I’ve always been that “somewhere-in-the-middle" mom. I'm a working mom, but I work from home; I try my best to feed my kids organic food, but I'm totally OK with us having treats every once in a while, and while I’m definitely not the best disciplinarian, there’s always structure in our household. In the end, my two children are happy and healthy, and that’s all that really matters to me.
I had my first child, who is now a high-energy 8-year-old, when I was 20. Back then, I didn’t have many opinions about parenting, but since I started working as a mom blogger years ago, I speak with parenting experts on a daily basis. As a result, I now have stronger opinions about parenting, and I know what works for our family.
That's why I've come to the conclusion that I consider myself a "scrunchy" parent, or a parent who's both "silky" and "crunchy." In most respects, the middle ground is best for me and my family — even if it does occasionally cause tension with other moms.
For the uninitiated (or those who don't spend a lot of time scrolling through parenting blogs and social media), a silky mom is someone who relies on advances in modern technology to parent, which usually means she had a hospital birth, uses disposable diapers, and feeds her children formula. A crunchy mom, however, most likely uses cloth diapers, breastfeeds, and had a drug-free birth. A "scrunchy" mom is a combination of the two.
I'm a scrunchy mom because I have both silky and crunchy tendencies. Like the stereotypical crunchy mom, I eat organic and make homemade baby food, and I did have a drug-free birth. But like many silky moms, I don't co-sleep, and I feed my baby formula. I don't have a reason for adopting these practices, aside from the fact that I believe they work best for me and my family.
Over the years, I have gotten a bit crunchier. Last year, for instance, when I found out I was pregnant, I watched the documentary The Business of Being Born and decided that I wanted to have a drug-free birth, because I wanted to connect with my body during childbirth. Watching that movie was a pivotal moment that shifted the way I think about parenting, and I started to think about living more organically in my everyday life.
You really can't win either way.
But I'm still not crunchy in every respect. For instance, although I was able to give my daughter a combination of breast milk and formula for the first six weeks of her life, I wasn't able to breastfeed her. This has caused tension with other moms. Once, I was at the park with my kids when a stranger popped over to see my new baby. I was sitting on a bench breastfeeding her, and then I reached into my bag to feed her a bottle.
"Wait, I thought you were breastfeeding her!" the woman said, clearly disappointed.
I began to tell her my personal breastfeeding story: that I had a breast reduction in high school, which led to me not producing enough breast milk and needing to supplement. The woman was shocked. Clearly, she had approached me because she wanted to commend me for breastfeeding, but when she found out I was supplementing with formula, she went on her way.
This judgment goes both ways. My father, for instance, had the hardest time understanding why I wanted a drug-free birth, and why I needed an expensive eco-friendly crib with an organic mattress. My other family members have also started making fun of me for my crunchy tendencies. Recently, while we were out to eat, my sister gave my daughter a non-organic food pouch. "It's not organic, but I promise it won't kill her," she said.
The commenters on my blog are also guilty of judging me. One minute, they'll comment on how great it is that I'm using a midwife; then they'll hop over to a post I did in partnership with a diaper company and bash me for using disposable diapers. You really can't win either way.
As a "scrunchy" mom, I often feel like I'm caught between two tribes, and it's sometimes hard to figure out where I belong. But I understand the instinct to use such labels. I think it stems from moms' desire to make connections with each other. When we meet each other at the playground or at open gym time, we often ask questions to get to know each other: “How was your delivery?” or “Are you breast or bottle feeding?" But I find that when I meet another mom who doesn't identify with my answers to these questions, she often drifts away, and I’m left there wondering if it's because she's judging my choices, or if she simply can't relate to my lifestyle.
In a scary political climate when we all need our mom tribes more than ever, terms like "scrunchy" and "crunchy" and "silky" often turn us against each other.
Of course, when you really think about it, these labels are more than a little bit silly. In a scary political climate when we all need our mom tribes more than ever, terms like "scrunchy" and "crunchy" and "silky" often turn us against each other. Even if these terms are meant to be used in jest, they can sometimes make us feel like we constantly need to be defining ourselves. If we're going to be open about using these terms, we need to be more conscious about the impact they have on moms, and work towards using them a bit less earnestly.
To me, motherhood isn't about doing what's easiest. It's about doing what's best for my family, which might be different than what's best for your family. And that's totally OK. It's also totally OK to have beliefs that fall between two different styles of parenting. I make decisions based on what works for our lifestyle, not what does or doesn't align with a specific set of beliefs.
Sometimes, I do feel like I'm being rejected by both "silky" and "crunchy" moms, because I'm not "all in" on one side. But being a mom doesn't work that way. We all roll with the punches and are forced to make split-second decisions about our kids' lives. At the end of the day, I’m just a mom trying to raise her kids right, just like every other mom in the world. And until moms are more willing to acknowledge that, I’ll just be over here, somewhere in the middle.