I knew my spouse and I were in trouble when we opened the gift bag we’d been given by our hospital’s pre-birth class and found that it was composed almost entirely of coupons for products promising to make parents’ lives easier. I’m all for an easier life — but balked quickly at the onslaught of messages characterizing parenting as an endless stream of problems solved by this-or-that gadget or pre-packaged food product. This went beyond the gift bag, of course, because the world was full of magazine articles, blog posts, and acquaintances happy to tell me the “right” ways to parent: what time we should stop breastfeeding, whether cloth or disposable diapers were best, or why only a certain brand of bottle would do. As a lesbian mom, it was especially hard to fight the urge to do the “right” thing, however slippery a concept that was, because I was representing a community, not just myself, I thought. It was almost enough to make me want to raise our son in a log cabin off the grid somewhere.
Yet we remained in suburbia and in the ten years that I’ve been a parent, one of the biggest challenges has been learning to tune out those directives and parent according to the particular needs of our son and also the values my spouse and I hold, with the advice of family and friends.