Ladies and Gentlemen, Reclaim Parenthood
At some point in time, I had "liked" some parenting pages on facebook. I'm not sure what I ever liked about them but, I am certain, that they are getting the heave-ho from my news feed. They are maddening. The Stir? Awful. Natural Parenting? See you later. They are guilty of using the same hype and fear mongering that network and cable news uses. Half of what gets *written* about on these sites is high-emotion bait and switch (always turns out to be nothing) and the other half is a few hastily put together sentences bringing you links to other hastily put together sentences of some horrific crime against a child du-jour.
An example of some hype that particularly drove me to comment was a headline that said, "Creepy Pediatrician Caught Kissing 11 Day Old Baby." Once you clicked, you read that the doctor kissed the baby's forehead and back of the head while the mom was in the room. Creepy? Really? I'm sure that my kids' pediatrician has kissed them and that's because she's warm and affectionate. I wouldn't have even batted an eye. Here is a professional who is trusted enough with your baby's wellness, why get weird on them for showing how human they are? If it was done in secret, if it made the child upset, or if the kiss was placed anywhere inappropriate, yes, find another doctor. But this article was just silly. And save for the two or three moms who took the stance of "no one else is allowed contact with my child without a prewritten request", everyone else thought it was silly too.
The big picture here is that we've been letting the media affect our parenting. We read books that scream out one philosophy, debunking all the other philosophies, and we forget to look for advice from the real people in our lives that have perfectly normal children and lifestyles. No, don't ask your mom how you turned out so awesome, but do pick up a book from some guy who thinks they have better instincts than you (I'm talking to you, misters Sears and Spock). Not that everything that comes out of their books is useless. But it's not right for everyone (ahem! Ferber). And they are strangers who don't know you, or your circumstances, or your baby. And they are mostly tedious. Recently while discussing which sleep training books were better, I related that all those books only put me to sleep. My children don't fall for much.
Speaking of sleeping, my wonderful pediatrician is a personal friend of Dr. Ferber (we all have our flaws) and I've done a substantial amount of lying to her about our sleeping habits. Our kids are usually in our bed. I guess the label for that is co-sleeping. That term wasn't as popular 8 years ago when I first started this parenting odyssey as it is today. Back then I just called it Sleep For Everyone Yay! But as it is now, which I've read on my news feed from natural parenting, it's part of the Attachment Parenting religion. And I call it a religion because everyone who does it believes they are right and those who don't will burn in the eternal pit of bad parenting. Many of the tenets (breastfeeding, co-sleeping, babywearing) coincide with things that are cheap and easy. Which is why I had adopted them. Breastmilk is free, baby slings are easier to lug around on the go, and as I stated before, co-sleeping lets everyone get some shut eye. Although it's not that simple, either. Eventually you have to stop doing all of that. Babies eventually self wean, grow too big for the sling, and once they are old enough to thrash in the bed, no one gets sleep (No One Sleeps Boo!). What then, Attachment Parenting? Are our children just supposed to magically gain autonomy the way the French Kids do in that other parenting book? It's just so hard to keep track of what we are supposed to do when we have strangers tell us what to do.
