I have been pretty crunchy with Alice. I cloth diaper, I am still breastfeeding her at two, I co-sleep, we did Baby Led Weaning and buy wooden toys when we can and I bake my own preservative free bread and when my kid gets a fever, I put potatoes in her socks (for real-this works!). I have bought books and more books and yogurt makers and Rockin' Green detergent and essential oils and now Amazon thinks I am a dirty hippie, apparently, as they no longer recommend me mascara but instead Bac-Out and diaper sprayers. I have done it some to save money, some because I thought it best, and yes, I'll admit, some just to see if I could.
And I'll admit as well that there is a certain amount of self-righteousness that goes into it too. I come home from work and after the initial mild anxiety attack about starting my "second job," I get a lot of pleasure from stuffing the diapers, from snuggling the still sweet baby in bed. "Look how good I am," I think. "I could have just bought a box of Pampers, but here I sit, stuffing away, saving money." And yes, I suppose I am, but it is not like I am funneling all that money away into a college fund somewhere. I bought a bunch of eye shadow this week.
Holding hands with that self-righteousness, skipping along beside, however, comes its cousin, Parental Judgement. I try not to judge people for their parenting choices at all, but I still catch myself doing it. I bet we all do. "Oh, so you're giving your kid Mountain Dew....ohh....." "Your breasts are for your husband and not your baby? For real?" "Letting your kid cry it out? CONCERN-TROLL AWAY!" I never confront people about their parenting decisions--as parents we give ourselves enough guilt without some jerk giving us more, amirite?--but I can't stop my brain from thinking it.
Or maybe I can. My reality now is not that much fun, I'm not going to front. I am on my third cup of coffee of the morning right now, just on the mere hope of staying awake and performing slightly well at my job. I have not gotten a decent night's sleep in over two years. Because I co-sleep, Alice is constantly trying to "dream-feed." Although I have weened her from actually nursing during the night (mostly), she still pulls my hair almost constantly, which has always been her way of getting me awake. She does it in sleep, subconsciously, as well as saying, in sleep, "Mommy, I tire" over and over again. So every night when she starts, I go sleep on the couch and on the way there, I start thinking about something, and the next thing I know, it is 6:15 and I have totally reimagined how to organize my closet, but unfortunately, it is time to go to work, and I have not had any sleep. This is not fun. Even if she starts out the night in her crib, at some point, she wakes up enough to come to our bed and then it is all down hill. We are investigating lots of options from this point--moving her to a toddler bed, having Matt do all of the night-time bed stuff so she totally divorces the idea from me, weaning her totally--but nothing is happening fast enough. And we also struggle with the fact that we have a lot of changes coming down the pike during this year (we are planning on moving during the summer) and don't want to do too much at one time for her (we are also working on potty learning, which is something she seems totally ready for). I am trying to parent her the way I have from the beginning--by listening to her cues and doing things based on what she seems ready for--but again, it is not fast enough for me. And here I sit with my coffee, knowing that by the time 5:00 rolls around, I'll be walking in the door as a zombie, but one that is expected to make dinner (with Alice perched on the counter beside me), pick up the house, and listen interestedly as my 12 year old recounts what grievances she has against the American education system and how some other kid in her class is at best a fucktard and at worst a sociopath (my words of course).
So lately, I have caught myself thinking: "I wish I had just put her in a crib. All of this would be over by now." "I wish I didn't have to devote all that time to folding diapers on top of all this." "I wish my kids were just happy with some freaking chicken fingers and macaroni and cheese because if Sam asks for Indian food one more night this week, I'm going to kill a puppy." The judgment has started to fall away. Although there are still those times when I revel in my own crunchy awesomeness, I get it. I see all sides. I'm like this omniscient-Mommy-being with a scepter of truth and honesty and light and a perfect grilled cheese sandwich in one hand a Dora band-aid on the other.
We all make parenting decisions based on what we know at the time. We do our best. No one goes out of their way to just supremely screw up their child. We do what is best for our kid, personally. I did what I thought was best. Was it the right thing? Maybe. Could I have done it differently for a better outcome? Definitely.
It brings me great joy to know, though, that my kid will probably be ok. She'll be funny and bright and self-aware, just as she is now. She won't still be breastfeeding when she is, say 18, and I suddenly need all that money that I should have saved up by using cloth diapers. She'll be thinking about sleeping with someone else at that point, and I will dream of the days when I gazed over at her chubby-cheeked profile and brushed the rapidly growing curls away from her forehead.
And I will be ok too. I got through college, after all, on a slurry of Mountain Dew, espresso, and masochism. In the grand scheme of things, this ain't nothing.