There is no label for what you do.


Tonight I've been mulling over these past ten years and how I got to this place from which I mother. How did I become me – Rachel-as-Mama?

This mama. Right here. The one who homebirthed and breastfed (and yes, even happily nursed a couple of 3 1/2 year olds). The one who homeschools and has never issued a "time-out". The one who still co-sleeps most nights with two big and magical kids.

That one.

The truth is, there was no agenda. No book. No checklist. No what-to-do-what-not-to-do advice. I didn't know other new mothers when I became one. So I made it up as I went along.

I didn't set out to recreate someone else's idea of the parent I should become. I wasn't trying to impress anyone or do it all differently that my own mom did. I wasn't trying to contort myself into some extreme parenting pigeon hole to impress myself or anyone else.

I wasn't setting our with any intention at all except to listen to my child and listen to my heart.

Sure, you could label it. But really, it's mostly my own. Even if it does look like something you could call something.

I'm just following my instincts.

You could call me an attachment parent. Or a peaceful parent. Or an unconditional parent. Sure, those fit. But really, why bother? I'm more simply the mama-to-Sage-and-Lupine sort of parent.

Because when we get mixed up with labels and comparing ourselves with others, things get muddled and we lose our way. And all that noise drowns out our own truths.


So who are you? Who are you really when you listen authentically to your child and to your own heart?

When Sage was a baby it was hard. Unquestionably.

He cried, I cried… we've covered this. Babyhood can be in-freaking-tense.

So sure, we had a crib and a nursery. We had a stroller and a bouncy chair. But none of that was going to cut it for my kid. He wanted quiet and mama and nothing else. All day, all night.

And so we shifted. We adapted. We became.

I wasn't concerned with attachment or bonding or brain development or any book or expert. I was simply concerned with making my baby content. I wanted the crying to stop in a way that was in harmony with my soul.

And what that means for me is different than what it might mean for you. And that's okay.

When Sage cried I literally dropped everything – yes, sometimes on the floor – and ran to him. I ran. I really ran. There was no other option for me.

I just ran.

To be honest this habit stressed the hell out of the other adults around me. And I didn't really care. Because my baby was crying and every cell in me needed to respond – and fast. It was instinctive, primal, visceral.

And I had no desire to pretend to not be moved passionately by his cries. I had no desire to be someone other than who I was.

As one wise and wonderful friend told me during that time, "You have no one to answer to but your own child. Not your neighbor, not your mom, not your friends. When your child asks, 'Why did you do it the way you did?' they deserve an answer. But you don't need to answer to anyone else."

When Sage was six months old a neighbor talked to me about Attachment Parenting. "What's that?" I asked, nursing my baby tucked in the sling. "It's what you do," she said, a quizzical look on her face. I was totally clueless to labels. I was just doing my thing the best way that I could.

But sometimes I hear a mutter and a stir about what a wreck someone's life became when they tried on AP with their first child. So with the second (or with the rest) it will be different. No more co-sleeping or night-nursing or baby-wearing or fill-in-the-blank-here. Because Attachment Parenting really tore things up in their world the first time and they won't head down that path again.

But maybe it's not so simple. Maybe it's less about a type or style of parenting that failed you and more the result of trying to fit some predetermined idea of the "best" parent archetype.

Because there is no best anything.

Maybe if we get authentic and say "I will listen to my child and my inner voice and honor those truths" when we embark on this journey, everything would transform.

Our family is served by our mindfulness as we move through this journey – thinking and feeling our way to the best fit for our family, whatever that may be.

Because from here we can begin to release our fear of judgement for that crib or bottle or stroller – or that family bed, five-year old nursling, or toddler in the Ergo.

Because we're all different.

And as long as we lead with love and search for joy then we're on the right path.


It's time to be authentic.

If we fall into line behind someone else's march we'll miss our own journey all together. Find your right answers. Quiet the noise and hear yourself and your child.

And know that parenting is sometimes going to be hard, no matter the label you apply. Doing away with cosleeping (or starting it for that matter) probably won't transform a hard struggle into pure ease.

