Parenting Is a Marathon

Can we talk about parenting? I want to talk about parenting. Not unusual parenting; not step-parenting, special needs parenting, non-custodial parenting, or anything else. Just any old ordinary parenting, mostly the parenting of babies.

Also about pressure, perfection, and perceived power. It’s like a perfect storm of P alliteration.

Earlier today Abbott Labs recalled 5 million cans of Similac powdered infant formula. I learned of the recall from this tweet:

Similac is recalling formula because of BEETLE PARTS! OMG! No bugs in my breast milk, bitches!

I was very polite when I DMed the author of said tweet and asked her, oh-so-sweetly, to remove it. Thankfully, she agreed.

I could have guessed, though, when I heard that Similac was recalling formula that there would be a shit storm of epic proportions. There is almost nothing about feeding babies (or anything else having to do with babies) that isn’t worthy of a shit storm. I had (past tense) a friend who gave me hell every time she saw that Carter was wearing an undershirt under his clothes. Apparently, infants in undershirts is weird and old-fashioned. It’s unnecessary and a waste of time.

If people have strong opinions about undershirts, then obviously things that actually matter, like feeding and sleep, will cause some impressive firework.

I spent 20 minutes out in the jungle of parenting message boards this evening and, as predicted, I found many proclamations that the Similac recall is just what you get when you feed your child something unnatural.

Really? Is that what some people really think? Because as much as I wish that every baby had unlimited access to human milk, either from her or his own mother or from a safe donor supply, I wish even more that all children lived in a world of compassion, kindness, and emotional generosity.

We all want to give our children the best. Maybe not all of us; there are terrible parents in the world, but in general? People try, and mostly do a pretty good job.

Sadly, nothing is good enough, ever. No matter what you do, it won’t be good enough. When Carter was a baby and he cried 90% of his waking hours, everyone knew why. People who believed in attachment parenting said I didn’t hold him enough; mainstream parents said I was spoiling him by holding him too much. Some people said he didn’t sleep because I wouldn’t get tough and force him to stay in his crib; other people said I was unhappy because I wasn’t surrendered to Carter’s needs. The one that hurt the most was that I was upset and Carter’s crying was nothing but a response to that.

No wonder I begged Brian (on a very, very dark day) to let me put Carter in foster care! If I was causing all that misery, wouldn’t it be kindest to give him to someone who wouldn’t do that? Someone who would send him vibes of contentment instead of panic?

But you don’t need to have a high needs baby to be on the receiving end of a shit ton of judgment. My friend Brandee felt the whip-crack of the constant pressure on parents to do everything just right when she announced she was feeding her 6 month old daughter her first taste of solid foods. Her choice, and there’s nothing dangerous about it, so why did so many people want to pile on?

It seems to me that people feel they have an enormous amount of power over their children’s futures; that every choice, from feeding to undershirts, may impact them forever, and dramatically. Every decision we make may mean the difference between a child who grows up to live on the streets, turning tricks to pay for dope, or a child who grows up to become a pediatric neurosurgeon whose life is devoted to Doctors Without Borders.

Part of the problem with doing things just right is that the target keeps moving, becomes ever more unattainable. First, it seemed we should all cloth diaper. Then, a collective cry went up (from where, I’m not sure; MDC, probably) that we weren’t doing it right if we weren’t using organic, un-dyed, handmade diapers. And finally, when it seemed that most people could manage that, elimination communication became the true litmus test of genuinely devoted parents. Or first, having an unmedicated birth was important; then, we shouldn’t be going to hospitals; and finally, unassisted birth was the only way to be truly natural.

Recently, I’ve considered taking Carter’s homebirth story down. That day was wonderful; I am so blessed to have had that experience. I hate the idea, though, of adding any more words to the cacophony that insists any woman can do it that way if she wants to. No, every woman can’t, and every woman doesn’t want to. I’m not pro-homebirth; I’m pro-women-being-educated-and-giving-birth-where-and-how-they-feel-safest.