All kinds of friends and family members of mine are having their first babies right now, and it makes me smile because I love when people accept a challenge. Parenting is hard. Motherhood is hard. Fatherhood is hard. But it's harder even in this sea of information in which some of it is good but most of it is useless if not harmful. I have a cousin who just had her first baby. She was the cool cousin a little older than me who I used to visit and she would dress me up in her clothes and let me tag along with her when she'd go out. We're not close anymore, though, because somewhere along the way she became very bitter and unpleasant. She has had a rough ride, certainly, but she also makes some bizarre decisions. Motherhood has not changed her for the better. I was visiting my aunt and she was also making a rare visit with her mother. She was exhausted, disheveled, and irritated. I, only the other hand, was cheery, slightly less disheveled, and relaxed with my three children including an infant. So naturally I was her arch nemesis for the day. If her eyes could have burned holes I would have looked like Swiss cheese. But I didn't know this until halfway through the visit. Her mom was worried because her daughter was having a hard time breastfeeding and was prompting me to offer advice. I've struggled with that a lot so I asked her a little about what happened when she tries to latch. Reluctantly information came out that she pumps every two hours then goes for longs stretches of time of no pumping, and then sometimes will try to get her baby to latch while she's sleepy but not usually. I suggested she try to latch before giving her a bottle and after so that if she's hungry, she nurse, but if she's too hungry to latch she can try after her belly is full and more relaxed and I asked her how she holds her nipple. By then, I realized that my cousin did not want my help, would like me to kindly shut the fuck up, and never talk again. My aunt kept urging me to help her, and I just kept trying to change the subject. To anything. I asked if that was the bottle my friends liked so much and said the name wrong and she all but called me an idiot. Then, I felt guilty when my baby was hungry and without thinking I just picked her up and latched her. I was sitting there and my cousin was hating me with every fiber of her being because she had spent the last 2 hours trying to bottle feed her baby 4 oz. I left shortly after.
I feel bad for my cousin because she's creating so much work for herself. She's complicating the whole process. If she wasn't such a flagrant bitch I would have loved to share with her some of the things that worked for me. But she's just going to keep on being disgruntled with her workload and she won't enjoy the gift she has given the world, her baby. Being a mother is hard work, yes, but it's not impossible. Parenthood takes up most of your energy and attention, but it's enjoyable. But when you get some whackadoo advice from a doctor, or you are reading a book that requires strict adherence, you are sucking all of the fun out of it. I refer to my first born as The Experiment. I did so many things wrong. And because I'm particularly studious, I was reading many books and magazines, and watching things like Nanny 911 (Or what I like to call Daddy Shaming). But after the first couple of months I saw the books for what they were, detractors. Why not put them down and pick my baby up!? What a novel idea? I looked into my baby's eyes and wouldn't ya know, all he wanted was me. Again, I don't think that parenting books are worthless. I think some of them are marvelous guides. I just wish they didn't always seem like they are shouting at you. I wish they let new parents know that no one has written a foolproof manual yet. Every household is different and every baby is different. Plus, if there was a manual would you even want to read it? I would be like turning directly to page 744 of the 7th Harry Potter book but times a kabillion. The journey is the fun. Discovering yourself in your child is what is amazing. It's hard to do that when you are listening to strangers generalize. And the thing that I find the most troubling about parenting books is that they make you second guess yourself. Now if those books ever once stopped for a second to tell a parent, hey, friend, you're doing it right, I wouldn't have been so nervous at first. But they need to keep you nervous so you will look to them. They need to keep you dependent by making you feel like without them you will be making the wrong choices. But you are the baby whisperer. You are the wizard. If you'd like me to put on a pink poufy dress and ride in on a bubble to tell you you've had this power all along, I will. Well... I have a pink dress.
I'm also not saying that you need to embark on this journey alone. It can take a village, you know. So if you would like to learn a few tricks, why not try asking a parent you admire how they do it? A friend of mine created a facebook group that she could invite her college friends to join who were becoming or are moms. She got the idea because, God love them, the moms in chat rooms nuttier than fruitcakes. They can have you believing that your child has a learning disability, dying of Ebola, and on the road to becoming a psychopath all the while relating to you how they didn't know they were pregnant until little hands reached out from under their skirt. Do not trust anything from a chat room. I am almost positive they are filled with trolls because I refuse to think there are people living in this country that are that dumb. Anyhow, I felt honored to be invited to this group because were all very close in school and we all value each other. And even as the lady who's been a mom the longest, I learn things from them all the time. We have a question, someone has an answer. We need to vent, everyone shows support. I wish we all lived together on a big baby farm. I highly recommend forming a closed group to keep the crazies out. No crazies allowed!
Trust yourself that you are a competent grown up that has kept themselves alive for this long, trust that your loved ones believe in you, and trust that your baby is not some evil sith that is going to drag you to the dark side. And hey, friend, you're doing it right.