Because parenting is meant to be big work. For me it is simultaneously the hardest and most rewarding work of my life.

There is only your inner truth. There is no book that knows more than you. No friend who got it more right than you. We're individual. We're all wabi sabi – perfect in our imperfection.

So set out today determined to listen to your heart. To listen to your child. And to be authentically you.

Because after all, that's why your kid picked you and not me to be their mama.

Because you alone are their best.


P.S. If you enjoyed this post you might also enjoy What I didn't know: Reflections on Motherhood.

And for new or expectant parents here is a round-up of all of my mothering posts, written from my own perspectives, preferences, and experience.

21 thoughts on “There is no label for what you do.

  1. Ashlee says:

    Love ever word. 🙂

    I follow my instincts and don’t apologize for it. So far it’s working. Not sure what kind of parent I am per labels but I’m definitely different then I expected to be. My kids made me the parent I am.

  2. says:

    That was just so beautiful and was delivered at the right moment. I’m so glad I stopped by to read this. Thanks!

  3. Randi says:

    Thank you so much for this!
    I get upset by people who tell me I am being cruel by letting my children cry to fall asleep. Well, I’ve tried EVERYTHING else, and it just so happens to be what they NEED… Even my 6 year old now talks herself to sleep. It’s just who they are! 🙂

  4. Sharilyn says:

    Best post to date! I’ve been thinking a lot about labels lately- I like you had no idea what AP was when I became a patent- my mom said “follow you gut, your instincts aren’t wrong ” and I did- I call it parenting. Our choice to leave our boy intact, co- sleep with our toddlers, eat whole organic foods and follow a baby led schedule with everything from weaning to bed times is no more right than my sister’s choices which are the polar opposite of ours. We each do what we feel is best for our own families. The world can be such a harsh place the last thing us moms need is to be judged by others! Thank you do much for voicing what has been riding around in my brain for weeks!!!

  5. Sharilyn says:

    Ps- I should have said moms & dads! My husband is an equal partner in this journey- he however just shrugs off any judgement & gets on with things!

  6. bashtree says:

    Thanks, Rachel. You’ve validated something I’ve thought for a few months now. I’m a new mom, and my husband separated from me about a month before the baby was born. I spent the last weeks of my pregnancy and the first few months with the baby just trying to survive, ignoring all the parenting books and advice and choosing my own instinct as my instructor. It wasn’t until about three months in that I even realized there were labels for what I was doing. It’s so much easier to follow my gut than to follow a book. Now I try to share that message with other new moms. You’ve put it so beautifully, here.

  7. Jana V says:

    Reading this as I nurse my darling who doesn’t eat or sleep on a schedule, and who has also taught me how to be her mama.

    Thank you.

  8. Nicola Claassens says:

    Empowering to children and mamas. Thank you for your timely, respectful and so inspiring words. x

  9. Jane says:

    This is just lovely. So well put. Parents are all different and children are all different. Gosh, even parenting our own three boys has shown us that each of them has needed different parenting styles and strategies at times. I guess people want to identify and belong to some parenting ‘style’ because it validates their choices but on the flipside it can then make them feel bad if they don’t buy into the whole thing. I’m still learning… it doesn’t all come naturally… but the only label I want is ‘Mama’ 🙂

  10. Bkpongratz says:

    What an inspiring post with so much meaning to me as a new mom to a 2 week old. I read every parenting book I could find while I was pregnant, on every topic possible. What I realized as I held my daughter for the first time is exactly what you wrote- this amazing journey cannot be pre-molded from some book or on the advise of well-meaning family and friends. We will do what feels right to us because she is our treasure. Thank you!

  11. Jo-Anna says:

    This is a truely wonderful article. I love it so much I am going to go out and buy some printer ink just so I can keep it.

    This is almost my exact situation and I can truely feel what you are saying in my soul.

    So thank you for saying it so beautifully. I will keep it nearby so that I can read it for inspiration when things just are not working out, and someone elses advice is looking really tempting. I can reread it and say, yes, this is why we are doing things this way.

    Thanks again.

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