Forget crunchy mothering; our goal should be supple mothering

Young ballerina in a black suit is dancing in dark

Many women proudly identify themselves as “crunchy” mothers. It is meant to invoke granola — natural and healthy. But there’s no evidence that crunchy mothering is more natural or healthier, just like there’s no evidence that granola existed in nature.

Yet the appellation is more accurate than crunchy mothers realize. Granola is hard, unyielding, but it is easily smashed and becomes soggy and falls apart with the application of milk. And though crunchy mothers like to pretend that they are child centered and self-sacrificing, the truth is that crunchy mothering is rigid and performance obsessed, the audience being other mothers.

Supple mothering — adaptable, resilient, respectful of children’s differences and kind to mothers.

Good mothering has nothing to do with being crunchy and everything to do with being both supple and resilient, qualities that can’t be found granola. What do I mean?

Supple mothering is adaptable; crunchy mothering is not.

The greatest defect of crunchy mothering is that it rests on the belief that one size fits all. Unmedicated vaginal birth is supposedly right for every baby and every mother; breastfeeding is supposedly best for every child and every mother; baby wearing is supposedly comfortable for every child and every mother; the family bed supposedly meets the needs of all.

If I’ve learned anything at all from mothering four children, it is that one size NEVER fits all. Every child is a unique person with individual needs that can differ subtly or dramatically from other children. Supple mothering means being able to conform to the individual child’s needs and desires whether that child needs a C-section in order to survive, formula feeding in order to thrive, or anything else that may not be part of a mother’s image of how she planned to mother or what she imagined her child might become.

Supple mothering is resilient; crunchy mothering is not.

Mothering is an extremely stressful and demanding job. My children are grown and though the physical work has receded into the past, the emotional imperatives have not. They know that I still worry about them (and are probably annoyed about it); they are sure that I will glory with them in their successes, and they can be confident that I will take their disappointments as hard or even harder than they do. I am always in their corner and have been since the day each was born.

In order to be there for them, I have had to be resilient and part of resilience is being realistic in my expectations of them and of myself. Supple mothering allows for that. It predicts that mothering will not be easy; it anticipates that children will not always adhere to the goals you have in mind for them or for yourself and it counsels adaptation not rigid adherence to a pre-existing plan.

Supple mothering also teaches women to be good to themselves. A woman who chooses an epidural in labor is not “giving in”; she is meeting her own need for pain relief. A mother who chooses not to breastfeed (even when she could have done so) is not selfish; she’s appropriately caring for herself. A mother who needs to sleep without a baby her in her bed is not depriving her child; she is shoring up her own reserves to improve her ability to parent that child.

Moreover, supple mothering allows women to adapt to their children. I have a friend who insisted that she would never let any daughter of hers play with Barbie dolls. Then she had a daughter who loved Barbies. Despite the fact my friend abhorred Barbie, she ultimately gave in to her daughter’s entreaties and bought her several. That took guts and humility, recognizing that perhaps she did not necessarily know what was best for this particular girl. Barbie turned out to be a passing fancy and her daughter never fell prey to the belief that she was expected to look like Barbie or behave in docile way. Supple mothering views adaptation as a strength, not a weakness.

Supple mothering supports; crunchy mothering blames.

One of the best books about parenting I ever read is Far From The Tree by psychiatrist Andrew Solomon. It’s about one of the most challenging aspects of parenting, recognizing that your child is not you and that’s okay. The task is made far more difficult when the child differs from you in major ways: children who are deaf, autistic, transgender, etc.

Solomon notes:

… The attribution of responsibility to parents is often a function of ignorance, but it also reflects our anxious belief that we control our own destinies. Unfortunately, it does not save anyone’s children; it only destroys some people’s parents, who either crumble under the strain of undue censure or rush to blame themselves before anyone else has time to accuse them …

Though Solomon writes of extreme parenting challenges, the urge to blame is  integral to crunchy mothering. That’s why crunchy mothering groups are filled with women who deride other mothers who had epidurals or C-sections, and who feel entirely comfortable insisting that women who don’t breastfeed are lazy. It’s both a function of ignorance about childbirth and breastfeeding, as well as the desperate belief that mothering is a matter of imposing your will. In fact the crunchy mothering ethos has become so ingrained in middle class white women that they don’t wait for others to blame them; they blame themselves and feel guilty about epidurals, C-sections, formula feeding, or something as basic and banal as needing sleep in order to function.

