenting issues together and so far, I think they are far from "mainstream" from the definitions I see here.

I guess the only place I really differ from these definitions I see here (ok, I differ on the natural definition from Tabitha, but that's ok to disagree, right?), is that we take a family approach to parenting. We work with our daughter in a family centered view, neither child nor parent centered. She doesn't rule everything we do, nor do we dictate to her what must happen. What do I mean by this? Example: We are selling our house. We needed to be out at dinner time one night. So, we went to a resteraunt. Ok We let dd eat there in between ordering and when our food came. This way, she got HER time to eat without being interupted by us eating and WE got to eat without worrying about her being hungry. When she got too tired, I got her dressed for outside, left DH with all of the "stuff" and left him with the bill while I drove home (we met at the place with 2 cars) so she could rest. I call this family centered because we met the needs of the whole family without sacrificing anyone's needs.

Does anyone else try to use a family centered approach?
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Old 01-30-2003, 01:20 PM
 
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I believe when most people say 'mainstream' they are referring to making a choice based on popularity and familiarity, rather than making an informed, thoughtful choice.

That doesn't mean a practice that is 'good' cannot become 'mainstream'. Nor are all 'mainstream' practices 'bad'. Mainstream to me just means 'how most people are doing it'. Adopting a practice based on 'how everyone else is doing it' alone cannot asure the best outcome, because one has not explored their options.

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Old 01-30-2003, 01:38 PM
 
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Lots of really great insights here, and I enjoyed reading. But my own personal bias is I just really dislike labels. Am I AP? I dunno. Probably. Am I mainstream? Dunno. Could be. I have never said "I am AP", though, 'cause of my dislike for labels. I am open-minded and endlessly curious, and have thought through and researched every parenting decision thoroughly (some may say obsessively! ) and am comfortable with all of those decisions. Thrilled with some of 'em. If a decision doesn't seem to be working, I re-evaluate.

I understand that "AP", "mainstream" et al are shorthand, but are they necessary? As someone here said, I have seen both of them used in overly derogatory ways ("mainstream" here, "AP" elsewhere.) I think it's more useful to discuss specifics -- co-sleep or crib? -- than labels -- AP or mainstream?
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Old 01-30-2003, 01:53 PM
 
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I agree with a lot of what you all say "mainsteam " is. I do not necessarily believe that formula feeding is a true definition of it though because some women simply cannot do it and it truly breaks their hearts. I think my main thought on 'Mainstream " is folks who feed thier kids a lot of fast food or even any for that matter, or who give thier kids sugar and colas and processed foods without thinking of the consequences it may have on their children. But here I am being judgemental.
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Old 01-30-2003, 04:02 PM
 
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You know what is so interesting is how many of us incorporate different things into "AP".

I have never thought AP had to do with what sort of solid food your kid eats (organic vs junk food) or that it had anything to do with where your kids went to school. I understand that MDC is a "natural family living" (NFL) mag, and so I expect a certain level of promotion of organic foods, homeopathy, etc...yet I see AP as being quite a separate issue. I realise that AP fits very well into a NFL lifestyle, it makes sense, but I also think you can be AP and vaccinate your kids, send them to public school, etc.

I guess it's because I have always thought AP applied to babies. The idea of gentle discipline and schooling are not issues related to baby care, so I have thought of them as maybe "the next logical step", but not really AP.

So you see how hard it is to come up with a definition of either AP or mainstream!!

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Old 01-30-2003, 05:37 PM - Thread Starter
 
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I think you're right Piglet...There are no clear cut definitions.

It's very interesting to see what people say.

BTW- I nearly shot water out my nose when I read the "NFL living" that you stated. I'm a big sports fan and dd loves football (she loves to sit and watch when we are watching). We truly are "NFL" national football league, living!
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Old 01-30-2003, 05:41 PM
 
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I think the meaning gets lost in labels. There's so many variations in parenting. If a person tries their best w/ an ap lifestyle & yet has some mainstream tendencies they should not have to feel guilty because they don't meet the requirements. Mainstream parenting comes from the heart as well. It may not be what we would choose for our own, but parents do what they know to do & often times what they think is best even though it may not be. We use the tools we are given. What is "mainstream" to some may not be to another..

