The expression "damned if you do, damned if you don't" has never felt more relevant to me than during my time as a mother. Fellow parents, and even non-parents, always have an opinion on how best to raise children. Some support co-sleeping, others chastise it. Some don't believe in introducing solids until the 6-month mark; others start feeding their kids orange-colored mush at 15 weeks. Then there's the debate around baby-wearing: Is it dangerous? Does it facilitate an awesome workout? Is it just a hipster trend, or a practice that's actually far more convenient than dragging around a clunky stroller? Wherever you stand on the matter, chances are you've been subjected to some breed of baby-wearing shaming — and, honestly guys, it needs to stop.
Oftentimes, I end up being lectured on the alleged hazards of carriers. What if Luna suffocates? What if her legs cramp? What if the carrier simultaneously combusts, throwing my kid face-first onto concrete or into cow dung?
Personally, I'm a huge fan of wearing my 13-month-old, and have been for the last eight months or so. Sure, the term "baby-wearing" kind of rings of "accessorizing," thus awkwardly equating one's infant to a handbag or a set of faux pearls. That aside, carriers have often been the most practical mode of transporting my kid. I live in a rural village, filled with both cobbled and unpaved roads. If we stroll outside, we'll probably be walking on some muddy hills. If we venture into larger towns, they'll on be on hills, too. Strollers are usually inconvenient at best and a legitimate obstacle at worst.
Unfortunately, the choice to wear my daughter has come with a whole lot of side-eye. Oftentimes, I end up being lectured on the alleged hazards of carriers. What if Luna suffocates? What if her legs cramp? What if the carrier simultaneously combusts, throwing my kid face-first onto concrete or into cow dung? Then there are the fellow baby-wearing moms who can't wait to tell me that I'm not making the most of my experience because I'm clearly not meshing carrying and exercise. Guess that's the whole point, right?
A friend of mine, the fellow mother of a 1-year-old, recently came up with the term "jiggly moms" to describe the latter type of baby-wearing shamers — the ones she and I most typically come across. Some baby-wearing mamas take a hell of a lot of pride in their skills. When their infants or toddlers are strapped to their bodies, these women never seem to stop moving. They bounce, they power-walk, and sometimes they even boast about how many calories their jiggling actually burns. Their body language (and sometimes their words) unfortunately seems to shame stroller parents, or baby-wearing parents who just aren't doing it right.
One day, a jiggly mom in a shop approached me with what felt like both curiosity and a slight superiority complex. "You need to try squatting in place while wearing your kid," she told me. "What's the point of carrying your baby if you're not going to make it a workout?" She stared my fat body up and down, as if looking at a problem to be solved. Meanwhile, I cringed at the thought of turning my baby into #fitspiration, but reminded myself that shaming her in return wasn't the solution here.
While there's nothing inherently wrong in taking pride in your abilities — in the case of the "jiggly mom," the ability to turn baby-wearing into a bonafide fitness routine — there is something wrong with condescending those who don't share your abilities or hobbies (be it because they physically cannot do so or because they simply have no interest). The same can be said of all baby-wearing shaming, regardless of whom is being mocked.
As with everything to do with parenting, I'm a big believer in subjectivity and choice. We make the decisions we feel are right for our kids and our family unit, because these tiny humans don't come with a handbook. I often wonder if know-it-all attitudes are a coping mechanism of sorts: Something we fall into to try to reassure ourselves that's we're doing a good job in an occupation that can so often feel overwhelming, if not downright horrifying. Still, the idea that any one parent can "know what's best" for all fellow parents and babies is flat-out preposterous. The idea that any one parent should take it upon themselves to shame another for their choices (provided those choices aren't actually hurting anyone) is equally so.
The truth is, none of us really know what we're doing. I have yet to meet a mother who actually has it all figured out, regardless of appearances or ego. When it comes to baby-wearing, there simply is no right or wrong answer. There are benefits to carriers and strollers alike. Even I — a carrier devotee — am beginning to experiment with the stroller more as my daughter gets older, heavier, and wrigglier. If and when I have a second child, I'll definitely be utilizing a double or tandem pram, too. There's just no way I'm going to try to strap two small people onto my body.
Whatever your preferred method of child-transportation, however, it's critical to remember two things. Firstly, you should do what feels best for you. After all, it's your child, your body, and your comfort that are on the line. Secondly, no matter what you choose, know that your way is not the only way. It certainly won't be the best option for all other parents, and demanding otherwise is, quite frankly, juvenile and unnecessary. We're all just figuring it out as we go, and the last thing any mom needs is an added dose of guilt or shame.
Check out Romper's new video series, Bearing The Motherload, where disagreeing parents from different sides of an issue sit down with a mediator and talk about how to support (and not judge) each other’s parenting perspectives. New episodes air Mondays on Facebook.