Before I became a mom, I had no idea that there were labels for different types of moms. I'd never heard of "crunchy" moms, or "silky" moms, or anything like that. In my mind, most moms were “do the best you can and pray you don't screw up your children for life” moms. It wasn’t until I had given birth to my first and started to try to make mom friends that I realized how many labels existed for parenting styles. I also realized that how you parent has a lot to do with finding your tribe as a mom.
I wanted to make friends. I wanted to feel like I belonged to a tight-knit group of moms I could call on for advice or invite over if I wanted some company. But I quickly realized that making mom friends wasn’t as easy as going to the same park every week or introducing yourself to your neighbors. You had to find activities, playgroups, and classes. If you wanted to be a fit mom, you had to do stroller exercises in the mall. If you were a working mom, you had to go to happy hour after bedtime.
I met the crunchy moms in my breastfeeding support group. Although I'd never heard of crunchy moms before, I breastfed and cloth-diapered my baby, so it seemed like they were the group I had had the most in common with. I never would have guessed how much pressure I would experience to fit in with them.
"Crunchy" is a nickname for natural-minded moms. These are the moms most likely to breastfeed into toddlerhood. They often cloth diaper, use essential oils and wear their babies in carriers or wraps instead of using strollers. Sometimes, they skip vaccinations, or follow an adjusted vaccination schedule because they believe it is best for their children.
At first, it felt like these were the moms I could connect with. It felt like it gave me an identity I could claim and a friend group I could count on. What I didn’t realize was that, although many of the crunchy moms I met were gracious and a ton of fun to be around, many of those moms were incredibly opinionated. During my first few years of parenthood, I watched moms argue over delayed vaccinations. I was criticized for not having the chops to have had a natural childbirth. I listened to moms claim that organic foods were the only acceptable option for their children, and that parents who used the cry-it-out sleep training method were cruel.
I realized that all of that pressure to be a crunchy mom never benefited my children in any way.
From the start, I should have realized that trying to conform to a specific label was a bad idea. Instead, I embraced the label and did whatever I could to fit in. I felt a lot of pressure to follow certain rules, so I could create a certain lifestyle for my family. I had made friends in this group and I didn’t want them to judge me for not being crunchy enough.
So I kept breastfeeding, even when I could barely keep up my milk supply I kept cloth diapering, even when I was working outside the home and struggling to keep up with laundry. I refused to sleep train, even though I was dangerously tired and struggling with postpartum depression. When I couldn’t afford organic options at the grocery store, I felt incredibly guilty. I felt like I was terrible at being crunchy, and that made me feel like I was failing as a mom.
It wasn’t until I was pregnant with my third and dealing with prenatal depression, that I began to let go of my extreme commitment to a crunchy mom lifestyle. I was exhausted and I knew I needed to focus on caring for myself which forced me to examine my parenting values. I started letting my kids eat cereal when I was too sick to cook a “whole foods” breakfast. I gave away my cloth diapers when the smell started making me sick. I stopped purchasing organic food in order to save money when my husband was unemployed.
I felt like I was terrible at being crunchy, and that made me feel like I was failing as a mom.
It took time, but I finally realized that all of that pressure to be a crunchy mom never benefited my children in any way. Sure, they had a crunchy mom, but they also had a mom who was stressed out trying to keep up with an unrealistic standard. As a household with two working parents, our lifestyle really didn’t allow for expensive groceries, time consuming diaper laundry or making homemade cleaning products. More importantly, it wasn’t me.
I definitely want to raise healthy kids, but I can’t obsess over every little thing they eat or all the potential toxins they could be exposed to or the impact disposable diapers have on the world. I’m not saying these things aren’t important, but being a mom of three and a working mom has forced me to shake off the pressure and choose what I want to prioritize. So, these days, I’m back to being a “do the best I can with what I have mom," and that makes me a happy mom.