First, the good news: we are not as powerful as we think we are. Our parenting choices do matter, of course, but our kids are who they are; they aren’t our creations, not lumps of clay for us to mold. The reason just right is unattainable is that it does not exist.

I care about this, and have chosen to write about it, because it’s the same mentality that says it’s OK to blame Brian and me for Carter’s illness. If we had done things just right, he would be OK. If Katie Allison Granju had done things just right, her son Henry would be alive. If those people over there would do things just right, their kids wouldn’t be so rude. They wouldn’t get addicted to drugs or go to prison. They wouldn’t be promiscuous or curse at their teachers or any of a million other things.

Bullshit. Parents are not gods; we’re not even super heroes. We’re people with limits and needs, living in a world that is constantly pushing and pulling us and our children in millions of ways, large and small.

None of this is to say that our choices don’t matter, but the energy that we put into the arguing? What if:

  • Instead of debating whether it’s better for one parent to stay at home or for both parents to work, we all pushed for more options: job sharing, benefits for part-time jobs, telecommuting, paid family leave, and more flexible working conditions of all kinds?
  • Instead of debating whether or not daycare is bad for kids, we pushed for more funding so that all parents who need or want it have access to high-quality care for their children?
  • Instead of fighting the same old breastfeeding/formula feeding debate, we worked to break down the social and economic barriers to successful breastfeeding with which many women struggle?
  • Instead of fighting the same old breastfeeding/formula feeding debate, we gave the people around us the benefit of the doubt and assumed that if they wanted advice, they would ask for it?
  • We acknowledged that we’re all doing our best and unless we know that something is genuinely dangerous, we keep our mouths shut unless we’re asked for our opinion?
  • We all stopped thinking that we are smarter than everyone else? Or smarter than all the people who don’t agree with us? Or all the people who do X, practice Y, or try Z?

I read this plea for advice on a parenting message board:

My baby is asleep in the swing and I think if I get her out I’ll wake her up, but I feel so guilty! I shouldn’t just let her lay over there by herself, right? A good mom holds her baby! How do you all stand it?!? Will she get an attachment problem if I leave her there?

That’s an extreme example, but I witness enough angst to make this worth saying: loving, reasonably functional parents do not cause profound and devastating problems like attachment disorder in their children. Feed them well, but know that no single meal is life-or-death. Nurture and respond, but know, too, that it’s OK to take a shower or go out for the evening.

And for God’s sake, unless your baby is in danger or your breasts are near to exploding, never wake a sleeping baby! That’s just stupid.

As the kids get older, there are other things to fuel everyone’s self-righteous anger. Who homeschools and who sends their kids to school? Which parents sit with their kids during homework and which leave them to do it on their own? Which parents go to all the games and which parents only see a few? Which parents talk to their children about sex and which ones don’t? Which parents are cool and which ones are strict? Who takes their kids to church and who doesn’t?

All of it is fodder for judgment.

That’s a lifetime of self-righteous anger, and whole hell of a lot of energy. There’s a great deal we could do with that energy. If we care about mothers and babies, then fighting with other mothers is not what we need to do. One billion people on planet earth do not have access to clean water; I don’t know if those mothers bicker the way we privileged few do, but my guess is that they’d think we are fussing around the fringes and worrying about things that don’t matter much.

I’m on my knees, begging: come down off that hook. Let everyone off of their hooks. There is no other; just us, doing the best we can. When we make different choices, one of us doesn’t have to be wrong. The person who does that thing that seems so distasteful probably has his or her reasons.

Parenting is a marathon, not a sprint. Along the road, shit is going to happen; plans will change. Pace yourself!

You can trust me on this. I used to think I was really smart. Turns out, the universe doesn’t give a shit how smart I am, and all those smart words didn’t feel nearly as good when I ate them as they did when I said them.

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116 thoughts on “Parenting Is a Marathon”

  1. I love this. Love, love, love it. I don’t understand why we, as parents, can’t be supportive of each other. Great post 🙂

  2. I love you. I breastfed and get on my soap box on occasion but I also know that there are some things that I do that are WRONG or WEIRD. But you know what? She’s MY kid. I’ll fuck her up no matter what I do and you’ll fuck up your kids no matter what you do.

