You know those parenting articles with titles like “5 Things Parents Shouldn’t Say to Childless Friends,” or “6 Ways Non-Breeders Can Relate to Parents”? This is not that kind of an article.
You will not find a list of #parentingfails here, or a list of “ten ways you didn’t know you were emotionally stunting your kid,” or inexpert but strident views on breastfeeding, how much screen time is best, or how you should baby proof your house. I see that parenting article all the time. I read it occasionally and it never fails to give me a compulsive twitch.
A parenting article that polarizes and fear-mongers for no other reason than to generate traffic is irresponsibly encouraging us to think of ourselves as adversaries on five different sides of a bunch of lines in the sand about “good parenting.” It preys on our fears and tells us to judge rather than support one another, using these imaginary battle lines as click bait, and creating an endless loop of perceived slights and reprisals.
In my experience people are much more accepting than that parenting article makes us out to be. My family and friends give parenting advice when they want to or when I ask, knowing that I may or may not take it.
My mother-in-law (Hi Linda! Love you!) paid me a wonderful compliment when she said I was a good Mom. When I thought about why she might think so, it occurred to me that maybe it’s just apparent that I care about being a good mom–that I’m trying. It’s the same feeling I get when I watch my sisters and brothers-in-law with our three nephews, when I watch most parents with their kids. Simply, good parents care about being good parents.
Moms and dads I chat with at the play place, or on the beach, or at a casual restaurant are all more eager to exchange information and commiserate than to judge. They smile knowingly when my kid throws a tantrum, and I do the same when their kid doesn’t want to share. We’re both there. We both showed up to work.
Does that mean I never judge another parent? Of course not, though I try to mind my own business unless it’s a situation I’d be willing to call CPS about. Knock-on-wood, that hasn’t happened yet.
As a traveling family, we see families from around the world in action every day. In the last month, I’ve shared play spaces with parents from France, Germany, Russia, Thailand, Japan, China, the U.S., The Netherlands, England, Australia, etc etc. I think the last time I thought “now, that’s bad parenting” was a long time ago, when I was angry that someone else’s four-year-old was bullying my two-year-old. I wasn’t angry at the 4-year-old–he was obviously tired and hot, and not in a good mood. I have to thwart Spencer’s bullying all the time. No-I was miffed that his parents or guardians were nowhere to be found after several minutes, when he needed them.
99% of parents I meet are doing the most important part of being a good parent, which is showing up: paying attention, figuring things out, always trying to get better. To the man whose 1-year-old ran off with my kid’s shovel and hid under a table yesterday: it’s not a big deal. To the lady whose son shared his boat with my son who then ran off with it and screamed “nonononono,” thank you for letting me know (in a smile, because we don’t speak the same language), that it wasn’t a big deal. Working together, we got the boat back! To the lady who lost her partner at the crowded night market while her two boys were pulling her arms and screaming: I heard you say “I need you to be quiet so we can find Daddy.” You didn’t see me, but I saw you.
But I should stop talking about what I think makes a good parent, because
Wait, this isn’t a parenting article!
even though I’ve gone and made it sound an awful lot like a parenting article.
This is actually a polite request that we not let the same artificial digital arguments break out around the digital nomad lifestyle. I suppose nit-picking is a part of human nature, but I’d like to do my best to contribute to nipping this negative feedback loop in the bud. Let’s please not follow the example of the parenting article.
Here’s what’s happening: travel bloggers and some online mags proclaim the benefits of a nomadic life, which leads to a reactionary backlash accusing nomads of laziness and irresponsibility. Perceived slight and reprisal loop, begin!
For my part, here are two olive branches:
- Obviously, I think the nomadic lifestyle is pretty awesome. I would love to encourage people who already agree in theory by writing about its awesomeness. I’m not trying to convince any happily stationary families to pack up, or tell anyone that they’re wrong.
- There are plenty of downsides and trade-offs I haven’t written about yet and will dedicate entire posts to in future. Though I’ve been an expat for four years, I’m a new nomad and I will certainly encounter many difficulties. I promise to report them all dutifully.
In return, media, could you refrain from making my lifestyle a hot-button issue? It is too much to ask that you withhold judgment about me, and while you’re at it, about those parents who do Worldschool or Unschooling? At least for a decade until long term studies come out and we can factually back up our opinions?
Because again, we’re all just bashing around in the dark, trying our utmost to do the best we can.
I can reassure you that no matter what I say about my own beliefs, I support your right to choose how you want to live. I support you. Thanks to everyone so far who has supported me.