The meaning of the word “peace”

Peace Out, Dude! photo courtesy of flickr user GlennFleishman

The word “peace” is one of those terms that has been used so much that it has lost meaning.  Like “organic”.  Or  “awesome”.  Peace out, give peace a chance, a peace sign on a kindergartener’s backpack – what does it mean?

During the season of peace on Earth, goodwill to men (not to mention women, children, non-humans, the environment…), this is a question worth considering.  Personally, I have come to prefer the term “non-violence”.  The word “peace” implies the absence of something, whereas “non-violence” feels more active, describing effortful work towards living the most compassionate life possible.  In fact, I recently changed the tagline of my blog from “Raising Peace-Loving Children…” to “Raising Non-Violent…” because I think that more accurately reflects my goals.  “Peace” feels lazy; I want my children to actively seek the path of most good and least harm to themselves, other people, non-humans and the planet.

So you may be wondering what is it, exactly, that has triggered this line of thinking for me.  I will tell you:  it was this post on a blog called Peaceful Parenting.  I am unable to find an About page that describes the blog’s mission, but it appears to be dedicated to promoting attachment parenting as well as opposing circumcision.  In fact, it seems like exactly the kind of blog I would have loved if my first experience of it were not this particular post.

I am a certified Attachment Parenting International support group leader.  I co-slept with and baby-wore both my children.  I still, on a rare occasion, breastfeed my 3 1/2-year-old son.  We try very hard (not always successfully) to use positive discipline.  My son is intact.  I work from home so that I can be with my children.  I very strongly believe that attachment parenting is the healthiest and most non-violent way to parent, both for children and for parents.

I also, equally strongly, believe in striving for balance in personal and family life.  Every family member’s needs are equally valid, though they can not be met equally well all the time.  So, when DrMomma says that “A mother shouldn’t leave her baby for an extended amount of time until about the age of 36 months,” I just can’t get on board with that.  I am blessed to know a lot of really wonderful mothers, and I can only think of one who has followed this advice.  Some of these amazing mothers work because they have to or because they want to.  Some just need to take time away from the unrelenting and (let’s be honest here) outrageously boring work of raising young children.  Yes, a parent’s needs must often take a backseat to those of their children; that’s parenthood.  But that is not to say that a parent’s needs are irrelevant.

I am one of those mothers.  I need time to attend to my own need for quiet time alone, or we all pay the price.  My children not only have a happier, more patient, and more attentive mother this way, but they have formed wonderful relationships with other people in my absence.  This makes them happy, well-adjusted, and resilient people.

What does this have to do with peace?  Well, on a blog called “Peaceful Parenting”, I expect to find posts that promote peace.  I do not believe this post fits the bill.  In fact, I believe that this particular post is violent towards mothers.  It promotes feelings of guilt and inferiority among those (i.e. most mothers) who are unable to happily spend THREE YEARS of their lives (per child!) cleaning, diapering, cooking, bathing, playing, and otherwise administering to an infant and toddler.  It is violent to mothers who need the intellectual stimulation and sense of independence that comes from paid work outside the home, even if they don’t “need” it to make ends meet.  It is violent to mothers who are already awash in a culture of guilt and competitive parenting.  Mothers do not need any more people telling them how to do their jobs, let alone setting up such an unrealistic standard for them to achieve.  All mothers want the same thing, namely the best for their children.  There are many paths to that goal.