You don't need a label to raise a child

Does using a baby carrier necessarily mean you're an attachment parent?
Does using a baby carrier necessarily mean you're an attachment parent? Photo: Getty Images

What kind of a mother are you? There must be a word for it. What category do you fit into? There must be a whole book explaining your parenting methods. Or are you like me? That is, so fed up with the labels we're constantly being asked to define our parenting by that you've stopped trying to find the one that fits.

Like most parents, I read about 'tiger mums' or 'attachment parents' with interest. I smile in spite of myself at the comedy sketches which exaggerate the stereotypes of helicopter parents or Gina Ford devotees.

But recently, talk of parenting styles has been making me feel increasingly uneasy.

I carry my baby in a front-pack often, but I am not an attachment parent. I plan to make sure my children do their homework before they go out to play, but I am not a tiger mum. I breastfeed my daughter while following a dairy-free diet, but I am not a vegan earth mother. Do you get my drift?

Categorising parenting styles is, in my view, incredibly unhelpful. It's divisive and exclusive. It's pointless and judgemental. It does nothing for a child.

Parents don't need a label for how they bring up their children. Each of the parenting styles above are so different, yet no doubt they all describe parents who love their children to the ends of the earth and put them above all else. Isn't that what's important?

We are parents. We are mothers and fathers. We are people who love our children.

Asking us to define ourselves - or, worse, to look at others and define them - does nothing to make us better parents.

Asking us to categorise ourselves and others is asking us to judge. If there is one thing that parents don't need it is more judgement. We already suffer it enough. We don't need, either, to form divisions amongst ourselves. Instead, we need to support each other, to find the commonalities in our lives, and be there to help those who at the end of it all are parents too.

And if we see parents change their minds, and switch from a laissez faire approach to their days to implementing a strict routine (or vice versa), let's let them do it without comment. We all have the right to choose how we bring up our children. We probably all encompass elements of every parent 'type' under the sun. Perhaps we won't resemble one type much at all one month, but will have changed our style completely when the seasons change. That's our right.

We are not vegan earth mothers or attachment parents or helicopter mums. We are mothers and fathers for always. Our children make us who we are and they make us be the best people we can be. Let's leave the labels and judgements and categories alone, because we have more important things to do - like bringing up our children in a way that feels right.

Read more of Kiran's writing on her blog Mummy Says, or follow her parenting adventures on Twitter.