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guilty party rambling August 27, 2010

Filed under: Uncategorized — Sara Savel @ 12:42 pm

Some more ramblings on the concept of mommy guilt….

There is way too much pressure to be the perfect mother.  It starts during pregnancy when we are brainwashed into thinking that everything we eat, do, say, think, feel, and touch could potentially harm our unborn babies.  I’ve literally read things that tell pregnant moms that if they get upset they could cause their babies brain damage.  So you have to have the perfect, calm, and non eventful pregnancy. And get thin in six weeks post partum.

I was a nervous wreck.  I had preeclampsia and pretermcontractions.  I gained over 100 lbs and have only lost 40 since my son was born.

Then we have to plan the perfect birth, which for a great many of us, does not happen.  If we ask for the epidural or end up in a C section, we somehow failed.  We did not measure up.

My labor was actively managed which meant that they took a perfectly normal progressing 36 week labor and dosed it up with pitocin, broke my waters, and shoved an internal fetal monitor inside me and into my baby’s scalp.  After four hours of pushing on my back, without an epidural because I was determined to go natural, I was exhausted by the camel back contractions and ended up in the OR.  So, I didn’t make the birthing cut.

We try to breastfeed and can’t. Or don’t want to.  Or struggle. Or maybe that part goes great, but our baby wants to feed so much that we can’t sleep, so we aren’t at our best.  So maybe we start to resent the baby and feel guilty about that.  Or we give our babies formula because we have to, all the while hearing that nagging voice saying: “Breast is best, breast is best.”  We can’t give our babies “the perfect food.”

It was and is far better for my son to have an emotionally stable mama than to be nursing from the breasts of someone who wants to die.

Eventually, we discover that we are expected to take baby to enrichment activities like Music Together, Kindermusik, Baby Yoga, Baby Swimming, Baby Tumbling.  We see all the other moms who seemingly have it together and think, “that is how I’m supposed to be…” but in reality, we are lucky if we showered. And we are afraid to have people over because our house hasn’t been dusted since the second trimester.

To be honest—I could write my name in the dust on the book case.

We are inundated with theories about how to parent that read like litanies of right and wrong, do and don’t, yes and no.  Do we attachment parent, gently parent, nurture parent, parent with love and logic, slow parent….Do we schedule our kids into a million activities to give them an edge or do we let them be free range?  What is the best way?  What if you choose wrongly? It is scary and it is a major source of guilt.

My parenting philosophy has become: Pick the best approach for the individual child.  Some kids like to be worn in a sling all day.  Mine didn’t.  Some babies thrive at Kindermusik, others need less structure.  The best way to parent is to love and care for your child consistently, but realise you will never be perfect and it is ok to make mistakes.

Our moms had Dr. Spock who told them, “Trust yourself.  You know more than you think you do” when it came to child rearing. They also seemed to enjoy parenting more than we do, I think.  Probably because they didn’t worry over every little thing.

One thing I noticed is that back in the day people called it childrearing. Now we say parenting.  It is like it really isn’t about the kids, it is about us. And that is kind of messed up.

We get Dr. Sears. Dr Brazelton.  What to Expect.  Baby 411. Penelope Leach.  Miriam Stoppard.  All of them touting the dangers of something or another…Breastfeed or your baby won’t be a good learner.  Don’t co-sleep or your baby will suffocate.  Sushi will kill your fetus.  TV will dumb down your toddler.  Cry it out.  Co Sleep. Let the kids play.  But not until they’ve learned their ABCs.

Confession: My toddler drank formula, co-sleeps half the night, and watches tv. He also will sit and read his books on his own for several minutes at a time and has a great vocabulary for his age. He can build block towers 4 blocks high and he is sixteen months.  TV hasn’t ruined his brain.  I don’t think it helps but it doesnt’ really hurt to watch a little Caillou now and then.

And then there is the whole solid food thing.  It used to be that when your baby was ready you made up some rice cereal and started introducing jars of Gerber. Nowadays you need the whole organic feeding system.  You’re making that stuff yourself because healthy organic homemade purees are so much better for your baby and if you don’t buy the equipment, consult the cookbook, and whip up delightful cubes of organic pears from the local farmers market you are somehow failing your precious baby.

When baby gets older, you can start making the delightful toddler dishes for the little one.