That’s why lactivist groups are hell bent on attacking The Fed Is Best Foundation for supporting ALL women REGARDLESS of the ways they feed their babies. Crunchy mothering is incapable of supporting women who make different choices; it can only blame. Lactivists think the ability of Fed Is Best to offer support regardless of circumstances is a weakness and betrayal of breastfeeding when, in truth, it is an evocation of supple mothering. It counsels women to be adapatable when it comes to infant feeding and to reject guilt for refusing to adhere to rigid rules about breastfeeding. And it saves lives, too. Crunchy mothering is so rigid and demanding that letting babies die from hypernatremic dehydration is waved off as “rare” when the reality is that it is common.

Supple parenting lets mothers save their strength for real parenting challenges; crunchy mothering pretends that trivial decisions are parenting challenges.

Childbirth, infant feeding, and issues like the family bed AREN’T the hard parts of parenting and they aren’t the important parts, either. They pale into insignificance behind the real challenges of parenting: dealing with differences, disabilities, bullying, poor school performance, lack of friends, major disappointments, risky behavior, drug use, depression and drunk driving. And that’s hardly an exhaustive list.

It takes strength to deal with these challenges, strength that should be husbanded, not wasted on meaningless issues like childbirth and infant feeding. There’s absolutely no need to feel guilty about safe mothering choices like C-sections and formula feeding. What should you feel guilty about? I guarantee that once they are old enough to talk your children will tell you … and tell you … and tell you.

The bottom line is that crunchy mothering isn’t good for children and it isn’t good for mothers. We should reject it. Our goal should be supple mothering — adaptable, resilient, respectful of children’s differences and kind to mothers.

  • This is so, so good.

    • Roadstergal

      Your comment made me re-read this piece and enjoy it all over again. As an atheist, but as one raised Quaker, :p, it makes me think with fondness of Simple Gifts. “To turn, turn, will be our delight, ’til by turning, turning we come ’round right.”

      • Aw, thanks 🙂 How did you go from Quaker to atheist? I don’t know much about being Quaker except their association with simplicity and peacefulness.

  • Allie

    Sometimes, when the McNuggets are just fresh out of the deep fryer, I practice crunchy mothering : )
    #shitmom

  • LaMont

    OT: When someone at work flags the place with a notice that they or their female significant other is in labor, is “break a leg” a proper response? I *may* have spent too long among theater folk.

    • Lurkerette

      I prefer “come on, baby– the enemy’s gate is down” because nerd.

    • “break a membrane”?

    • Amy

      Maybe don’t say merde, though 😉

      –Fellow theater nerd here

  • Sue

    “Supple” – what’s not to like about that word and its connotations?

    • AnnaPDE

      Having been the kid who even in kindergarten gymnastics lessons always sat there frustrated, straining to bend forward a bit sitting there with legs open at least at a right angle, while all the others effortlessly did the splits and lay down forward, can I just say “EVERYTHING”? 🙂
      No, I’m just jealous.
      And not even that anymore, after skiing happily and injury-free 30 years and watching all my bendy friends twist their knee, ankle and hip joints.

      • MaineJen

        That’s a good point. There’s a downside to being flexible. I can hyperextend my shoulders and elbows, which made tumbling and stretching a breeze…but my shoulders have also popped out of joint accidentally more than once. Not fun!

  • Heidi_storage

    OT: Arrrrrrgh! The lady doing nursery on Sunday notified us that, oops, guess she shouldn’t have been doing nursery with a sore throat, because it turns out she’s got strep! At least she told us, and I know I’m more annoyed with her than I would be with someone else who WASN’T a crunchy, home-birthing (LPN-assisted) anti-vaxxer.

    Also OT: My two-year-old son is breastfeeding his T-rex and spinosaurus.

