Do you ever feel like you're not good enough to be a "natural/conscious/aware/alternative parent"? I do. God damn, I mostly feel like I'm not a good enough parent full stop, never mind trying to stick to my ideals like glue and failing miserably.
Let me give you an example. Recently we've finally succumbed to (gentle) night-weaning, at 10 months. It's not what we wanted, at all, at all. But after approximately 6 months of ever-increasing psychosis through lack of sleep, it was quite obviously the right thing to do. There are many, many, who tell me (or would tell me) that we shouldn't have waited so long, that our health is paramount because without that we cannot care for our child's health and wellbeing.
And I agree, and most of the world would agree. So why are there so many of the same people who make us feel like utter failures - including ourselves - at not meeting some kind of exacting standard set upon us unknowingly? Almost every day I read posts or comments from (mostly) mothers who appear to feel that their way is best, that you cannot call yourself a parent - let alone any kind of "natural" parent if you do not comply with rules A-Z without complaint.
Secretly, though, I know what the issue is here. And it makes me very sad. Parenting is hard - we all agree with that I think. And so we celebrate every little success, as parents and carers. Every. Single. Tiny. Success. Which is fabulous of course, and just the way it should be. The danger comes when we over-celebrate and our joy begins to spill over into The Smug Zone. Oh I am worthier than thou for I have done what you cannot manage. I've been there myself. The smugness and self-satisfaction at continuing to breastfeed long after the other 90% (or whatever) of mothers have given up. Feeling silently victorious at having lost all the baby weight (and more) after just 6 months, both times. The complacency with which we watched our babies self-wean onto solids, with no quibbles whatsoever. I could go on, and on.
But with every crow of victory we hurt another, less fortunate parent. Childrearing is not a competition, it's a life-choice. And as such, we have to roll with the punches and make hay when the sun shines, BUT we must also remember that it "takes a village" to raise a child. That means offering compassion and genuine support. It simply isn't good grace to be doling out advice whilst at the same time believing you are superior because your child has been breastfed for 4 years and the mum you're offering support to is struggling moving beyond 4 months (for example). We ALL struggle with aspects of parenting. Some of us may well put in more "effort" or have more "staying power" but that is neither here nor there. We all have our limits, and at the end of the day, we are all very different. So what works for me will very likely not work at all for you - and no, it's not because you're doing it wrong.
So please people, learn some compassion. Learn to work as a village. Learn to show our children the true meaning of community - compassion, not competition.