For example, I always wanted to homeschool our dd's. But when it came time, I felt I wasn't fit for the job.. We try our best & hope for the best..
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Old 01-30-2003, 08:07 PM
 
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Fabulous, thought-provoking thread! Thanks, Foobar.

I like Lea's comment suggesting the discussion of specifics instead of labels. "Mainstream" just like "AP" - or just like anything for that matter - means something different to each individual. For me, if I accept the labels, it means that I accept someone else's definition, therefore I let myself off the hook for making informed choices.
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Old 01-31-2003, 12:28 AM
 
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I wouldn't argue that now it does seem to be more common in the mainstream, but I've never thought of it as a mainstream thing to do. It is a sleep training thing to do, and I don't feel like most parents go out and buy books on sleep training, but I think that has changed too. I grew up with mainstream parenting, my mom had her last baby when I was about 5, and my sisters had kids young so I was around babies a lot through the years. Breastfeeding was never considered an actual way to feed, just something you did for a little while until your milk dried up, but important for the colostrum. Formula, vaccines, crib sleeping, solids at an early age, spanking hands and timeouts were common; my sisters used carseat carriers, disposable diapers, baby swings and strollers. But letting a baby just cry, no way. I remember always thinking that I didn't like newborns because they were so needy and you had to hold them all the time. Whenever they were awake, you had to hold them. I even asked my brother-in-law when his last daughter was born in 1993 why it was he liked infants so much. "You have to hold them all the time!" He replied, "yes, that is the best part, you get to hold them all the time." He was very strong and could hold his daughter in one arm all day while he went about his business, whereas I found myself putting them down to get things done when I was watching them.

Anyway, I remember seeing a commercial for Mad About You sometime in the mid 90s when they were doing a real time show with no commercials where the parents sat and cried outside their daughter's door, waiting for her to go to sleep, but letting herself cry to sleep. I remember thinking that was the dumbest thing I'd ever heard. Yeah, you could put a baby in a crib, but if she didn't stop crying and fussing in about 2 minutes, you went in and got her. I remember that walking and rocking were common ways to put babies to sleep in our house. So when did the CIO method get so popular? Is it Ferber's fault, or Ezzo's, or Weissbluth?
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Old 01-31-2003, 01:37 AM
 
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on most things im "mainstream"
but i dont have a "defination"

i am not mainstream when it comes to cio or spankings or treating your child like an inferior/outsider. we'd never spank him or talk down to him.

i formula fed, disposable-diapers/bottles/bibs, never co-slept (other than naps), use strollers...

but i am VERY sincere about being bonded and attached to my son. we are very very close. addicted
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Old 01-31-2003, 02:20 AM
 
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I dunno. I guess for me when I think of mainstream I tend to be thinking of people who are focused on keeping their household parent centered and will sacrafice attention and care of their child to achieve that. To be honest my household is sometimes more child centered than I like but we are working on that. It's a tricky balancing act!
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Old 01-31-2003, 02:34 AM
 
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To me, mainstream parenting refers to the American way of raising children. If we were to write a textbook on the American way of life and there was a chapter on raising children, it would include a section about the necessity of bottles and cribs, how breastfeeding typically only last for a couple of months here, how babies are frequently left to cry ranging for a few minutes to even hours, how babies are toted around in contraptions that keep them seperate from their mothers instead of in close contact, how spanking, time outs and other forms of punishment are standard and necessary in order to raise independent children. It would be a focus on how Americans strive to make their children independent and obedient.

Contrast this to the material I'm learning in my cultural anthropology class at the moment. We are learning about the !Kung who on average nurse their children for 4 years, whose babies and young children are worn close to their bodies in a sling for years, who are encouraged to sleep next to their parents for as long as they want until THE CHILD asks for a separate hut, who see that children aren't developmentally ready to care for themselves, soothe themselves at a young age. The !Kung's intentions for how their children grow into adulthood are very different. This is mainstream !Kung parenting. Yes, there are variations but this is the typical way.

That is what mainstream as a definition means. The word in of itself is not necessarily negative but comparing the !Kung lifestyle and the American one, I'd prefer to raise my child with more contact and connection, yk?