  • mabelcruet

    Royal College of Paediatrics issues a statement position on breast feeding:

    http://www.rcpch.ac.uk/breastfeeding

    It does point out that some mothers choose not to breast feed and this should be respected, but it cites the UNICEF figure saying that breast feeding could save the NHS up to £40 million per year. No mention of the costs of treating babies who fail to thrive or develop hypernatraemia, or compensating parents if their baby is put at risk if breast feeding doesn’t go well.

    • Dr Kitty

      There is a lot of “breastfeeding gives babies the best start in life” stuff, but very little on what exactly is meant by that and what increasing breastfeeding rates would mean in terms of real world outcomes…

      I keep being reminded of the Dothraki “it is known” answer to all awkward questions, for some reason.

      It is known tear feeding is best.
      It is known we need to increase breastfeeding rates.
      It is known that women and babies will benefit if we do…

      Just don’t ask too many hard questions about the specifics of what exactly we know and how we know it.

      • maidmarian555

        Exactly this. As demonstrated by this in the Guardian today *sigh*:

        https://www.theguardian.com/lifeandstyle/2017/aug/01/break-down-barriers-to-breastfeeding-in-the-uk

        I don’t know why it’s so difficult for any of these people to, I don’t know, ASK women why they stopped breastfeeding early as opposed to always assuming it’s something to do with not wanting to get our tits out in public (although, if a woman doesn’t want to, that should be her business and she shouldn’t be vilified as some sort of prude). It’s always the same guff, societal pressure and formula companies without any real evidence to back that up. Where are all these surveys and studies showing that women stopped because they *gasp* walked past the formula display in Asda and just COULDN’T RESIST???

        • EmbraceYourInnerCrone

          And they don’t want to deal with real world reasons like (for example): I had to go back to work at 6 weeks and we were moving (to Guam!) at 10 weeks. I was too tired and stressed to want to devote time I did not have to sitting and breastfeeding. I had 4 grandparents willing to come to California and take care of the baby, including feeding, while I took care of all the crap that comes with moving, including having to find childcare on base in Guam. Even if I hadn’t been moving, trying to find time to pump at work would have been difficult.

          • maidmarian555

            One of the most often cited reasons for stopping I hear and read (other than life/work commitments making EBF impossible) is from women who stopped because breastfeeding hurt. Either it was early days and they couldn’t cope with the sore nipples or they had recurrent mastitis or thrush or found the persistent engorgement unbearable or (like me) they had biters that kept trying to chew their nipples off. And yet, pain is so often fobbed off as something you can just ‘get through’ if you ‘want to’ and ‘try hard enough’. It’s also lumped into one category when there are a multitude of reasons why breastfeeding can hurt. If I hadn’t stopped when I did I wouldn’t have any nipples left with which to breastfeed any subsequent children.

            Women are told not to use nipple shields or to supplement with an odd bottle when it gets too much. They are told not to use a dummy when the idea of having their baby attached to their chest for even a minute longer is unbearable. Basically anything that might help is forbidden. Until the all or nothing approach is thrown into the dustbin of history where it belongs and these people start actually speaking to and listening to mothers then I can’t see anything changing. Apart from probably more cases of PND from bullied women driven to breaking point by all the spiteful nonsense they keep putting out.

          • maidmarian555

            Here we go, an article from the BBC about how we should teach kids in school about breastfeeding so that it becomes ‘normalised’:

            http://www.bbc.co.uk/news/uk-40787760

            Which I have no problem with as such. The thing I do have a problem with is that the article talks about a survey of 1030 mothers who were asked why they stopped breastfeeding. The reasons they gave were:

            ‘Overwhelmed and exhausted’
            In a separate survey of 1,030 mothers of children under five, the most common reasons why mothers stopped breastfeeding were found to be:
            The baby wasn’t latching on to the breast properly (56%)
            Worry that not enough milk was being produced (42%)
            Pain (39%)
            Being overwhelmed and exhausted, and something having to give (34%)
            Difficulty with expressing breast milk (32%)
            Worry the baby was not gaining enough weight (24%)
            Nearly three-quarters agreed with the statement that there was too much emphasis on telling women why they should breastfeed, and not enough on supporting them to do it.
            For those still breastfeeding at six weeks, face-to-face help from a healthcare professional or a breastfeeding counsellor was considered the most effective intervention.