    Kids turn out alright in spite of us, not because of us.

    HOLLA!

  3. Sad thing is for every single one of us who says “I’m not smart, I don’t know it all,” there’s 10 out there that say “I know exactly how to do it and if you don’t do it my way you’re a terrible parent.”

    I’m sure they have lovely children. I’m sure they’re good parents. I just wish someone would round them all up and apply a triple layer of duct tape.

    I know I’m a better parent when I’m not being drowned in a cacophony of voices that tell me “You’re doing it wrong!” I know I’m a better parent when I receive loving support. When I receive kindness. When I can then give that same kindness and support to another struggling mama.

    God bless us all. Its the hardest job in the world, please dont’ ever let me be the person that makes it harder for someone else.

    1. I’ll admit to one of the unloveliest things about me: when self-righteous people finally find out that they are not, in fact, the most powerful force in the universe, a tiny part of me feels a bit gleeful. I don’t like that about myself, but I’ve come a long way so hopefully that part will get better, too!

      And yeah, of all the criticism that has been heaped on me since I became a parent, and especially since Carter was born, not one bit of it has done any good. It has only made me angry or, worse, made me doubt myself. I, too, hope that I am never a part of doing that to anyone else. I hope I can share a bit of kindness, but at the very least, I don’t want to increase anyone’s pain!

  4. I recently watched a really sad documentary about the meth epidemic in certain impoverished parts of the country. The movie profiled a family, both parents addicts, with four young kids. The youngest was a 2-yr old girl. It was clear that her parents cared about her and her siblings, but they were too strung out on drugs to care for any of them. This little girl is shown in the movie wandering around their trailer in the middle of the night, her hair completely matted, wearing a dirty diaper. She literally fishes food out of the trash can when she’s hungry, as her parents are passed out for half the day.

    And watching this, as painful as it was, I realized how utterly ridiculous it is to engage in debates about stroller vs. babywearing or epidural vs. homebirth or even formula v. breastmilk. Sure, I have strong opinions about all of those, about which is “best,” but let’s be honest. What is BEST for children is to simply be CARED FOR. And there is a HUGE margin of what’s acceptable. When you see what’s NOT ok for kids, it becomes clear how petty it is to nitpick the details.

    When I heard about the recall my first thought was sorrow for the families affected, who trusted that they were NOT feeding their babies beetle parts. (A reasonable assumption.) Rubbing the superiority of breastmilk in their faces felt totally cruel to me. Let’s remember, above all – formula feeders are FEEDING THEIR CHILDREN. How many children aren’t fed when they’re hungry, are abused, are neglected? So many. Why is it the competent parents of the world spend all their energy tearing each other down?

    And for the record, I’m not saying the little girl in the movie is doomed for life. People have overcome much harsher beginnings. As I said, her parents did seem to love her. Drug addiction is a disease and I’m not standing in judgment. It was just that the image of a neglected toddler made me realize how incredibly, supremely well most parents are doing, despite all the debating.

    1. YES! Thank you! Exactly. We’re here, fussing around the fringes and pointing fingers while some mothers are listening to their children cry themselves to sleep from hunger, or watching them die because they have no access to clean water.

      And yes, a wide, wide range of what’s acceptable. There are so many things in this world to be concerned about; why do we feel the need to invent MORE?

  5. Also I want to add – so it is clear – most of us debating about the best way to parent are coming from a place of privilege, where we are ABLE to provide well for our kids on many levels, and to have these debates. That’s not the case for everybody (like the family in the movie), and I don’t want to sound as if I feel superior to them, when in fact I am simply far more privileged.

    1. Absolutely, and I got that from your first comment, so no worries. 😉

      Yes, privilege. Some people seem to miss that part entirely. “Well, if they REALLY wanted to…” There are so many assumptions in a statement like that, I wouldn’t even know where to begin untangling it all!

  6. I’ve often said that the worst part of parenting is other parents. Other parents can be wonderful, of course, but for every dear friend or supportive stranger, it’s seemed that I’ve run into five judgmental loudmouths who need to tell me what I’m doing wrong.

