Tuesday, May 1, 2012

Making Choices: The Definition of Being an Autonomous Human Being

There's an idea out there that says a good mother does certain things - she gives birth naturally unless there is a medical need to do otherwise. She breastfeeds unless there is a medical need to do otherwise. She stays at home with the children if possible until they are of school age.

And when she doesn't do these "ideal" things, she must explain why.

I had a cesarean section because...

We formula fed because...

I went back to work because...

And rarely is it okay for a woman to finish these sentences with "I wanted to." or "I chose to." To answer in that way is to ask to be judged - with the ultimate damnation "she must be a bad mother."

There is a certain shame in making these choices.

And oddly enough when the child does something undesireable mothers "who do all the right things" feel the need to preface their situation with, "I did everything right, I just don't understand why little Aiden won't"...and those who made other choices might be scorned "she let little Ethan watch too many violent video games and farmed out the parenting to daycare...that's why that kid is the ultimate demon spawn."

Equally, there is an urge to take credit for the child's accomplishments - "little Aiden gets straight A's because (insert parenting choice here)", or conversely the "bad mom" who happens to "have a good kid", just "got lucky".

I've come to the conclusion that, parenting isn't math or an exact science and there are no "universally right" answers because far too much depends on the context in which the choice was made. Far too much depends on the specific mother. Far too much depends on the specific child. Far too much depends on the specific context in which the family must live.

I've also come to the conclusion that there's a lot to be said for not being ashamed for making a choice that is different from what might be considered the "universally right" choice, for having confidence that regardless of the choice made, if it was based on the best information available applied to the specific context at hand, that it was "the right choice".

Like in many things in life, the focus needs to be on what is ultimately a "good outcome" - rather than on the specific processes that may or may not have been used to get there.

And ultimately, if there's an outcome I'd want for my child, it would be for my child to have the ability to make a choice, based on the best information that they have available and applied to the specific circumstances my child finds themselves in - and to be confident in whatever choice they actually make.

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