            So basically, once again, everyone is just ignoring what women are actually saying and insisting that we invest resources into fixing something that none of the people they’re claiming to want to help is saying is part of the problem.

          • mabelcruet

            If you talk about breasts to a class of 12 year old boys, all you’ll get is a load of giggling and sniggering!

            I do work experience classes with local schools, talking about STEM careers, and even talking about ‘afterbirths’ makes them go giddy (cos, you know, babies means that someone had SEX). I showed one group a placenta, and shortly after his group had moved onto the next room, his teacher came rushing into my presentation to see what I was doing because he’d told her I was showing them the ‘insides of a lady’.

          • maidmarian555

            I went to an all-girls school and I remember one biology session where a teacher was using a bicycle pump to inflate a pig lung (I can’t remember precisely why he was doing that). He casually said that if anybody felt unwell they could go outside and the entire class got up and legged it out the door! I’m pretty sure a placenta would have provoked a similar reaction.

            I don’t remember them specifically teaching us about breastfeeding and the only sex-ed we got was a lecture on not getting pregnant (and a visit from a pro-life org who told us abortions were ‘wrong’). Nothing on STis at all, other than a passing mention of AIDS, which we were assured wouldn’t be a problem for us because we weren’t gay men…..one would hope things have improved at least a bit since then!

          • Empress of the Iguana People

            i wouldn’t guarantee that, though my own health classes were a lot more thorough.

          • mabelcruet

            I see it as my bit against teenage pregnancy-the girls look absolutely shocked when you tell them that they will give birth to this as well as a baby, and the boys looked at it like it was an alien!

            I once did a public engagement session in conjunction with a local educational facility, and brought along some real placentas (with consent, and all health and safety recommendations in place, promise!). The students were all 16 years+, and their teacher had just returned from maternity leave. She hadn’t actually seen her own placenta, so she was fascinated and it ended up a really in-depth discussion about pregnancy and birth. But I suppose at 16+, teenagers are a bit more sensible than the 12 year olds.

          • Empress of the Iguana People

            Remember that one person who said we should totally be breastfeeding our babies while teaching? Because *that’s* gonna work. I saw my mother breastfeeding my brother all the time, at 10. If I’d seen Mrs. Richards doing that, I’d have been mortified.

        • Cat

          I preferred this article, also in today’s Guardian: https://www.theguardian.com/commentisfree/2017/aug/01/pregnant-women-breastfeeding-tough-british-attitudes
          I don’t agree with all of it (I don’t think that low breastfeeding rates automatically show that we “have a problem” as a country) but I think she’s on to something. The consensus in my postnatal mum-and-baby groups was that first-time breastfeeding came as a bloody awful shock, because all you get when you’re pregnant is the fairy tale and the soft focus photos of blissful breastfeeding women and their babies. And then it turns out that your baby wants to feed 45 minutes in the hour and your nipples are covered in blood and black bruises, or you’re scared because your health visitor won’t give you a straight answer about how much weight loss is ok, or you end up in bed really ill with mastitis, or you can’t stop crying because your newborn doesn’t seem ever to be off your breast long enough for you to go to the loo and get a drink of water… And it’s easy to assume that the problem’s with (i) you, (ii) your baby, or (iii) both of you, because breastfeeding is supposed to be perfect, right?

  • EmbraceYourInnerCrone

    OT but I thought this was a cool story: Doctor in hospital to be induced with her second pregnancy does a delivery: https://www.yahoo.com/gma/doctor-hospital-birth-stops-deliver-patients-baby-132405318–abc-news-parenting.html

    “When I came down the hall way to her room I made sure I put another gown to cover my backside,” Hess recalled. “It looked pretty normal. I don’t think you could tell, except for the back, that I was wearing a hospital gown.”