    “We acknowledged that we’re all doing our best and unless we know that something is genuinely dangerous, we keep our mouths shut unless we’re asked for our opinion?”

    Unfortunately, all too often people people seem to be unable to tell the difference between opinions, beliefs, and facts. It’s not just parenting, though–the unwillingness to empathize, extend the benefit of the doubt, engage in reasonable discourse, and disagree amicably seems quite pervasive, through all levels of social and political speech these days. It may be that people have always been this way, and it may be that people are like this everywhere. I don’t know–I can only speak to what’s happening in the US at present. It sure feels like something’s gone wrong, though. Sometimes I despair at things ever coming right again. So it’s nice to hear someone making the argument for sanity now and again. Thanks.

    1. You are so right! The line, for some people, is nowhere near where it is for me. I’m not going to say a word unless your child is hungry, or you lock her in a closet, or don’t get her medical care. Things like that; things that virtually everyone would agree is abusive.

      But some people believe that processed foods are poison or that immunizing a child is abusive. That part is tricky because those people believe that they are challenging an entrenched system, which necessarily involves offending people.

      And I could not agree more about your last point. Reasonable discourse is virtually dead! I remember several posts ago, you disagreed with me about something and we actually discussed it. You were totally reasonable and you made me THINK. It makes me sad that that happens so rarely, and by “sad,” I mean it makes me despair for our future.

      I wish they would go back to teaching critical thinking and debate courses in high schools, but that certainly wouldn’t fix the problem. It’s gotten so bad, I avoid discussing charged issues sometimes because I get so tired of being called names!

  7. I love this post. I wrote a little rant about the reaction to the recall on twitter myself. I was ashamed to be a mother, a person, when I saw what some people were saying. But I never thought to ask anyone to remove it. I know for next time.
    We just need to support each other. Thanks for writing this.

    1. Awww, thank you! I have recently decided that I’ve been a coward. I avoid controversial issues because I get so tired of the extremists screaming at each other, but if all of us who believe we don’t have to be the same to be kind to each other bow out of all the discussions, it will seem like everyone is an extremist.

      And I really don’t believe that. I think a great many people are prepared to be supportive and kind and I need to speak up.

    1. Thanks, you! Yeah, people make me sad, too. I think we have to try to be as noisy with our kindness as some people are with their judgment. Not to do battle (I will SO not do battle!), but just to show that there IS kindness.

  8. I kind of stumbled upon this post by accident, but…wow! I think you are super-cool. If you were talking to me in person, I would give you a big hug and want to be best friends.

    I have been lucky. I am the mother of a 2 y.o., but I seemed to have avoided the judgement that others has been inundated with. At least, no one has had the guts to tell me to my face.

    I had not heard about the recall until now, but it just makes me sad. I am completely baffled at how a parent could have no compassion for another parent. When you feed your child and find out that you may have been doing serious harm to your child, the guilt is bad enough. How could another parent possibly throw stones instead of lend a shoulder or hand?

    Anyway, please post like this more often. You are right that we need to speak up more to help each other instead of harm and berate each other. Just from one human being to another.

    Tia

    1. Thank you! I’m glad you haven’t gotten much of this judgmental crap. Honestly, I didn’t get too much when my older kids (now 16 and 14) were little, but I got loads with my youngest. That’s probably largely due to his many behavioral and emotional issues, but I also think it’s gotten worse.

      1. I think the judging is the same here. I don’t know where it started… I mean, do they judge each other in African tribes? When did this start?

        Here we have a set of rules that the gvmt org that does all the well baby checks set out. They stand by their rules, so you can’t really ask advice about anything outside the rules and guidelines (like: how’s a good way to transfer my baby from the family bed to a crib? -> OMG, family bed? Argh! SIDS!!). There is also a HUGE difference between the way the parents of my generation were “raised” and now. So from the Dutch parents there’s a lot of “oh I raised all my kids on formula and they were just fine, all those breastfeeding police are horrible” and other things I personally don’t believe in (crying it out, etc.).The English are different again, my mum told me she was frowned upon for using the zebra crossing with the stroller?? That she didn’t just cross the road where she could? Oh and on using cloth diapers, too.

