Why do some moms care SO much how other people raise their kids?
Posted Mar 24 2011 1:14pm
It is fascinating (and not in a good way) how mothers these days feel the need to not only concern themselves with, but also pass judgment on, the way other people parent their kids. The hot topics these days, as I observe them, seem to be whether moms work outside the home and breastfeeding. And, of course, the "drama-cherry" on top is the whole epidural/"natural" and vaginal/c-section childbirth debate.
When I first became a mom, I invested in a plethora of parenting books on topics ranging from sleep to discipline, and even my own parents didn't try very hard to hide both their frustration and amusement at the fact that I felt the need to educate myself about the process, let alone label what type of mom I was going to be. In their day, people just had their kids and did the best they could, which was to balance keeping their kids alive and keeping their lives from being too impacted by having had kids in the first place. "Go play." would about sum up any parenting theories they subscribed to, if such a thing even crossed their minds.
Nowadays, people invest insane amounts of time taking up causes that are in line with their parenting philosophies and trying to educate the world on why they are right in their opinions. Breastfeeding advocates who take a more extremist approach even use scare tactics to guilt mothers into thinking that feeding your infant anything but breastmilk for the first years months of their lives is the equivalent of offering them dropper-fulls of cyanide. They dedicate their time to "teaching" the world about the dangers of formula, while using the benefits of breastmilk as an after-thought. What they don't realize, in my opinion, is that the people actually listening are mamas like me and you...smart, well-read mothers who are essentially the "choir" that these folks are preaching to.
In fact, now pregnant, my husband and I registered for and attended a breastfeeding class in preparation for our second baby. With my first I had an awful experience breastfeeding that certainly contributed to my PPD. With this next baby, I wanted to be well-educated so that should I run into issues nursing again I wouldn't feel as if it was my lack of preparation that led to the complications. The class was advertised as a three-hour couples experience that would teach us all about latch, positioning, and helpful tips to make breastfeeding as easy and enjoyable as possible. I was excited to learn all the things that I hadn't known going into motherhood initially. Almost immediately upon arrival, my husband and I became acutely aware of what this "class" actually was about. The first exercise focused on matching a list of "facts" about breastfeeding with worldly roles/jobs. For example, if the fact was that "breastfed babies' bowel movements are much less foul-smelling than formula-fed babies" we were to match that with "garbage collector". Not only did we feel like we were in a 4th grade Social Studies class, but we also realized that this "class" was really about promoting breastfeeding propaganda. It was a hilarious discovery considering that all 10 of the couples in the class had paid $35 and sacrificed their Saturday to attend! Um, not to be a smart-aleck, but is this not the epitome of "preaching to the choir"?? Hello?!!? We all PAID to attend the class...OBVIOUSLY we are aware of and sold on the benefits of breastfeeding.
This example of my recent personal experience is just a symptom of what I feel is a completely backwards approach to promoting breastfeeding in our country. What lactivists (claim to) aim to do is to increase the breastfeeding rates among the general population for the purpose of improving the health and wellness of American children. What I believe they actually accomplish, and are quite successful at, is completely missing the population of people who actually need this "education". And those of us who already know a lot about breastfeeding and are consistently surrounded by nursing moms are instead simply reminded of our supposed inadequacy as mothers, which results in unnecessary guilt and shame...but no more successful of a breastfeeding outcome than had we not been inundated with messages of the "poisonous" nature of formula. Here's a thought...how about dedicating the time, energy and financial resources to lactation support before and after babies are born so that instead of memorized "facts" about breastfeeding benefits we actually learn best practices for latching and feeding our babies at the breast?
What in the world makes people put all their eggs in the "what kind of milk you feed your kid the first few weeks/months/years of his/her life is the MOST important thing in the whole world" basket?? Seriously...there are thousands of dead people in Japan, people losing their minds, families and homes all over the world, incredibly important issues going on in our country and some people care that much whether someone else's kids' milk comes from a boob or a bottle? Give me a break.
The other hot topic, which can bring any mom to tears, is the "where you work" debate. Some stay at home moms seem to have a particular affinity for and loud voice around the benefits of and superiority of not working outside the home at times. On several blogs lately, comments nearing the hundreds have be shared which range from a subtle and passive-aggressive disapproval for a mom's working outside the home to outright declaring that she doesn't know her child as well as or have as good of a bond with her child as she would if she would just stay at home. Nevermind that some moms don't have a choice about generating income for their family, or that for some moms, like me, working actually makes us better equipped to parent when we are with our children because of our innate personalities or gifts.
I realize that I am among a blessed minority who have the choice, both financially and by matter of a great employer, to determine my work schedule. Having had a taste of all four scenarios (stay at home, work outside the home full-time, work outside the home part-time, and work from home), I have definitely determined that part-time paid work (and a combination of from home and outside of the home) suits me best. I enjoy my weeks most, feel most productive and find myself enjoying family time most when my life is well-balanced with adult conversation, stimulating intellectual work, time for prayer and devotions, play-time with my son, and plenty of time to accomplish maintaining the home. My current schedule allows for that...which paves the way to both my contentment and sanity.
On the other hand, there are lots of moms who are career-driven and who would be devastated not to continue with the pace of their career, even after having kids. They might enlist the help of a family member or great childcare provider to care for their kids and then spend their own free-time fully engaged with their children. And, there are moms who stay at home who don't have the ability to find gainful employment because of childcare costs or lack of education, but who would love to work outside the home if given the opportunity. And, of course, there are also moms who have to work to meet their family's needs financially who mourn the time away from their kids, but don't have a choice about it. These scenarios just touch upon the individual nature of each family situation.
If you are a mom who passes judgment upon other moms regularly or who criticizes parenting choices based upon your personal philosophies and opinions, I urge you to re-think things. We're all doing the best we can here and the point is, no matter what kind of milk you feed your child, what kind of "work" you do or where you do it, if you love your kids and make sure that they are well-cared for then you are a good mom...and you shouldn't let anyone tell you differently!