    • Empress of the Iguana People

      duude

      • EmbraceYourInnerCrone

        I guess the on call OB got delayed on their way to the hospital. Pretty funny though. Their about to start her IV and she gets out of her hospital bed to go deliver a baby!

  • BeatriceC

    I read this sitting in the waiting room at a Planned Parenthood clinic. I couldn’t respond right then and had to wait until I got home. You wanna know what I was doing there? I was helping a young lady who was afraid to go to her parents for help. And that makes me sad. Not that this girl needed help, but that she couldn’t go to her parents. None of the breastfeeding or natural births in the world can make that difference.

    Sometimes I look at all the drama surrounding childbirth and infant feeding and wonder to myself how some of these parents are going to handle the much more difficult parenting challenges in their later years. What happens when a child succumbs to drug addiction, or makes a bad decision and winds up in the juvenile justice system, or gets pregnant (or his girlfriend gets pregnant), or even just normal teenage attitude? The decision on how to feed your child pales in comparison to those things, but the NCB/lactivist community has created such a convincing fairy tale and convinced new moms that anything other than this supposed ideal that’s never actually existed is a failure and they don’t deserve to be mothers if things go differently. Instead they should be looking at meeting their child’s individual needs, responding to them in a way that works for that child, and keeping the lines of communication open, so when something challenging does happen when that child is a teenager, the child will go to the parent, and not a friend’s mother because she’s scared of what her own will say.

    • Empress of the Iguana People

      *hugs for all* I hope the trip to PP went as well as possible. Its a terrible thing that she doesn’t feel like she can even mention it to her parents.

      • BeatriceC

        Thanks. She’s had a bit of an icky time with the sedation drugs and nausea but otherwise everything went perfectly. She’s currently asleep on my couch.

        • Poor thing. I bet you’re both glad it’s over.

          • BeatriceC

            Thanks, and Mishimoo to. Given what state we live in, it was certainly less traumatic than it could have been. My state gives teens complete medical autonomy for in respect to reproductive and mental Heath, so I really just provided an ear, a shoulder, and a ride. And a place to sleep for a few hours until she felt up to going home. And the thing is that in most ways, her parents are pretty decent. This one topic is an issue. I wish she could have reached out to her mother, but she felt like she’d have been pressured into a different decision, and couldn’t deal with that at all. But yes, I think everybody is glad that it’s over and was relatively problem free.

          • Mishimoo

            Oh, that’s good to hear! I’m glad they’re pretty decent in other areas, but it’s still awful that she couldn’t go to them. I am so grateful you were there for her.

          • Heidi

            I went with someone to a women’s healthcare clinic over a year ago in TN. We were easily able to avoid protesters. Evidently they only do it set hours and if the weather sucks, they can’t be bothered (I can’t say I understand their logic – only women with early appointments on days with nice weather need to be swayed?). However, it’s only one out of 7 clinics in our state (2 of them being in my city) so we literally had to be there the whole day then she had to wait 48 hours because some politicians think that lowly of women and their ability to make decisions and wait half a day in the waiting room the second visit. She had to return a third time since she had a medical abortion but I didn’t go with her then. She drove over a 100 miles but compared to some people there, it was nothing.

          • BeatriceC

            Even though my state is the most liberal state in the US when it comes to women’s rights to choose their own health care needs, we still have issues with protesters. PP regularly puts out a call for volunteers to help women actually get inside their clinics (with a particular need for Spanish speaking volunteers), and the clinics that are generally targeted have armed security and a multi-step entrance system, with employees behind bullet proof glass checking people in, and then buzzing them through a bullet proof door to get into the regular waiting room. The young lady I was helping did have to wait several days between her first appointment and her last one, but that was simply because there wasn’t a same day appointment available. The day of the procedure itself we were there for about 3 hours. The first hour was getting the state coverage active and the last two was for the procedure and recovery.