        There’s a lot of competition: how big’s your baby, how fast is he/she developing skills, when did your baby STTN, etc. There seems to be a lot of judgement there. Ugh. Oh well, seeing as there are soooo many opinions out there, and with the internet, I do find it easier to stick to my guns, when I feel like a choice is right for me.

        1. So it sounds about the same – generational differences, competition, etc. Hopefully the Dutch gov’t will see the new research indicating that bed-sharing does NOT increase SIDS risk!

          I have no idea what zebra crossing is. Do you mean they didn’t want her to use the crosswalk? That sounds weird.

      2. Really really loved this!

        As a person living and formula feeding in a very pro breastfeeding society, i wear a lot of judgment. Its like no one can see past the bottle in my hand to see a healthy happy baby.

        1. Thanks! Yeah, you know what I think is missing from all of this? Humility. None of us knows everything!

          That’s going to be my new mantra: I can’t be judgmental and humble at the same time.

      3. Amen to all this.

        The human impulse towards self righteousness and know-it-all-ism runs deep and it is hard work to resist it, yet resist we must if we are to be kind to each other and treat all with respect. It is amazing how easily people can fall into that “my way is the right way, and let me bestow my wisdom upon you (you idiot/poor misguided/evil soul)” crap (yeah, BTDT.) I too, in my dotage, have become such a middle-of-the-roader, and find I do like it here in this place of minimal judgment and seeming reasonableness. I wish we could all live with the wisdom that comes from life battering you around a bit without having to go through the beat downs.

        So, thanks again for a lovely thoughtful essay, beautifully written as always.

        1. Yes. This is hardly an issue in the SN parenting community and I think that’s because we’ve all had to accept that things aren’t going to be perfect.

          Of course, we have our own debates, and worse ones! I think you’re right; it’s part of the human condition and I wish everyone would get to work trying to stop!

      4. There is a chapter in Freakonomics which deals with just how limited our power is as parents. The statistics show that our children really aren’t this blank slate that we think they are, and that the parenting choices that we agonize over really don’t impact our children nearly as much as we think they do. (Perhaps frighteningly, peer groups exert a far bigger influence than any of our parenting decisions do).

        Can’t we all just do our best, love our children and support each other?

        1. I have a vague memory of that; I know I read the book. I’ll have to see if I can find it and read that chapter again.

          Yeah, we believe that we are VERY powerful and some people are unwilling to be disabused of that notion!

      5. “Instead of debating whether it’s better for one parent to stay at home or for both parents to work, we all pushed for more options: job sharing, benefits for part-time jobs, telecommuting, paid family leave, and more flexible working conditions of all kinds?”

        YES!!!!

        “Instead of debating whether or not daycare is bad for kids, we pushed for more funding so that all parents who need or want it have access to high-quality care for their children?”

        YES, A THOUSAND TIMES YES!

        The “Mommy Wars” are a very clever way to divide moms. The more divided we are, the more difficult it will be for use to rise up and demand our rights, not just as mothers but as HUMAN BEINGS who deserve equality. Equality in the office, in Congress, in the home, on the street: that’s what feminism is all about.

        What a great post. Really, really great. Thank you.

        1. Thank you so much! Yup; this is absolutely a feminist issue and we’re fighting about the wrong things, with the wrong people. If we could all be a little more open-minded and humble, we might manage to get some of what we truly need!

      6. I saw a similar tweet yesterday and almost blew up. I’m on both sides of the feeding coin. I nursed my first for a whole week and we switched to formula because it wasn’t working. I nursed my second for his entire first year.

        The BEST choice in everything is what works BEST for you and your child. Not what someone else tells you is the best.

      7. Thank you for writing this. And you’re absolutely right, what we do, regardless if it is the “best” is never quite good enough. Let’s feed our babies, love our babies and keep them safe.

