Buffet Parenting

My friend Julie is one of those cool moms who just has her shit figured out. I’m sure her kids drive her just as crazy as mine do, but she is unflappable and seems to be content to just act as a battering ram against the chaos. That kind of go-with-the-flow mentality is crucial, not just for parenting,  but also for being a kick ass mom friend. Julie is someone who hears you’re on night one of letting your 10 month old cry it out, and instead of sending you a bunch of literature,  will talk you off the edge and send you a glass or two of wine. Snarky, but also empathetic, this mom of four boys knows things about parenting that all us newbies can only hope to understand.

This week, she taught all of us over in the Sanctimommy group a term that just knocked our socks right off.

It all started when our friend Susie came in to complain about how elitist and judgy some mom groups are on the internet.

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It can be hard to find support if you’re not a die hard proponent of one very specific and narrow parenting methodology. If you babywear, but don’t formula feed, it raises eyebrows. If you make your own laundry soap and cloth diaper, but vaccinate your kids on schedule, it arouses suspicion. There are rules to being a “crunchy” mama, but what happens when you’re too “silky” for the granola crowd, but too into natural remedies for all the Salk-ians?

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It’s a conundrum. Especially for those of us who don’t really care what other people do with their kids and just want some virtual asspats after a long day in the trenches.

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The cool thing about the sanctimommy group, is that we can have discussions that would implode most other parenting circles but keep it relatively clean. Maybe it’s because they know I’m screenshotting them for my blog so they have to be accountable for what they say? Or maybe it’s just because I have the best friends on the internet? Either way, we had a pretty great discussion about things we’ve compromised over the years and parenting philosophies we gave up and how we’ve grown, not just as gestators, but as women.

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It seems simple enough, but when Julie brought up the idea of treating parenting like a buffet line,  where you take what you like and leave what you don’t,  our minds were blown. Was it really that simple?


2016-06-04 16.08.00Can we make this a thing? In a limitless array of choices we have to make every day, can we lose the lofty ideology and just take what we need? It seems simple enough, but when we give up our labels, it almost seems like we lose our identity. If I’m not “Sam’s mommy, the AP normal-duration nurser” than who am I?

Myself. I get to be myself. And, BONUS! when I’m myself that means you get to be your self, and then we don’t have to bullshit each other about how rewarding motherhood is, we can just get together and cry because our 4 year olds won’t sleep through the night and our baby just got kicked out of daycare for biting. We don’t have to make all our decisions so cerebral, we can do what we need to to get through the day.

It seems extraordinarily simple, but could we pull it off? Could we stop looking for validation and instead offer solidarity? What would Julie do?

Tell me about your parenting style in the comments, in what way do you follow a specific philosophy and where do you deviate into doing what’s best for you?


17 thoughts on “Buffet Parenting

  1. Love this blog.

    I’m just me. I’m too old for labeling my parenting style (almost 17 years between my two girls). If someone doesn’t like it they can take a flying leap.

  2. My parenting style is “wake up and make it to bedtime with all three children alive and well”. Its working so far. LOTS of wiggle room 😉

  3. I love this too. There are 20 long years of changes between my two children.So many things have changed since my first was born,32 years ago. I hope that Buffet Parenting becomes the norm.Thanks Grace and Julie.❤❤❤

  4. I love this concept. I’ve been living this concept for five years, but now Julie named it! When my daughter was about six months old, I had a revelation – she’s not the same as other kids, so why would one parenting style work for her with no deviations? So, as I continued to read advice (from books, from Internet, from doctors), I was picking and choosing what I knew might work for my daughter’s temperament. Keeping that focus on her isn’t easy, when so many people are butting in with suggestions, but I gave myself the freedom to throw things out the window that I know won’t work for her.

  5. Love this! I get so sick of being chastised for vaccinating and circumsizing in my natural parenting groups, but parents outside it look at me like I have 3 heads when I pull out my cloth diapers, unpaper towels, mineral based sunscreen and essential oil bug repellants!