            It was actually a pretty smooth process. California has a program for minors that pays for reproductive and mental health care in the event they do not feel safe telling their parents or using their own health insurance. This covers pregnancy tests and appointments to discuss options, but doesn’t cover pregnancy issues beyond that. It’s really easy to get. You just show up, tell them that you’re a minor and you need something and don’t want to tell your parents, then they verify your age (with ID if you want to give it to them, with an affidavit you sign if you don’t have ID and/or don’t want to give them your real name), they issue you a card that can be used at any facility that accepts it. All the PP’s accept it, and some other health clinics as well. If a girl is, in fact pregnant, they help the girl apply for Medi-Cal, which is the state’s version of medicaid. It’s a very expanded medicaid program. To be able to access care right away, the state has what’s called “presumptive eligibility”. Basically the person signs a paper that states their income is below a certain point, and provides documentation from a physician that they have had a positive pregnancy test. It takes about an hour for the paperwork to go through, and that person is given Medi-Cal for 30 days. Between those two programs getting her care covered was easy and painless.

            And I didn’t think it was possible, but I love PP more now than I ever have before. Every person we had contact with was amazing. There was no judgement; they treated my young friend with dignity, compassion, and respect. They answered all my questions knowledgeably, and patiently (I had a bunch because I wasn’t sure how some of these things worked, so I wanted to make sure that I didn’t say anything about what was happening that wasn’t correct). We went to two different facilities. Both were clean and comfortable. She felt like a person who mattered and not just another person in a cattle call situation. They even had a decent wifi network so the support people didn’t have to sit there bored while we waited. Those little things are things that are often lacking in facilities that cater to low income populations, and I think it makes a huge difference in how the patients feel. PP just became my first choice place to donate money to.

          • Heidi

            The staff at this clinic were amazing, too. My city has a PP but this wasn’t the PP. They did say the protesters tend to protest there more. TN has made their own share of shit laws in regards to abortion, but it doesn’t help that many of the states around TN have made even worse ones or have no clinics at all. That means our abortion clinics get a lot of traffic, really too much to handle.

          • demodocus

            That reminds me of a dude who would protest the abortions presumably done at the hospital where I volunteered the semester I took off from college. He was there nearly every pleasant day with his photos of bloody, mangled, infants (whether real or fakes, I couldn’t tell). He started harassing me when I’m just going in to deliver mail and push wheelchairs. I went -off- on him. Don’t remember it too well, but one part I do remember was telling him that I walked there to volunteer in all weathers, including a fricking blizzard (ah to be 19 and immortal) and why wasn’t he there then?!
            He never showed up again.

        • Mishimoo

          Poor kid! Give her a hug when she wakes up, she did the right thing and I wish she had better parents.

    • Cat

      Poor girl. I’m so glad she had you to support her. Back when my daughter was a newborn, I sat and sobbed myself hoarse over a piece in one of the UK papers (might have been the Guardian) – I remember that it was an anonymous letter by a young woman who had gone through a termination without telling her parents because she didn’t want to add to their worries, and that she wrote about sitting in the waiting room on the brink of tears when she saw another young woman there being supported by her own mum. That was my first and biggest vow to myself as a mother: not that I’d breastfeed til a year or that my second child would be a VBAC, but that I’d always do everything I could to be the kind of mum whose daughter can come to her in a crisis.

  • maidmarian555

    OT: The delightful Amy Brown has a new paper out:

    http://onlinelibrary.wiley.com/wol1/doi/10.1111/jhn.12496/abstract

    Sadly it’s behind a paywall so I can’t read any more than the abstract. Can’t say I’m feeling particularly optimistic about the content though….

    • Heidi_storage

      My BS detector went off at the following sentence: “Methods: A narrative review to synthesise themes”; the journal I used to work for stopped publishing “narrative reviews” because they’re biased, cherry-picking pieces of crap; systematic reviews or meta-analyses only, please. To me, that says that the whole thing is an opinion piece, whatever type of article it may purport to be.

      • maidmarian555

        Given the author, I am confident that you will be proved correct.

  • Kristi Berry Pedler

    There are very few absolutes in parenting: love them, feed them, clothe them, take care of their medical needs, and watch in amazement as kids raised in same environment turn out so different.

  • Kristi Berry Pedler

    There are very few absolutes in parenting: love them, feed them, clothe them, take care of their medical needs, and watch in amazement as kids raised in same environment turn out so different.