      8. Before the Similac fiasco, I blogged about how mothers can be towards other mothers. When I found out about the formula thing, I just stayed offline, because I knew the words I had worked so hard to muck through would be lost in others judgments. I’m not pro-anything, except happy, healthy babies and happy, healthy mothers.

        1. Oh, yeah, this controversy rages on, and it won’t slow down anytime soon. This post, and yours, and the dozens that have been written since yesterday calling for more kindness won’t make much of a difference.

          Sometimes, though, you have to put it out there, you know? You have to throw your hat in and say, “This isn’t OK.” Whether anyone hears me or not (you know, the people who didn’t already agree with all of this), I know that I spoke my piece.

      9. I agree completely Adrienne, I had a completely wonderful pregancy with 3 children,and was able to breastfeed 2 of them very well. However my middle child had reflux and before we diagnosed it I got to the point where I was eating chicken soup and nothing else and she still srcreamed and threwup after every meal. I switched her to formula without one ounce of guilt because my milk wasn’t working. I still do’nt have any guilt over it and I feel that if we all accept that what is right for one child isn’t necessarily right or good for all children even in the same family, the world would be better. I am glad you wrote this post I hope that people will start to see that parenting is the long haul the good and the bad the easy and the rough, and that in the end it doesn’t matter what you put on their rear or what kind of milk they had but that their parents did anything and everything for them. That is what love is.

        1. Thank you! Yeah, the guilt and the judgment are two sides of the same coin, and most of that is destructive.

          And yeah, most of parenting has absolutely nothing to do with baby milk, whether it comes from breasts or cans.

      10. I hate those people who make those judgements on parents! I’m not a perfect mom, I screw up, make mistakes, give too much and sometimes not enough. But my son? He’s wonderful, fine and he’s thriving despite my idioit parenting. Only God can judge me, so everyone else can go ahead and keep trying! I’ll just be over here ignoring!
        Great post by the way! Thanks!

        1. Ugh. But you’re a tough cookie; you’ll be all ready to tell them to shove it!

          Or I’ll tell them for you. Yes, when the time comes? I’ll be your internet-mommy-judgment-bodyguard!

          1. my family is a no birth control, home birth, homeschool, breastfeeding kind of clan… I on the other hand, well my first born had some health issues. I gave birth to all four children in the hospital. When I was giving birth to my third born, my doctor said he would not deliver my baby if I did not have an epidural because I was so exhausted from caring for my oldest child. Long story short, my mother stood outside the birthing room (as I was getting the epidural) and told my bestie “I can’t believe she is putting her own comfort over the health of her child” imagine the conversations a few years later when I was induced and had an epidural for the birth of my fourth child.

            I know my mom meant well and she sincerely believed the epidural would lower my babies APGAR score however all my children are fine.

            It does take a lot of people to raise a child and other people should be allowed to have a loving contribution however it should be non-judgmental and full of love.

            We need to focus on the TRUE, REAL needs of kids instead of these trivial things. AND honestly, beetles in the formula sounds disgusting but we eat bugs in our chocolate and coffee all the time. My great grandma always said “a little dirt never hurt anyone” and she was right. I’m sure the formula has been sterilized, etc… so the beetle parts are a non issue except someone freaked out.

            1. Oh, my God! That story about your mom…sheesh! That’s so lousy. I had unmedicated births, the last one at home, and I breastfed all my babies, but wow, I certainly don’t expect that my kids and their partners will do all the same things I did!

              And yeah; when I first saw the furor over the recall, I thought there must be something potentially fatal in the formula. It turns out that the contaminant might have caused an upset stomach and other unpleasant, but not dangerous, symptoms.

              Now, I wouldn’t like it if my baby had gotten that, but it’s not like it was cyanide or something!

              Also? A couple of my kids ate one or two bugs.

          2. Pingback: Hey, Judgey McJudgerton. » s n a r k o b a b b l e

          3. Um…you ARE super smart. Awesome, awesome, post. I couldn’t agree with you more. We are all beating up each other and ourselves for NO reason — there is no perfect. Thank you for taking the time to write this. And I really do wish we could all work on those points you talked about to improve EVERYONE’s parenting situation. Wouldn’t that be wonderful?

