My close friend from San Diego forwarded me this article on Decommissioning the Diaper a few days ago. Reading it reminded me of a conversation I had about two months or so ago when I was interviewing a prospective nanny for LittleTiger. During our conversation, she asked me what my "parenting philosophy" was. I wasn't really sure what she was asking for, and my only response to her was that I was trying to raise my child just the way I was raised by my parents. This wasn't any "philosophy" that I had come up with, it was the only way I knew. To translate using the terminology used today, it meant breastfeeding the baby, co-sleeping, using comfortable cloth nappies and in general thinking of the child's comfort before one's own convenience.
In the article the writer calls these practices traditional parenting methods and compares them with the modern philosophy of detached baby care. Intuitively I agree with the writer completely. Here in the US, most products and practices related to bringing up children are centered around the convenience of parents. From infant formula and sleep training methods to baby monitors and disposable diapers - all are examples of the modern conveniences for parents that are less than optimal solutions for their babies.
Last week, I witnessed an Indian grandfather ask his son if it would be illegal for him to carry his grandson in his arms when he went out for a walk. In the few months he had been in the US, he had only seen children strapped in strollers or baby carriers and he had also observed that it was illegal to have the child outside the carseat when driving a car. And that led him to wonder if it was illegal to step out of the home without strapping the baby securely to something. I thought this was funny and at the same time a great example of how this society is perceived by an Indian grandparent.
However, being a working mother and having an active life style myself, I do understand the other side of the story. I understand that at some level, parents today have to make choices. They need to find a balance between convenience (or time for self) and the level of involvement they desire to have with their child. And where does the child's say come into the picture? Unfortunately, it doesn't. As the writer points out"If children's rights were recognized, the ads for diapers that need only be changed after baby wets 5 times would be banned. "
Personally, my goal is to always think of my child's need before my own. That being said, I know there are multiple dimensions to me as a person, and though I hope to be a devoted mother, I do have other needs to be happy as an individual. And some times these needs can be conflicting. For example, I am happy to give up some convenience and clean LittleTiger's soiled cloth nappies for his comfort and I don't mind giving up my active outdoors life style or my social life for some time until LittleTiger is old enough to accompany us. But how easy would it be for me to give up my financial independence so I don't have to depend on a stranger to take care of my baby when I am at work?
Its true that ideally, I would like to raise my child just as I was raised or most children in our generation were raised in India. Growing up, I did not know a single child who went to a day care or had a baby sitter (that was not family) even in cases when the child had a working mom. Most moms I knew, would take a break from work for a few years until their child was old enough to go to school, before getting back to work. Or they would have family living with them (grandparents, uncles/aunts) who would take care of the child.
I feel very fortunate that my job affords me the luxury of being able to work from home. So in theory, I am able to continue to work and keep my son with me at the same time. In practice, I can only do one thing at a time and so I will need to depend on a nanny to look after LittleTiger when I work at home. I think its a situation that is close to ideal for me. But I often wonder what choices I would have made if I didn't have the option to work from home. Would I have the heart to send my infant to a day care? Or would I have the heart to leave my job after working so hard to build a career? Either way, it would be a very difficult decision, and I am glad that I don't have to make that choice.
In conclusion, today's parents have many options. Every parent needs to make their choices based on their own circumstances and beliefs (and I myself have picked convenience over traditional practice in some cases). All I ask is that parents make conscious decisions after carefully evaluating their choices - not be quick to disregard traditional practices and blindly follow what everyone in the modern west does.