  • Empress of the Iguana People

    Granola is also apropos because people tend to think granola is healthier than it really is.
    My son loved to sleep on people, my daughter preferred to be -near- us but not actually -in- someone’s arms. Oh, she likes to snuggle, but she prefers not to sleep that way.

    • Petticoat Philosopher

      Well, I think granola is passe at this point. Gluten you know! Don’t know what they should call it now…green juice mothering? Bone broth mothering?

      • Empress of the Iguana People

        i dunno, either,

  • Box of Salt

    Dr Amy: Thank you for this.

    I have two children who are very different from each other, in spite of sharing both genetics and environment. I cannot parent each of them the exact same way, and they both think it’s unfair.

    Many years ago I could not understand how the “Attached” Parenting ideals were supposed to focus on the baby’s needs, while the practices they promoted were counter to my own baby’s needs.

    And then I discovered very quickly that anything I had learned from the first baby just did not apply to the second one. I ended up applying different aspects of AP for the different, individual kids.

    A good parent adapts.

    I know I’m not an ideal mother – but I will continue to do the best that I can, and hope that my children will do the same.

    • Eater of Worlds

      Turns out kids who are taught that everything should be fair tend to break down starting in middle school. Learning that life is unfair is an important concept to teach kids. Just by parenting them the best way possible for each of them you’re teaching this concept. Though they might enjoy the joke for each getting a trophy when they graduate HS, a participation trophy because that’s only fair?

      • Box of Salt

        Eater of Worlds – ha! the younger one will be starting middle school at the end of August.

        Part of the difficulty stems from when they were preschoolers, and we all interacted with large groups of kids – cousins and playgroup friends, with both kids matched in age with other kids within the same group. They were always together, with their own friends within in the group, until the playgroup was separated by different elementary schools. And then in elementary school, they both knew all of each others’ friends, and they were both dragged to watch each others’ sports when they weren’t scheduled simultaneously.

        But somewhere along the line they learned that no, you’re not invited to your sister’s teammate’s rock climbing birthday party, and, no, no you’re not invited to your brother’s cub scout buddy’s laser tag party.

        I don’t think my next decade of parenting is going to get any easier, because they are still two different people motivated by different things.

        And again, at the end of the day, what I’m asking of each of them (yes, sometimes in different ways) is *always* to do the best that you can under the circumstances you’re in.

      • EmbraceYourInnerCrone

        And now I am hearing the Goblin King from the Labyrinth talking to Sarah: “It’s not fair!!!” “You say that so often, I wonder what your basis for comparison is?”

        • Mishimoo

          I actually said that to my eldest one day, out of sheer frustration because I was trying to study and she was whining about helping to tidy the toys. We watched Labyrinth that evening and she fell in love with the movie.

          • EmbraceYourInnerCrone

            My daughter loved it when she was younger. Sadly even at 22 she still sometimes has the attitude that life should be “fair”..and somehow I let her grow up not appreciating her own advantages and the fact that almost none of them are earned, she just got lucky. She is white, straight, cis, of normal intelligence, able-bodied, neurotypical, middle class only child, and grew up with 2 parents in a stable relationship. She had the advantage of good public schools and a school system that had a lot of extra things that not every town can provide. I try to get her to see that she has benefited from a ton of things a lot of other kids don’t have. It’s slowly sinking, I hope.

          • Mishimoo

            Good luck! That’s something I struggle with and worry about too, but we have frequent discussions and a more diverse community than I grew up in, so I hope it sinks in.

  • yentavegan

    I lost the support network of crunchy-moms when I had a VBAC in the local hospital ( instead of at home like the other crunchers did) and when I circumcised our son. The crunchy community I used to align myself with were narrow minded elitists with co-exist bumper stickers on their volvos.

    • Mark

      Ohhh how horrible. Shame on you for going to the hospital. You really did, well, nothing to them.

    • momofone

      I have never understood this. Why/how do people become so invested in how other people give birth/feed their children/etc.? Do they not have enough to focus on in their own lives?

