First World guilt

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We debate parenting styles and child-rearing philosophies and the politics of parenthood.  We argue about whether it’s better to hover or to stand back, to ‘helicopter’ parent or to ‘free range’ parent, to attach or to Ferber, to Montessori or home school or ‘unschool,’ to work or to stay home. We dither over whether to co-sleep or not co-sleep, to baby-wear or not baby-wear, to breastfeed or to not breastfeed or to only breastfeed until we go back to work. We make our choices and we defend them and we justify them and we proclaim as better or best or ‘just right for us.’

We forget – sometimes, most of the time – that this is a luxury, a privilege.

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We forget that not everyone has these choices. We forget that, for some families, in some parts of the world, questions like  ‘how do you parent’ or ‘what’s your parenting style’ are absurd. There’s no ‘parenting.’  There’s just living…

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… and surviving.

I’m not saying that we should stop discussing and debating and dithering over our parenting choices. I’m just saying that we should remind ourselves, always, that these choices are a luxury, that the very fact that they exist as choices is a marker of our privilege, and that they no more reflect what is truly right and what is truly wrong and what is truly good and what is truly bad than do any of our other choices – the choice between whether to study literature or engineering in college, say, or the choice between whether to eat organic or to just go for those tinned peaches, because it’s easier and you love the syrup – and that they are just matters of us deciding how we want to live.

Because most of us have those choices – perhaps in greater and lesser degrees, sure, but we do. We do.

Other people, in other places, don’t.

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I’m being preachy, I know that. And I also know that there is nothing more banal – and nothing more demonstrative of privilege – than someone like me traveling to a poor and distant country and finding herself and discovering truths and returning home and imposing her discoveries upon her peers. But here it is: I can no longer look at motherhood and parenting and community and life in the same way again. And however banal that is, it’s there, and I’m going to go forward with it.

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I’d be wrong not to, I think.

(Please, sign this.)

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