I write about parenting because Sally changed my life

As I went through the results of my recent readers survey, I was struck by a particular comment.

I like your reflections on parenting Sally, but they have little to do with Sally. They are about you reinventing parenting and allowing Sally to teach you.

This comment is so true. I never thought when I first gave birth that the little new life I held in my arms would so profoundly change me. Not simply change my life, but actually really truly change who I am as a person. Sally has spurred me to introspect on my upbringing, my values, and the way I relate to others, but more than that, the parenting adventure I undertook when I birthed Sally has changed how I approach and understand life.

This isn’t one of those “now that I have children I know what it’s like to have true meaning in life” posts. It’s not that I’ve suddenly realized that compared to mothering nothing else in life matters, because, well, the opposite is actually true. Having always viewed motherhood as my primary role in life, I have come to see that I can – and should – have an identity outside of being a parent. At the same time that motherhood has profoundly changed me, I have also found that motherhood is not all that I am.

When I first gave birth to Sally, I had questioned some of my upbringing but not all. I still planned to follow the Pearls’ child rearing methods, still placed a high value on immediate obedience, and still saw my role as training rather than guiding. Then one day when Sally was about ten months old, all of that changed. I realized as I followed the methods I had been taught that I was spanking her for curiosity, not for disobedience, and my reaction was one of horror. What was I doing? And that began a journey in which I questioned essentially everything I’d been taught about parenting, obedience, and authority. One thing spilled into another, and I found I couldn’t stop.

When I write about parenting and about Sally, I’m writing about myself and my journey. I’m writing about what happened when I stepped outside of the parenting roles I’d been taught were so crucial and questioned everything about parenting I’d thought was so obvious it was beyond question. I didn’t realize when I jettisoned everything I’d thought I’d known about child rearing that doing so would so completely change my life.

And my posts on parenting are about so much more than just parenting. They’re about life, about raw humanity, and about discovering a way of living outside of the patriarchal and authoritarian structures with which so many of us have had to struggle. They’re about a reinvention of who I am, and who I want to be. They’re about a new way of relating to humanity, and a new way of viewing those around me. They’re about, quite simply, how Sally changed my life.

I’m trying to think of a short title for my parenting posts. I want one for organization’s sake, and also because I often come up with titles that don’t mention parenting, so a short title at the front clarifies the topic. A friend mentioned that I could go with “Parenting Unroled,” but I was wondering if anyone else had any suggestions. Ideally, it would only be two words or so long, and would go at the front of each post I do on a parenting-related subject (i.e., “Parenting Unroled: On Causes and Symptoms”). Thoughts or suggestions?

About Libby Anne

Libby Anne grew up in a large evangelical homeschool family highly involved in the Christian Right. College turned her world upside down, and she is today an atheist, a feminist, and a progressive. She blogs about leaving religion, her experience with the Christian Patriarchy and Quiverfull movements, the detrimental effects of the "purity culture," the contradictions of conservative politics, and the importance of feminism.

  • fwtbc

    It’s right there in your tags. “Positive Parenting”.

    I’ve enjoyed the posts about your parenting choices. I’ve long considered parenting to be the area that needs the most focus when it comes to ushering in a more enlightened future, and very much enjoy seeing people approaching it in a respectful and considerate manner.

    Recently you have posted about the QF pipedream that once you meet your soulmate, everything will fall into place and you and your spouse will have perfect sex with orgasms galore, etc, and that this is bullshit. I’d love to see you post more on this topic if you’re willing to, as it’s a topic that needs as much light shined upon it as possible. That said, I certainly appreciate how personal such a topic is, and I don’t think anyone will hold it against you for drawing a line.

  • Janet C

    Parenting brings out the best and the worst in us.

  • smrnda

    Love your posts and I especially agree that it’s important for women to have an identity outside of being a mother – if anything, it can be healthy for you and your kids because your kids learn that their parents have needs of their own and identities beyond the family, and it can help them grow up to be independent adults.

    I don’t have children, but I worked with them for a long time, and one thing it taught me was that children don’t necessarily see the world the same way we do. Things that are obvious to adults aren’t so obvious to children. It’s probably an instinct common in most people that when we see a behavior we think we understand why the person did what they did – but that can be really dangerous when working with children since it’s easy to decide that kids are doing something ‘bad’ when they really aren’t. I always get scared reading “how to” childrearing books from Fundamentalists – kids are just going to get whacked around with no idea why since there’s never a space where parents are told to try to listen to and understand their kids.

  • RQ

    You are so fantastic. I know it is hard to parent (current personal experience) but I also know it is so very important to have that identity outside of parenting. I’ve seen older members of my and my husband’s family lose that other identity, and it makes letting go of their children so much harder, because they feel like they have nothing to fall back on – if she isn’t a mother, what else can she be, especially this late in life?? Of course, all of that reflects back on how the children (adults) interact in their own relationships (or how they’re ‘supposed’ to interact) and what happens if they resist the parental model… It IS a struggle, though, to maintain something outside of the ‘mother’ aspect, mostly because of the drain on energy and time. If you’ve spent all day running around cleaning up paint and handing out paper and wiping bottoms and feeding (snacks, meals) and finding lost toys and… Well, it can get a bit tough to try to read something challenging for yourself (children’s science books notwithstanding) or to go back to school or to learn a new hobby or to write a few blog posts. I find I’m constantly trying to work on my own non-mother identity (reading blogs is included in the process), and I’m hoping to go back to school very soon (less a matter of will and desire than finances at the moment), and I haven’t abandoned my ultimate dreams – but I’ve come to the realization that they’ll be a bit slower in coming than I’d originally planned, not necessarily a bad thing. At least I know that I have something to keep me going once all the little chicks have flown the nest and I’ll have oodles and oodles of time all to myself. :)
    Basically, Libby Ann, I’m very impressed with the fact that you’re expanding your family AND keeping up with higher education AND maintaining a blog AND finding time to think about complicated themes AND probably about 50 other things. You’re fantastic.

  • Jeremy

    Another possibility: “Parenting by Choice.”

  • saramaimon

    milk. biologically speaking women are better designed to care for very small children, or at least have a headstart on men.


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