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Staying Home Instead

Different Views on Parenting

From NEW BEGINNINGS, Vol. 18 No. 4 July-August 2001, p. 141-142

We provide articles from our publications from previous years for reference for our Leaders and members. Readers are cautioned to remember that research and medical information change over time.

"Staying Home Instead" is a regular feature of the magazine NEW BEGINNINGS, published bimonthly by La Leche League International. In this column, suggestions are offered by readers of NEW BEGINNINGS to help parents who choose to stay at home with their children. Various points of view are presented. Not all of the information may be pertinent to your family's life-style. This information is general in nature, and not intended to be advice, medical or otherwise.

Situation

My best friend and I both have three-month-old daughters and we spend a lot of time together. Mostly, we have similar opinions about parenting. But yesterday, she announced that she and her husband are going to the beach for four days-without their baby. My friend said she needs a break, and her husband really wants some time with just the two of them. Her husband's mother is going to watch the baby. My friend was so happy about her news and I just felt like crying. I feel so strongly that babies as young as ours need to be with their mothers. I don't want to cause a rift with my friend, but I'm finding it hard to keep my opinion to myself What, if anything, should I say to her about this?

Response

My best friend and I were maids of honor at each other's weddings and each attended the births of the other's children. We have very different parenting beliefs in many ways. I attend La Leche League meetings; she attends a mothering support group that requires babies over six months to be in the nursery during the meeting and advocates scheduling feedings. She takes nights away from her children on occasion; my husband and I celebrate Valentine's Day and our anniversary, along with every other day, as a family. But my best friend and I do share a deep love for our babies and a commitment to do what we believe is best for them.

Before my first child was born, I, too, thought I might leave her with a trusted relative overnight, but she was a high-need baby, and I knew that she would have cried inconsolably if I had tried to leave her. My daughter's personality, combined with LLL meetings, a master's degree in psychology, and my intuition all helped me develop into the advocate of attachment-parenting that I am today. I have very strong feelings about the rightness of this for all babies, and sometimes I have difficulty keeping my strong feelings to myself. Yet our culture is very focused on independence and many babies endure a great deal of separation and still appear to develop into healthy, happy, well-functioning adults. I also believe the African saying that "it takes a village to raise a child" and that a strong relationship with extended family members is important to development. For many children and infants this includes nights away.

Becoming parents has caused some distance to come between my best friend and me but our relationship is still strong. I am focusing on developing new like-minded friendships at LLL and elsewhere. I talk about my belief in attachment parenting to whomever will listen.

Invite your friend to attend LLL meetings with you and help her find information on how to maintain her milk supply and prepare her baby for such a long separation. Do what you can to support her in nurturing her baby in the way that is right for their family. Use your strong feelings and energy to become the attachment parenting "villager" in as many tribes as you can.

Rene Tobin
Gold Bar WA USA

Response

It can be very painful when a close friend makes a decision that you disagree with. Yet to maintain the friendship, I would withhold criticism of her choice. It might be possible to ask gently and very casually whether she and her husband have thought about taking the baby along, and to follow up with some creative response to any feelings that she might show in her reply. But in the long run, the baby needs two happy parents, and if their relationship is going to be severely strained by not having this time alone, then maybe they are making a reasonable choice for them, at this time. They may find that they miss the baby more than they thought possible, and may learn more from that yearning than from any advice.

Helen Armstrong
Willimanti CT USA

Response

I have a sister who is vegan (no meat, no dairy, no eggs). She hasn't "converted" me to her views, but she's been a tremendous influence on me. I think her influence has been greater because she is honest with herself (such as admitting that "sometimes I just crave ice cream") and with me (about how healthy she feels veganism is and why she switched, etc.). Perhaps most important, though, is that most of what she's told me has been in response to my questions. She doesn't criticize my choice when I say we're going to a fast food outlet on the way home. Preaching in her case would be counter productive. l can see for myself the benefits of her food choices, the weight she and her husband have lost, their increased energy, and the reduced number of colds and flus.

I have a nursing toddler and a six-month-old baby. If it were my best friend going to the beach, I would be struggling with jealousy as well as with the feeling that my friend might be making the wrong choice. (Four days on the beach with my husband by myself? Sounds wonderful!) I would probably say, "Gee, there are times I wish Dan and I could do that, too." If she answered, "Well, why not? I bet your mother could watch the babies!" or, "You only feel like that some of the time?" I would have the chance to say, "I feel it's important for me to stay home with my children. They need to know that Mama isn't going to leave them. Yes, at times it's hard, yes, at times I'm jealous, but my husband and I have chosen to put my children's needs above our own wants." But if she didn't open the conversation, chances are she doesn't want to talk about it. Or perhaps she already knows what you'll say, just as I know what my sister has to say about my burgers and fries.

Kelly Harmon
Cedarville MI USA

Response

Please don't alienate your good friend by judging her personal decisions. We in LLL are always reminded to trust our own instincts about mothering instead of listening to the myriad opinions around us, but we must also remember to respect the instincts of other women, even when they differ from our own. Your friend obviously needs support, not criticism, right now, if she is truly in need of a break from mothering. Different people have different tolerances for stressful situations and it may be that she genuinely will benefit emotionally from time away with just her husband.

When my son and daughter were 28 months and 13 months, respectively, I had the opportunity to take a short trip with my husband. I did struggle over whether it was the right thing to do, but in the end I decided that as long as my children were with my parents, who were familiar substitute caregivers, I would be doing something that would help me emotionally and rejuvenate my marriage as well. My children had a wonderful time with their grandparents, and I believe it turned out to be a positive experience for them as well. Not every woman feels comfortable leaving her children, and not all children are ready to be away from their parents. But for some of us, a short break can help us to be better mothers in the end. One reason I have stayed active in my local LLL Group, despite the fact that I weaned both my children relatively early (around 13 months), is that I have received nothing but support and friendship from the other members of my Group. When we share the positive aspects of parenting with each other instead of criticizing the decisions that may offend our individual sensibilities, we all benefit. If your friend asks for your opinion, you certainly may tell her what you would do, but I'd urge you to not pretend to know what is best for her in her own situation.

Melissa Routzahn
Lake in the Hills IL USA

Response

My former best friend and I were worlds apart about children. She bottlefed, I nursed. She worked outside her home; I stayed at home and worked in my home office only when my boys napped. Since I felt so strongly about my mothering ideas, I voiced my opinions. We are still friends, but we are no longer best friends. First try voicing your opinions to your friend. If that doesn't work, maybe you should expand your circle of friends to include those with mothering ideas more similar to yours. I did this by joining La Leche League and being in a playgroup with five other members. While this didn't solve my differences with my friend, I gained new friends in the process.

Jennifer A. Hart-Abraham
Shoreview MN USA

Last updated Thursday, October 19, 2006 by njb.
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