Knickers-in-a-wad warning: I'm approaching this from the traditional, married mother and father, healthy full-term baby perspective. If you don't fall into that category, this post isn't for you, so don't get your knickers in a wad.
I have been a sometimes willing, other times reluctant, participant in the Mommy Wars for nine years. The Wars start when you get pregnant and last until ... I don't know when. From the moment you conceive, you're bombarded with opinions, solicited and otherwise. Likewise, from many moments before you conceive, you have lots of your own opinions. Admit it, you have opinions. Chances are, you are like me and you read and ask tons of questions.
There's a lot out there about how we should mother our babies. There's the Ezzo school of thought that babies are master manipulators and you must train them according to your schedule. There's the Attachment Parenting school of thought that babies need to be physically attached to you via sling or co-sleeping, with nursing on demand. The battle rages between the two and both sides get nasty. Have you ever read comments on articles about parenting? Have you read any message boards about mothering babies? They get rabidly cruel.
My thought is that both sides are a little too sure of themselves. Both sides do a dramatic disservice to mothers and babies alike. One side thinks too much of their adult lives and the other side thinks too little about their adults lives. So, who is this about - really?
It's easy to have one child and think you know everything about mothering. Hello, I did it. I was one of those mothers at the park who was sure she knew it all because I'd figured out my only child. Well, congratulations to me. I did. I had. But what worked for him and for me and for our family of three may not work for other families. In fact, what worked for the three of us didn't work so well when there were four of us, and certainly not when there were five of us. And that's the part missing from the discussion.
The part that's missing from the discussion is what's better for the specific family. When a baby is born, that baby isn't the creation of the family. When a man and woman get married, they are the beginning of the family. The first baby is just the first addition. While in the first few weeks the baby's needs should be met as needed, once the baby is past newborn stage (six weeks), the baby should be a part of the family - not the center of the family.
What I know about parenting after only nine years is that unless you're actively doing harm (not feeding your child and/or literally abusing your child), you need to lay down the guilt. Just lay it down.
You are NOT a bad mother if you:
- ...don't sleep with your baby. That's why monitors were invented. Get one with lights and maybe a vibrate feature. Plainly, some of us can't sleep with little snorters and wheezers. Those of us who punch our husband's shoulders when they're snoring are not good co-sleeping candidates. Just sayin'.
- ...don't wear your baby. Unless you have a robot changing the baby, feeding the baby, burping the baby, or snuggling with the baby, your baby's getting plenty of loving touches.
- ...don't nurse your baby. Yes, breast milk is best; however, some of us can't nurse for various reasons. Even if you just don't feel comfortable enough with your breasts to nurse or pump, it doesn't mean you're a bad mother. Henri Nestle invented formula in 1867 to feed a baby who couldn't nurse. The formula saved the baby's life. Shame on the woman who makes you feel like less of a woman or mother because you don't feed your baby from your breast.
- ...don't nurse your baby, part two. Robot alert again. Unless you have a robot feeding your baby while you're swilling martinis and getting a mani/pedi in the next room, you're holding your baby and snuggling plenty. You're a mom.
- ...use a stroller. Yes, you're "pushing away" your child - while holding onto the handlebar and going the same place as your child. So, unless you're standing at the top of a hill and shoving your child-filled stroller down a steep incline, you're not a crap mom.
- ...sleep-train your child. Sleep is important. Kids need good sleep. Parents need good sleep. Getting up multiple times in the night with a (healthy) ten month-old is ridiculous. Crying it out does not mean putting your child in bed and going out for drinks while he screams himself into unconsciousness. Crying it out means setting a timer for yourself so you don't rush in like the crazed-mother-that-you-are and saving him from himself. Set the timer for 20 minutes. Let the baby figure out how to calm himself down. If he can't after 20 minutes, go in and help. When he's calm and relaxed, do it all over again. Believe me, a night of screaming that results in many nights of good sleep is preferable to no crying and many nights of broken sleep.
- ...allow your baby to use a pacifier. If your baby is underweight and you're using a pacifier, you might want to reconsider how much you're (not) feeding your baby. Otherwise, a pacifier won't wreck his his life. Now, if your child has to remove the binky to have a conversation, I'd say you've let the binky-love go on a little long, but that's another post. ;-)
- ...shun the notion that you need to teach your child that you'll "always be there." The truth is that you won't. You will not always be there when she's trying to figure out how to sit and smashes her face in the carpet. You will not always be there when he's learning to walk and plops down on his bottom. You will not always be there when he goes out to play and the other kids make fun of him
for having a binky. Unless you're planning on full-time helicopter parenting and plan on welcoming home your kid who flunked out of college because it's the first time she had to do anything without your express supervision and - gasp - failed, you won't always be there. Little, bitty, baby steps of independence need to start fairly soon. Learning to fall asleep without being held or without a boob in the mouth is a good start.