Recently, I read an article about Post-Partum Depression. It was truly amazing and made some fantastic points. Read it with a grain of salt and ignore some of the crazy comments posted below the article, and the words become eye-opening.
I am guilty of buying into the cultural lie. It seems society is ever swinging on a large pendulum of what is "best." Today, we glorify stay-at-home-moms. Isn't it the BEST job in the world? Mothers provide for all the baby's needs! Mothers are always there to soothe a cry. No other caregiver could ever provide such love. Daycare, why that's a joke!
But is it? The last 11 months have opened my eyes to lies unimaginable, that Mommy Wars are somehow good for us; that mothers (and fathers) must compete with other mothers (and fathers) to provide the BEST care. But this kind of competition is destructive. There will never be an ultimate victor. Where a parent succeeds in one area, he/she will fail in another. There is no perfection this side of Heaven, folks.
I have been guilty of evaluating my successes (and failures) in parenthood based on the cultural lies that I should somehow base anything on what society deems the ultimate good. Society (currently) screams, "Breast is best! BEST! BEST! BEST!" But what about the mother who deeply desires to breast feed (because, for a number of non-sarcastic and proven reasons, it is BEST), but struggles all along the way? A mother who maybe doesn't produce enough milk, has inverted nipples, or is in pain all the time - even with a perfectly delightful pump recommended by her lactation consultant. What about the baby who can't latch properly? Do we condemn their attempts because it simply "didn't work for them"? Absolutely not! We should champion them and shout from the rooftops that it's BEST to do what's in the BEST interest of the baby AND the mother! That formula is OKAY! That bottle-feeding may bring more joy than breast is something we must all try to understand. I struggled for almost 5 months with breast-feeding. The supply was amazing, but we had so many hurdles to jump through that breast-feeding was incredibly isolating. I found myself feeling like a failure because I couldn't just whip up my shirt, put Sophia on, and go about my business while at lunch at a quaint café! Of course, I was wrong in that determination. I was guilty of comparing myself to my dear friends who found breast-feeding so simple and enjoyable. Once I found friends who struggled (and were willing to be transparent), I learned that there was entirely different standard I should be measuring myself against: the best interest of Sophia and Me. Does that mean that I now shun all those breast-is-best folks? No. They are doing what is in the best interest of their babies and their bodies! Victory is sure in BOTH situations.
And what about sleeping? Oh, sleeping. Another failure-ridden area of my parenting journey. Scheduling, sleeping, feeding, napping - there are thousands of books on the topic! I bought into that silly lie that with the right discipline, I would be able to control my child's sleep habits and create a happy environment for all. But that is not ENTIRELY true. Authors of these blessed books endeavor to give moms and dads STRATEGIES! (I love this definition of "strategy" by the kind folks of Merriam-Webster.) Strategies work for some and not for others. Think about all the different ways one can carve a pumpkin! Poke pins, use table knives, a jigsaw is great --- and they are all useful to an extent. Of all the books we read, I thought BabyWise and 12 Hours Sleep By 12 Weeks were top-notch! They were filled with amazing strategies to avoid those rookie mistakes (like putting your baby to bed after rocking for hours). However, they both, like many other books, had the pitfall of promising regular sleep patterns --- even for premies. I bought into the lie that I had failed because my child didn't sleep like "she should", she didn't get the "right hours" of total sleep and that's what caused her to continue to wake up. Oh, if only I could make her sleep because "sleep begets sleep", right? Maybe. Not always. Sophia will be one in just a few weeks, and we still wake up 1-3x a night at least 4 nights a week. She takes naps when she feels she needs to. Don't get me wrong, we provide scheduled nap times and make sure that she's in bed between 7-7:30pm, but she may lay awake talking or whimpering. Sometimes she is completely disinterested in a nap, so we give it 30 minutes and then go with the flow. Failure? No. Our only failure was measuring ourselves by the standard that society somehow sets that says ALL babies should do this or that. This standard prevailed even among the other first time moms I know. Were they wrong? No, they just had not experienced otherwise. Good for them if they had the best sleeper in the world! Congrats! That truly is wonderful. And yet congrats are also due to the parents of the sleepless kiddo. Good for them for making it through another 24 hours without restorative sleep! Have another cup of joe on me!
And what about the stay-at-home-mom? Well folks, don't be surprised when I tell you that it might not be for everyone. Sometimes moms must return to work because of money or insurance. Sometimes moms enjoy their kiddos more when they've had some time to work without them. (That's sounds terrible --- but does it really sound terrible? I doubt it!) There are days when I want to run back to a job outside of the home, when I seek an identity that can be measured. I never thought I would relish the day for PAS-T evaluations from my principal. Sometimes I want validation that I'm doing the right things and that I'm still "proficient" or even "exemplary" and staying-at-home doesn't afford those kinds of evaluations. Sometimes I want to work simply for the community. Being at home with a baby (who doesn't have a very large vocabulary or world-view) can be tedious. Sure, playdates are great, but it's not the same. My resolution is that some moms should simply be championed for doing what's best for them so that they can best care for their kiddos! I'm planning to stick-out my stay-at-home duties because I think that is truly what is best for Sophia and I, but I wouldn't turn a nose up at any parent who preferred daycare for the right reasons.
We must put away the mommy wars and petty competition. We must surround each other with encouragement and understanding. Child-rearing isn't easy. Maybe it seems so during that first year for parents of the miracle sleeper-eater, but the teenage years are coming. No child will ever fit into one perfect mold, so let's champion the parents who encourage their kids to "be kids" as well as the parents who want the best for their kiddos and set constructive boundaries and schedules! Let's change our minds. I know I have!.....(and will continue to try to as those slippery lies of failure and doubt continue to creep up)....