I made the home made baby food a few times but he actually seemed to get more pleasure from the store bought Earth’s Best than from my pureed organic squash.  So I gave in.  And saved myself some sanity.  As for the delightful toddler souffles I could make him….ha ha ha ha.


mama guilty

Filed under: Uncategorized — Sara Savel @ 12:40 pm
Holistic Moms Network: Mommy Guilt

A great article about how to be gentle with yourself and how destructive guilt can be to your emotional well being—except for the end:

And we should no more be dousing ourselves with guilt than we should be criticizing others who are trying to live their best possible life. As a holistic parent, it’s easy to get on your soapbox about everything from your non-toxic nursery and natural childbirth to living TV-free and avoiding junk food. But every person has a unique set of circumstances to manage and their choices may be optimal for them – at that moment in time. That does not mean we should be quiet. Raising awareness is essential to producing healthful change but doing so with positive intention and kindness goes further than with criticism. Help someone make a change for the better – don’t shout them down for failing to do so. Empower people and they will flourish. Shower them with guilt and they will wither.”

At first glance, it sounds really nice but after I re-read it a couple of times it seemed like what they were saying was:  stand on your soap box all you want, but speak nicely when you judge other mommies.

I personally think that the whole culture of mommy guilt we have going is partially based on the fear of how other mamas might judge us.  Guilt usually comes about because of a break committed against certain mores in society, whether it is society at large, or the society of your book club.

When I went to a mother-baby book club in my community,  all the other moms nursed.  The cold frozen stares of shock when I whipped out my bottle of formula….Obviously, I had violated some kind of social rule in their strict little society. My son had reflux at the time (common in preemies) and threw up all over me.  Not one other mama offered to help.  In fact, they kind of ignored me.  I went off to the bathroom to clean me and Gabriel up and spent the rest of the time in the mother’s lounge feeding him.

Not one mom came to check up on us.  This made me feel guilty because even though he was an infant at the time, it felt like my decision to bottle feed was costing him socially. Like I’d made this selfish decision that was already making him a baby outcast at our local indoor play space.

The real reason I stopped nursing was because I take pretty strong medication for my depression and anxiety.  I know you can nurse on zoloft and if it worked for me, I’d gladly take it.  It doesn’t.  I need something stronger and what I need hasn’t been proven safe with nursing.  Breast is best, except when it is full of chemicals.

That said…I know that nursing moms go through similar experiences when they have to feed their babies in public.  There are a lot of angry freaks out there who think it is okay to harass moms for feeding their infants with their breasts.  I can see how this might make nursing moms defensive about breastfeeding, because they’ve been publicly shamed by others for violating a stupid social more that says breasts are sexual and must be covered at all costs.

Anyhow, my support of breastfeeding moms’ rights doesn’t seem to go both ways.  Formula feeding moms are looked down on as ignorant, selfish, or lazy. There doesn’t seem to be any interest in raising up moms who have no choice but to give their babies formula as fitting in with the holistic moms club.


deconstructing the alphabet: if derrida was crafty

Filed under: Uncategorized — Sara Savel @ 12:39 pm

deconstructing the alphabet: if derrida was crafty

I found a pottery barn crib bumper for four dollars at the thrift store.  It had the most adorable gingham alphabet and animals theme: A-Alligator, B-Bunny, etc. It totally matches Gabriel’s bedroom decor where gingham is a unifying theme. (I am not sure what else to call it when various pieces are made of the same type of fabric).

The bad news was that there were some serious stains on the thing that would not come out…some child must have had a field day with the permanent marker…None of the marks were on the animals, which was good.  I knew I could do something with the material and the pictures, especially.

So, I decided to deconstruct, and re-purpose the alphabet bumper.

I cut out some of the pictures and framed them. 

I cut out letters to spell “Gabe,” and am in the process of stitching them to burlap rectangles to make a little name garland.

Some of the other animals will go live on the nine patch quilt I am making for his bed, and maybe a  pillow.  The green gingham backing fabric will be utilized as well some how… 

Derrida said we are all translators and I suppose that this can be made manifest in handiwork and craft, as well as literature and philosophy. 🙂

2 Notes


it’s tuesday and it’s cloudy

Filed under: Uncategorized — Sara Savel @ 12:37 pm

which is how i am feeling on the inside today-kind of downcast and cloudy.  My focus is good and my mood is pretty even, which is good, even if it is kind of on the more meloncholy side.  Things were going along swimmingly until I met with the mama/baby therapist this morning. She is very good, but sometimes she wants me to analyze so much of everything that it kind of takes the shine off.

