Beth is brand new to FIT4MOM's Body Back program. Join her as she documents her Body Back journey for the next eight weeks. Body Back is about empowering, finding balance and making lifestyle changes... All in a supportive, all-female setting. Welcome to Beth's journey.
Before I had kids, I had opinions. And lots of them. I was NEVER going to co-sleep. The whole “shhhhhh-ing” thing made my skin crawl. Embroidered talking animals on clothing? I would be returning those, thank you very much.
But then I had my son. And he only slept when touching me. We co-slept for sixteen months and then he went into his present-day Ikea bunk bed. It also turns out that “shhhhh-ing” works. I don’t know why, but it does and when you want that baby to JUST STOP CRYING-well, you shhhhhh away.
Parenting, it would appear, is never black and white. The “rules” (whose rules are they anyway?!?) are meant to be bent to the point of shattering and you find yourself doing things you would have never dreamed of even considering pre-children. That, my friends, is what I like to call “living in the grey”. And I live in the grey most moments of this parenting journey. I don’t choose sides in parenting arguments because I’ve been on both sides of most and neither side is 100% “right” for every child/parent/family. It seems like most moms I talk to, most moms I meet, are right there in the grey with me. When the shoes come off and there are mismatched socks, when the cute jacket is unzipped to reveal a once-was-black-100-washes-ago faded nursing tank with only one side fastened, when the kids are melting down and the pink Starbucks cake pop is the only thing within reach and who cares if it’s organic because I’m already standing in this line and I need my coffee and you need to stop whining, well…..those moms are living in the grey with me.
Grey keeps you sane. It’s like you used to be in the black/white parenting game, but then you relaxed a little, lived a lot and faded to your current grey status of parenting. It’s not a place of defeat, rather, a well-deserved badge of honor-a “been there, done that, survived it” status.
And most moms I know have embraced the grey, especially as our babies have grown and siblings have been added. But grey falters, loses its footing, and frequently disappears all together in one huge aspect of mothering where it is often needed the most. Feeding your baby. For whatever reason, black and white rules have a stronghold on this choice we make as parents. And the need for grey is greatest here, because often this is an area where parents have the least amount of choice or control. Whether you nurse your baby, supplement with donated milk, supplement with formula, only formula feed-you are still 110% devoted to your child and their needs. So why the pressure to choose just one? Why the need to pick one side of the debate and entrench yourself so deeply that any other choice but your own is a failure to provide the “best” for your child? In all other areas of parenting, I’ve sought out advice and carefully chosen what tips/tricks/feedback will work for my child, my family, and my parenting goals. I don’t feel guilty when I choose a modified cry-it-out approach with my second son, instead of the no-crying ever approach I took with my first. That’s just me embracing the grey-knowing that trying something new isn’t bad, lazy, or wrong, it’s just me admitting I don’t know what works until I try.
I recently started supplementing formula with my second son and, even after doing the same thing with my first-I felt the familiar pangs of guilt creeping in. It caught me off guard and made me take a look at my parenting and my own convictions. And it made me question where the guilt came from in the first place. How was it that I could preach “living in the grey” to my mom friends, but was failing at it so horribly when it came to feeding my own child? Why was this issue so black or white to me? I didn’t have the answer then and I still don’t. But it has definitely made me recommit to the act of giving myself grace as a parent. No one judges my parenting harder than I do and I have to remember that living in the grey is not an accident, it’s a choice. A choice to give myself the grace of saying “I’m not perfect, I’ve stumbled and succeeded, and here I am, proudly doing my best, somewhere in the grey”.