You can’t flip through a parenting website or magazine without hitting upon an article or post about parenting styles and philosophies, otherwise known as the way we judge other parents. And perhaps it’s human nature to put labels on things, to put people in little boxes, so that we can better understand them and their behaviour. Particularly when their behaviour seems so very different from our own.
Free range parenting, helicopter parenting, ‘tiger mom’, Leaning In Mom, Work at Home Parent, Stay at Home Parent, Wonder Woman (is there a Wonder Man?)… All labels that attempt to explain different styles of parenting. All labels that fail miserably. I feel like I don’t fit into any one of these boxes. I have a little bit of many of these. I free range things like what my daughter does with her down time but I helicopter her outings at other people’s houses. I don’t think I ‘tiger mom’ much but I’m probably not the best judge of that. I am not crunchy unless you count the crud on the floor that I’m too lazy to vacuum more than once a month but I do put a heavy emphasis on growing my writing career (is that ‘leaning in’ or just ‘working’?).
Even with ALL of these labels, I thought we were missing a few. So here are my additions:
Super Crunchy Parent – I’m not referring here to ecologically-focused, hyper-organic, vegan, gluten free parents that the word ‘crunchy’ (as in crunchy granola) usually refers to. In other words, not crunchy in the figurative sense. I mean it literally, as in: ‘there is so much crud on the floor that hasn’t been vacuumed in weeks’ kind of crunchy (also known as Tumbleweed Parent, Dust Bunny Parent and so on). Parents whose philosophies are “fun first, clean later”: playing at the park instead of having gleaming floors you could eat off of. A three kid play date WITH glitter and Play-Doh taking precedence over yesterday night’s dishes. Baking a mountain of cookies with flour and sprinkles landing everywhere being more important than…well, just about anything. The Super Crunchy Parent probably has no compunction about picking up the soother that Baby just dropped on the floor, wiping it on their pant leg and popping it back into their kid’s mouth. No compunction whatsoever. Their mantra is: “You can eat off my floors… Because there is food on them!”
Benign Neglect Parent – This parent lets their kids get bored. They don’t entertain kids who over at their house for a playdate; they don’t provide a non-stop-super-fun-schedule of back to back activities, crafts and games. Instead, this parent limits his or her participation to arbitrating arguments that have gone too far and tossing out the occasional healthy and a few not so healthy snacks. Getting down on the floor and playing with the kids is just not happening, particularly when it’s an endless game of chase Thomas the ChooChoo around the living room or something equally mind numbing, to say nothing of butt numbing. Putting down the phone and ignoring Twitter to have a tea party? Not likely. Most parents don’t start off with this ‘philosophy’. This is one that develops and grows with time: once you’ve read “Baa Baa Moo Moo” 200 or more times, or whatever other book written specifically to entertain children and drive parents towards alcohol consumption, you’re done.
An important subset of Benign Neglect Parent is Anti-Craft Parent. These are parents who will not do crafts. They do not believe in crafts. They have no concept of glitter glue or anything sticky for that matter. They have no clue what Pinterest is and would be happiest of their children never discovered finger paint, Play-Doh or stickers. Glitter is verboten. That’s a given.
Lastly, but certainly not least, is the Smart Saver Parent – Now this label isn’t so much about a parenting philosophy as a life philosophy: these people were probably smart savers before they became parents but giving birth to wee money suckers just aggravated their saving tendencies. How does this parent manifest their philosophy? Like this: Mom discovers that maxi pads can serve a dual purpose. They can help her during the heaviest days of her flow AND they can help the bedwetting 7 year old. The diaper companies need to stay “fresh” and come up with something new every once in a while but the real underwear with the pad inserts that are the latest iteration in parenting convenience are 40% more expensive than a box of night time maxi pads that could do the same thing. This Mom knows better and goes to stock up on the economy sized box of maxis to share with her wunderkind.
Sure, I’m poking fun, but that’s the thing with labels: I am one of these labels, I am none of these labels and I am all of these labels. It just depends on the day and how much coffee I’ve had. My point is that it’s ALL pretty silly, so let’s just get rid of the labels and call ourselves ‘parents’, shall we?