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.