          4. First, loved this post so much – I sent it on to a bunch of people to read!

            I know this was a tiny part of the post and probably was tongue in cheek, but when you call moms who do wake a sleeping baby stupid, it kind of goes against the message of a post to not judge other parents.

            1. Yeah, I was probably not quite clear. It’s stupid to wake a sleeping baby because someone said you ought to even though your instincts say to let the baby sleep. If that’s what you truly believe is right and your instincts say hold the baby, that’s a whole different kettle of fish.

          5. I agree with all the outside pressures being too much. We, as mothers, are so hard and judgmental on ourselves. Why would we want to hear from a third-party what we should and shouldn’t do? If you ask for advice or someone asks you for advice then give it if you feel comfortable, but don’t just volunteer it. That was the best thing my grandmother ever does. If you ask her for her opinion, you’ll get it. It may not be what you want to hear, but she only gives it if YOU ASK FOR IT! We all try to do the best we can with the tools we have. Some days are harder than others, but most days are pretty good. I’m good with that.

            1. Yup, exactly! We all need help from other parents; we need advice and support and who better to get it from than the people who know and love us? But this random preaching is so obnoxious, and it does no good at all.

          6. Had to RT this b/c it is so true.

            WE are who we are. Do we do the best we can? not always. We can always do much better.

            We are human, and we think of ourselves, and sometimes that is part of the ride.

            fantastic post. Wish people would all think like this.

            I love this blog.

            1. Thank you! Can you imagine, if we had to do our very best every minute with our children? I’d have died of exhaustion by the third week! Plus, since no one really knows what “the very best” actually is, I’d mostly have been running in circles.

              I think lots of this comes from the shift in thinking of parenting as a part of life, to thinking of parenting as a job.

          7. I wholeheartedly agree. I’ll admit, I offer people advice when they’re having their first baby. But it is always packaged in the “this is what worked for me, but you kinda have to figure it out for yourself” package.

            Every kid is different. They need different things, respond to different things, etc.

            Also? I had a lot of “intentions” when my son was born. I intended to breast feed him for at least a year. He lost interest in nursing & pumping didn’t keep up my milk supply to keep up with him. So, I supplemented with formula. It wasn’t what I wanted, but what I wanted was ruled out by the circumstances of my situation. So, I had to come up with a “Plan B.”

            I see mothers/parents doing things that *I* wouldn’t do, but they’re not parenting my kid. So I mind my business. And I have been proven wrong with my own kid before, too. I use this to check myself before I get all judgey with people.

            I don’t even engage in the mommy debates. I think everyone’s situation is different, so I can’t really get on any bandwagons. I don’t believe in any to make it worth it.

            Unless we want to start a “mind your own damn business” bandwagon. I’ll jump on that one. ;o)

            1. Oh, yeah, I don’t think sharing what worked for *me* in an open way (meaning, I’m truly just sharing, not telling you what I think is right) with a receptive person is the same as advice. It’s partly in the spirit of it, and partly in the relationship.

              Yes! A mind your own damn business bandwagon is the one I’m on!

          8. Perfect.

            But, you know my reasoning Watson.

            I could list, cite, expound, and do it in really long, impressive, polysyllabic words.

            But you know my think on all this.

            Anyone who thinks they know all the answers knows nothing at all. And the louder people shout, the more dogmatically they hold their opinions, the less we should listen to them.

            I would, maybe, like that on a bumper sticker.

          9. I literally got chills reading this post. I couldn’t agree more with you on this topic. I learned early on to listen objectively to the advice of outsiders (anyone outside my army of 2 – myself and my son) and even consider most of it, as I didn’t have the first clue about how to be a Mom. What I learned in the end, however, was that all babies are different. All parents are different. Everyone’s morals and ideas and principles? All different. I go with what feels right at the moment and adapt as necessary. I couldn’t really throw stones in this incredibly small glass house.

            *Also, I’m on board with the “never wake a sleeping child” rule. I can never understand why someone would do that!