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Old 01-31-2003, 01:49 PM
 
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I'm not a huge fan of labels, either, because I dislike the "all or nothing" approach that labels encourage. Am I "AP" simply because I breastfed? Or am I "mainstream" because my baby slept in a crib?

I have to say that many of the parenting practices those above have described as "mainstream" are not ones that I encounter on a regular basis, especially spanking and CIO. I do not know any parents who used CIO a la "Mad About You." When my dd was born, I knew nothing about CIO/non-CIO issues, yet if my baby cried upon being put to bed, or in the middle of the night, we held and rocked and sang until she fell asleep. We just figured that's what you do with a baby! I agree with Amywillo that CIO is more of a sleep training issue, and I have yet to meet a parent who has truly let a baby scream herself to sleep. And I have a few very "mainstream" friends who would never, ever spank their children.

I think the one I see most is the whole "baby container" thing...you know, those babies who are always IN something, like a bucket, a stroller, a swing, etc. Sure, I used a stroller and had a bucket carseat, but I didn't treat those things like they were part of the baby herself! If I brought dd into someone's house in the seat, it was because she was asleep, and I'd take her out as soon as she woke up (and often before that, risking waking her, because I hated leaving her in it!), whereas I've seen babies who are just left in those things all the time, like the seat is part of the baby!

I love the way Piglet68 put it, that it is the attitude behind your choice rather than the choice itself, that if you choose something because it is what "everyone else does," rather than because it works for your family, that makes you "mainstream." I have met many, many parents who just follow the "Babies R Us" style of parenting, as I like to call it - the swing, the stroller, the bucket, the playpen, the stroller bar toy that every other kid has...you know what I mean. What makes me think of someone as mainstream is when it is clear that the person put little thought behind the choices she made (or he made) for her children, or worse, didn't even realize that there WERE choices. I actually commented to someone recently that her unborn baby might not need those cutesy little Pooh pacifiers she was buying and she looked at me with an utterly confused look on her face...
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Old 01-31-2003, 02:53 PM
 
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i have just one baby, and when he was first born, i started going to a new mom's group in my city, completely free (funded by the tobacco tax), and pretty random when it came to the types of moms there.

we started with 12 moms attending, mostly new moms but 2 second time moms. all but one breastfed in the first week of our group. by the time the babes were all about 8 or 9 weeks old, all but 3 of us had quit breastfeeding! oh, the excuses i heard: "i just have to get back to my jazzercise routine, and it's so hard with my breasts leaking..." was probably the worst.

every single mom there EXCEPT me CIO with their infants. they all passed around sleep training books. One mom actually got ahold of a Babywise book. Her husband liked it and enforced it so strongly that when he got home from work, she wasn't allowed to touch her baby until the morning, for fear she would get 'too attatched'.

I live in a progressive area. I was sickened and appalled at my mom's groups. i didn't think CIO was so common. (i kept going to the groups because i had no mama friends... now i have friends from LLL and MDC!) only 1 other mom from my group still breastfeeds, besides me. and she CIO.

i guess i CIO when i was a baby girl. My mother almost told me to do that with ds the other day, but i've got her trained (lol) well enough that she knew to stop midsentence when i gave her 'the look'!

i too think labels do a disservice to both the labeled and the labeller. but for purpose of discussion online i don't think it is wrong to use the word mainstream or AP in a general fashion. clarification is almost always neccesary online, true, but everyone's definitions of such words is so different that we will never fully understand the details and nuances behind eachother.

i wouldn't call the moms at my group 'mainstream' when i have much more specific words at my disposal.

nice topic, great discussion, tabitha

Hi, I'm Tabitha. I'm a homeschooling mother of four: ds (11) dd (9) ds (7) ds (5) And I'm expecting a fifth in 2014! Find me at http://www.omelay.blogspot.com
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Old 01-31-2003, 05:24 PM
 
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I think it's simple - for me, mainstream is what most people do. In our culture most people don't do a lot of attachment parenting. I don't think that by itself, mainstream is a bad thing. After all - my big dream is that some day AP will be mainstream!
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Old 01-31-2003, 06:06 PM
 
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Oh yeah, I like that idea
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