Friday, November 9, 2012

On Being a Parenting Mutt, Part 2

When we were in college, Andrew and I and some of our friends discovered a card game called Munchkin. It's basically a spoof of fantasy role-playing games. Your cards have different identities, and they spend the game trying to fight various tongue-in-cheek monsters (like the Potted Plant) with various tongue-in-cheek weapons (like the Pantyhose of Giant Strength). It's an absolutely hilarious game and Andrew and I may or may not still play it pretty much every time we get together with our best friends from college who live, unfortunately, across the country.

Anyhow, one of the rules of this game is that you're limited by the dimensions of a normal human body; for instance, you can only carry one weapon per hand. You can wear one helmet, one suit of armor, and one pair of footgear. And that's it. So, if you draw the Dagger of Treachery, but you're already holding the Rapier of Unfairness and the Huge Rock, you have to decide which you want to keep and which you want to discard. (Unless, that is, you draw the Cheat card, which allows you to break any game rule, your choice.)

I think sometimes we see parenting as sort of a game of Munchkin, only with (obviously) higher stakes.

Do you breast or bottle feed?

Do you co-sleep or does she sleep in a crib?

Do you babywear or use a stroller?

Do you use cloth or disposable diapers?

Because apparently, in Parenting Munchkin, you can only carry one Feeding card, one Sleep card, one Baby Transportation card, one Diaper card, and so on.

I don't honestly know why there seems to be so much pressure in the parenting world to choose a side. I don't know why it seems so important to us, as mothers, to identify ourselves by which of these cards we hold. Because most of these things are not mutually exclusive. Some choices (a very, very few) are all-or-nothing choices. But most are not.
This absolutely melts my heart. So does his sweet little nursing face.
I've both breast and bottle fed Peregrine. I started pumping bottles for him when he was about a month old because his hungriest times of the day never seemed to sync with my highest production times. When I went back to work, I continued pumping bottles for him. I consistently struggled with low supply, and when I ran out of my meager freezer stash, my sister-in-law started pumping bottles for Peregrine as well. She also breast-fed him sometimes on the days she took care of him. When he started solids, I began occasionally supplementing with formula as well.
The pillow is mandatory. The bed? There have been a lot of them (he's even slept in a laundry basket).
Peregrine has slept all over the place. He's spent most of his sleeping hours in a bassinet or pack-n-play next to Andrew's and my bed. He took his naps in the sling or Moby until I went back to work; then he started napping in his crib. Usually, when he was small, Andrew or I snuggled him to sleep in our bed while we read aloud (our long-standing nightly tradition!), and then transferred him to his bassinet. When he got old enough to be woken up by our reading, we put him to bed in his room, in his crib, and then brought him into our room when he woke up to nurse. Eventually that was too distracting for him, so I started getting up and nursing him in his room and then putting him back to sleep in his crib. And on difficult nights, or when he wants to wake up too early, we co-sleep (and by we I most definitely mean Andrew; I can't sleep with a baby, and we made a pact early on that if Peregrine is in the bed he's Andrew's responsibility).
All the comfort and security of the womb, right here. Including the head-down part.
I wear Peregrine when we both feel like it, or when he's clingy or sad or sick and I need to get something done. I've also used, at various times, his bassinet, the Bumbo, the swing, or a blanket on the floor. If I'm walking on a trail, I wear him; if I'm on the road, I usually use a stroller.
Admittedly, much cuter than the Costco diapers that he also wears.
I have a lovely set of cloth diapers, and I use them most of the time. I started Peregrine in them much later than I'd planned, primarily because his umbilical area took literally months to stop oozing. Apparently that's quite normal, but the midwife told me to hold off on the cloth diapers and to use those belly button cut-out ones as long as possible. Now I use cloth when I'm at home, or when I forget to change him out of them. I use disposables when I'm out, at night, and occasionally when I know he's going to poop and I want to just throw the nastiness away (sorry, environment). A note on cloth diapering, though: you have to use cloth enough to wash a load at least once a week or so. Otherwise, especially if you live in a humid place, you end up with disgusting mold in your diapers (not that I know this from experience or anything). So in that sense, you do have a bit of a commitment to make.
Me and my breast-fed, bottle-fed, breast-fed by other people, donated-milk fed, formula-fed, crib-sleeping, room-sharing, co-sleeping, laundry-basket-sleeping, sling-worn, suitcase-worn, stroller-riding, cloth diapered, disposable diapered child. And that's only a fraction of the all the various parenting choices I've made with him!

And I'm only one person. Each person's combination will look different. And will look different from one child to the next and from one stage of development to the next.

And you know what? It's also fine not to mix and match. There's nothing wrong with only co-sleeping, or only disposable diapering. It's just that, in most cases, you don't have to "only" anything. You really, really don't.

I think it's helpful to think of parenting less like a game of Munchkin, and more like a giant chest of tools. Owning one sleep tool, or feeding tool, doesn't keep you from owning another (or two, or three, or four). Sure, maybe you can't use them at the exact same time (you can't co-sleep and crib-sleep simultaneously, unless, I guess, you all sleep in a giant crib). Some tools may not work at all for the particular job you need to get done. And maybe you know that you absolutely can't (or don't want to) use certain tools. That's fine. But you're not limited in what you can use. (Choosing a night, or a season, of co-sleeping, for instance, doesn't mean you can never use a crib.) And if one tool doesn't work, you can use another. Without having to give up the old one forever.

Because in the end, it isn't about the tools.


  1. Not to be picky, but I think the Huge Rock is two-handed.

    1. Haha, I knew you'd find some glitch in my Munchkin examples. And I'll confess I did have my doubts about the Huge Rock, it being Huge and all.