  • MaineJen

    I really identify with the Barbie fight. I have been a feminist since before I knew what the word meant, have never been super into stereotypical girl stuff (makeup, clothes etc) so I was subtly determined not to push gender stereotypes on my own daughter. “No pink! No frills!”

    I ended up with a girl who loves pink, loves Barbie, loves clothes and picking out cool outfits, and at five she’s already asking for makeup. :/ And you know what? I’m not worried. She’s definitely feminine, but she’s also assertive and headstrong, and she’s going to do just fine. 🙂

    People are who they are. Nothing teaches you that like parenting 🙂

    • KeeperOfTheBooks

      Good for you for being such a supportive mom!!
      Signed: a woman who is never without a full face of makeup, even when she’s crawling under the sink to singlehandedly replace the garbage disposal. *grins*

    • Petticoat Philosopher

      Like you, I’ve also been a feminist since before I knew what the word meant. And like your daughter, I loved pink and dress-up and dolls. (Barbie was a brief stage for me but I did like them for a little while). Some girls just like that stuff. It has nothing to do with how smart or assertive or independent they are. You are doing the right thing by letting your girl be herself. Frankly, I’m tired of femininity-shaming. Women are never going to achieve equality as long as we insist that everything culturally associated with them is inferior. It’s bullshit to force pink and dolls on girls but it’s also harmful to send the message to girls who just like those things that there is something wrong with them.

      I’m an adult now and still as feminist as ever–I actually worked for a feminist youth non-profit for a little while and continue to work on gender justice issues as a social worker. And I still love dresses and jewelry and “girly” things, even though I generally prefer them in colors besides pink. (Not really my color, as it turns out.) Your daughter will indeed be fine.

      • LaMont

        I’m reminded of my cringe-worthy anti-feminine stage I had in middle school. In a world that demanded that I fangirl over NSYNC and clothes, I rebelled. Hard. Got my hair cut, and developed a desperate hate for all things girly.

        Granted, when you’re an 11-year-old girl and a new acquaintance asks you what your “second choice for the midday activity is, if you don’t get fashion, of course”, and your response of “puzzles was my first choice” gets you a look like YOU’RE the weird one… ugh. (My middle school was experimenting with a two-period lunch where you did some activity in the other period, subject to availability.)

        • Mishimoo

          I had that stage too, though mine was due to the nonsense I was raised to believe. So glad I finally grew out of it, especially since I have very feminine daughters who love the feminist rants and also love the lack of gender roles in our household.

    • Gæst

      Me, too! I hated all girly stuff (and still do, to a great extent) and I even hoped not to have a daughter so I could avoid having to deal with someone who is girly (a girly boy wouldn’t have bothered me). But I have a daughter alright, and she loves pink, glitter, mermaids, and princesses, and the only thing she wants to be when she grows up is a princess. I have never encouraged it, but I don’t restrict her (except for in cases where it’s warranted, like wanting to wear an outfit inappropriate for the weather/activity).

      • MaineJen

        I’m actually having more fun with it than I thought I would. She’s kind of helping me rediscover everything I loved about playing with dolls (the make believe, the stories). I won’t be able to help her much with makeup in the coming years, as I never wear any if I can help it, but we’ve gotten creative with nail polish!

    • BeatriceC

      If it makes you feel any better, my degrees are in a male dominated field, I work on my own car, can do almost any kind of home repair (I don’t do electrical because I’m afraid if it), have no issues getting dirty, my nails look like hell, and I don’t wear make up if I can avoid it, and don’t wear any jewelry except for one ring. I also have a closet full of pink, my phone case is pink, and I’d probably drive a pink car if they were commonly available. I love shoes and high heels, have waist length hair that I love to style into various updos, and truly enjoy being a full time mom and housewife. We can certainly like girly stuff and still be independent and strong at the same time.

    • mabelcruet

      Historically (19th century), pink was seen as a masculine colour and blue as feminine. Pink was the watered down version of masculine army uniforms, so small boys wore pink as they were ‘small men’. Blue was the colour of purity and virginity. It really only changed in the mid 20th century.