Parenting isn't a fashion, though you wouldn't know it from the recent spate of books out there—from Amy 'Tiger Mom' Chua's hard-nosed manifesto to Pamela Druckerman's smug French diatribe to Mayim 'Blossom' Bialik's crunchy endorsement of attachment parenting.
These books present a 'one size fits all' approach to parenting, what with their implicit assertions that there is a right—and by extension, a wrong—way to raise a child, or that parenting is somehow black and white (instead of grey all over). While there is nothing wrong with striving to become a better mom, I fear that such books create an us and them culture.
Parenting is not, in my humble and limited experience, about dichotomies; it is about finding what works best for you and your particular household at any given moment.
The images of a beatifically smiling Bialik, snugly sandwiched between her young sons, suggest an intimacy that parents who don't practice extended breastfeeding or child wearing or co-sleeping can't possibly possess.
It takes a village to raise a child. Or at the very least, one superhuman parent. Every now and then I don my cape and play that wonder woman. Like many moms out there, when my husband goes away on business, I unofficially become a ‘single parent.' And, also like most moms out there, it’s not an experience I relish.
Yet I do recognize that every now and then it’s healthy and necessary to be ousted from your bubble-wrapped existence. And walking in another mom’s footsteps -- if only for a few short days or weeks a year -- helps me to see beyond the periphery of my smug little life.
Until I became a parent I had scant appreciation for what was involved in the role. I didn’t read the fine print, you might say. No matter how involved (or uninvolved) your partner is, two pairs of hands are certainly better than one. So I thought.
While my husband was abroad on business, our then four month old caught something nasty from his playgroup. He coughed so hard he couldn’t keep milk down. A doctor on call said my son wasn’t showing signs of dehydration. Yet. This went on. In the middle of the night, worried that he might not make it through till morning, I packed up my baby boy and headed to the nearest E.R. where my son was given electrolytes. I arrived home around 3 a.m., utterly spent yet inordinately proud of my judgment call.
To me single parents are superheroes. I keep looking for the strings and the hidden wires. But there’s no sleight of hand in their repertoire, only unbelievable reserves of love and hard work. (And who knows, maybe it's easier today than it was for my own mother, a teenager in the '70s...)
Experience has taught me that two pairs of hands aren’t necessarily better than one, and that it totally depends upon the hands in question. One pair of caring hands is surely better than two indifferent or abusive pairs.
The minute my husband gets home, I plan to count out our many blessings on all the hands and fingers we’ve got.