For example: we were talking about my tendency to allow Gabriel the freedom to explore his environment without taking over the experience for him.   She asked how it was with my parents:  Did they give me the same kind of freedom?  I said that my mom was a bit controlling, always telling everyone they are doing it wrong, and taking over.  I said her reactions caused me to a great deal of fear of getting something wrong, of failing, of messing up.   This is not something that I want to pass down to Gabriel.

I also read in Waldorf and Montessori texts that the parent/caregiver/teacher should give the child a safe and interesting environment to explore, and then step back and observe, allow the child the opportunity to invite you into their space.


Filed under: Uncategorized — Sara Savel @ 12:36 pm

today:  gabriel got his first haircut!   it makes him look so much like my dad (who died in 2006). but it also brings out the part of him that takes after my husband’s side of the family.  it also makes him look like such a little boy.  i love it! his hair was getting kinda long and i was kinda getting sick of explaining that my son was actually a very pretty little boy.

 Before the haircut

Before the haircut

After haircut, with bagel

After haircut, with bagel

i spent some time organizing and simplifying his bedroom/play area.  we live in a very small apartment compared to our last one where we had a whole corner of the living room dedicated to his amusement.  (now, he has the uverse box to amuse him, much to my annoyance, in the new living room.)  all his toys are now in his room, which is a little bigger than before, but not that much.

everything i’ve been reading on montessori and waldorf in the home talks about the need for prepared environment with out a lot of clutter.  we can’t really afford to buy some of the more beautiful examples of child sized furniture or decorate our nursery as beautifully as some people do on apartment therapy.  however, with some ingenuity, some thrift stores, and the help of ikea my kid now has a lovely inviting room to play in.

Gabriel had way too many toys at once.  He was so busy weeding through them that he never really could play with them because the abundance was so distracting.

I boxed up a bunch of the more babyish toys as well as some of the myriad of small toys that magically start to appear once your kid turns one.  I also put up the duplicate toys, as well as some puzzles which can be rotated out on a regular basis.

What was left:  a box of duplo legos, a basket of blocks, a toy clock, a puzzle, a wooden shape sorter, and a box of smaller toys including some play silks, some wooden figures, and smaller wooden cubes.   These I put on and under the play tables.

toy area

He doesn’t have a child sized book case but that doesn’t seem to be much of a hinderance to him at his height.  I thought about rotating books but it didn’t seem fair when he looks at about 20 a day and goes through serious book phases. “Sam Loves Kisses” is a recurrent favorite; ” Whose Toes are Those?”  “Things That Go,” and Charlie Harper’s ABCs book were a weekend favorite. Who knows what the morning will bring.  So I just put some of the current rotation toys on the shelves along with his books.

Much of the art work in our nursery was purchased at children’s consignment shops or was put together by me. I do collages and collect vintage children’s illustrations.  I had some lovely bright colored ones from the 50’s that I framed in Ikea frames that cost less than $3 a piece.  I also used some Ikea bird christmas ornaments as decoration.

vintage illustration

little bird

Gabriel's room


Loving these…

Filed under: Uncategorized — Sara Savel @ 12:29 pm

why is it called co-sleeping if mama ends up on the sofa?

Filed under: Uncategorized — Sara Savel @ 12:27 pm

why is it called co-sleeping if mama ends up on the sofa?

between the cat, the kid, and the guy…there is no room for mama on the bed tonight….they are all spread out across the mattress sleeping soundly and daddy is snoring away.

tonight i sauteed some fresh broccoli, summer squash, zucchini, carrots, and peas (frozen peas) with some garlic, basil, and rosemary.  tomorrow night i plan to make some zucchini bread.

started cutting out squares of the gingham check for gabriel’s blanket, found out i had a very large piece of yellow check that i’d completely forgotten about.  cut it in half and it is perfect for the backing.  even better was the price tag that never was removed: $3 at the thrift store.

so, the material has basically cost me under $5. (minus the bolt of flannel that i use for batting)