  6. I was a diehard AP/extended breastfeeding parent for the first month or so of my oldest child’s life. (To say nothing of the self-righteous idiotic 3-page birth plan, inspired by the Bradley prenatal classes.) In the eighteen years and two subsequent children since then, I’ve had enough of the stuffing knocked out of me (all 3 were colicky non-sleeping infants that wouldn’t let me put them down ANYWHERE; oldest child died at age 5; youngest has ASD; middle is struggling with depression and teen angst; etc etc) to realize there is no one way to do this. Each kid is different, and as parents we have to change accordingly. Like someone else said, if they’re alive, fed, loved and well-ish at the end of the day, you’ve done it right.

  7. This is so fabulous. I think I connected so well with your page because I really feel the same way. I’m the crazy lady that feels the need to read everything I can get my hands on, so I know a lot about most of the different parenting techniques, and what I learned is there are so many different “right ways”… But I’ve never been a “my way he the right way person”, I’ve always appreciated everyone’s different take on the same issues… Well usually. I have quite a few friends who say they only come to me for parenting advice, that I’m the only person that says, “I’ve never done that but I know people that have and they loved it.” Or, I have no clue… Let’s learn about that together. I’m a true believer that it takes a village, family, friends, and a good group of mommies makes this journey more fun.

    Oh, and my parenting style? I’m all over the map. I don’t thing any group would accept me. LOL!

  8. I am a scientist by training, so I vaccinate. But I baby wear, baby led wean and do a 80/20 split on the cloth/disposable nappy train (well did with the first because that kid could whiz and even the bulkiest of bulky nappies did fuck all for overnight). I have dodgy boobs so combined feeding of both boob and formula (either through a supply line or bottle).
    So I’m also a buffet type. I do what works and change it when it no longer works.

  9. I subscribe to the “keep them alive and mostly happy and well behaved” parenting style. I have a 13 year old (help 13 is awful) special needs daughter, two stepdaughters under 12, and have played a large role in raising a 16 year old boy who is my son as much as if he was biologically mine.

    My first steps into being a young mom were chaos because my daughter was born with a severe disability that we weren’t aware of until she arrived. From that day on I concentrated on her medical care and adapting my life to fit what she needed. As I collected more stay kids I did the same, adapt. Every kid was different. What works with one does nothing with another. I don’t understand the judgement on other mother’s because of simple parenting choices. If they aren’t endangering the kids, hurting them, neglecting them, etc then let them do their thing you I’ll do mine.

  10. Try something that sounds like you might be comfortable with it and it might not totally fuck up the kid. Hope it works. Adjust accordingly.

  11. Oh – and don’t judge anyone for trying something else and hoping *that* works because you’re not perfect. Is this a philosophy?

  12. When I was pregnant I had it all planned out. I’ve always been highly strung so of course I knew EXACTLY what I wanted to do… until I had a terribly complicated labour where they thought we were both going to die. Once my son was in my arms I had a realization: I can’t control everything.

    I’ve always referred to my parenting approach as “try everything until something works” and it’s going okay for now.

    I definitely agree that if you try to stick to one parenting style/ideology you are setting yourself up to fail. I’ve taken bits and pieces that suit us, and when things haven’t suited I’ve just shrugged my shoulders and tried something else. If you take a militant approach to parenting you’ll just end up losing your mind.

  13. My husband has been teaching me the art of “low output parenting.” It’s expending the smallest amount of energy as a parent while still keeping your kids loved and safe and healthy. He first used the term when our oldest together (he has two older kids) was about two months old. Baby was having one of those days where he was needing to be walked around constantly, and I was burning out. My husband offered to take over. As he sat down on the couch with the baby, my anxiety started to rise. THE BABY IS GOING TO CRY! My husband crossed one leg over the other, creating a perfect place for the baby to nestle in. He starting bouncing and swaying his knee, and baby settled down, as if he was getting walked around. My husband turned on the tv and we chilled. How did you do that, I asked him. He said, “It’s low output parenting. I will teach you.”

  14. I’m a “do what works for us” parent. I’m probably a sanctimommy’s nightmare, because I don’t dig into my position so much as I go “hey, you do you, I do me”.

    It helps that my eldest has always been kind of a snowflake due to sensory issues. She would want to be held constantly one day, and screaming bloody murder at being worn the next. She would happily eat chunks of food one day, and spit it out like a stunt person on “the Exorcist” the next… One year in made me realize that no internet advice would ever work better than what we were already doing, which essentially was trial and error parenting: trial and error breastfeeding, trial and error soothing, etc.

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