            1. Ugh, I know. My youngest has a severe sleep disorder that was present from birth and he hardly ever, so questions like that just boggle my mind.

              I would like to tell every baby’s mother, “It’s OK, when you have a chance, to sit down with a cup of tea and a magazine.” Because some people really seem to believe that that is a selfish thing to do!

          10. I love this post. Amazing. I am constantly blocking out what other mothers say to me. Why do people, especially people you would think would be understanding, other moms, be so hurtful. No one asked for your opinion so keep it to yourself. Don’t be hurtful, be helpful and if it is hurtful then it isn’t going to help anyone. I am so glad you asked her to take that down, so mean and hurtful to everyone. Great job, you are amazing!

              1. “And for God’s sake, unless your baby is in danger or your breasts are near to exploding, never wake a sleeping baby!”

                Unless you’re late for daycare drop-off. Then she needs to wake her ass up!

                Great post. 100% agree.

              2. This post should be required reading for all parents and parents-to-be!

                Formula feeders don’t always have a choice. My son nursed for 3.5 years (though he did start on solids at 6 months and cow’s milk at 12 months). But I have a friend who adopted her baby son, and two friends who, with two children each now, have run out of breastmilk at the 2 or 3 month mark despite their best efforts. All of our kids are healthy, happy, and above all, very much loved. (In fact, so far, mine is the only one with “issues”–PDD-NOS–so taking that limited sample you could even argue that breastmilk is bad! Which would of course be complete bullshit.)

                I have caught myself on the verge of challenging friends who introduced solid foods to their babies at 4 months, because I’d heard babies aren’t physically ready that young, but then every child develops differently, right? If some walk at 10 months and mine walked at 13, maybe some babies are ready to eat table food at 4 months even though my son wasn’t. So I try not to offer advice unless asked…

                By the way, thank you for your blog. I’ve only just started commenting but I’ve been reading it for about three months now and think you are incredible.

                1. Thank you so much!

                  Yeah, it’s hard to be quiet sometimes. I think non-judgment is a goal that no one will every fully reach, but if we keep it in place as our goal, we’ll progress in that direction.

              3. Everybody needs support, and more so with the first kid, especially when they are brand new. I was supremely lucky that my mother-in-law was AWESOME… I wish everybody could have somebody like that.

                This a a very good post, and I hope you feel good about posting it.

                1. Thank you! I do feel good about it; I don’t usually put my toe in the water on these sorts of things but this one seemed right to me. I guess every blogger has to write at least one, “Can’t we all just get along?” post.

                  I hope I can be like your mother-in-law for my children someday. Whatever they choose, I hope I can be helpful, whatever that means for them.

                  1. I haven’t written one as of yet, but then, my blog is pretty non-controversial, and gets very few comments. It’s all good though, I just have fun with it.

                    I suspect that in your way, and from what I’ve read, that you will be a really awesome mother-in-law. Of course, I think you’re a pretty great Mom too, which helps.

                    I was unable to keep breastfeeding my kids, so I’m a very strong believer in letting parents make their own decisions on things like that. Advice is all well and good, but being judgmental and nasty doesn’t help ANYbody.

                    1. I really do believe that most people feel that way. Most of us have our opinions, but we know that we don’t all have to be the same to be decent people.

                      We just have to stop letting extremists and meanies control the conversations!

                    2. God, I didn’t even know about this until I read your site but this makes me glad I don’t read a lot of parenting sites…lol..

                      Sheesh, like a few beetle parts are going to hurt anyone. Makes you wonder how people survived and carried on the species for many a year before everything on earth was sterilized ad nauseum

                      1. Oh, I know! Did you read my tags? My kids ate bugs sometimes!

                        When I first heard about it, I though it must be some devastating thing. Turns out, the contaminated formula could cause an upset stomach. Not pleasant, but hardly cause for panic.

                    3. This was a wonderful post.

                      After much struggling and crying by both me and James, we decided to not breastfeed. I decided that it was more important for me to enjoy holding and feeding my child in a loving and peaceful manner rather than dreading and resenting feeding time, and struggling through it with clenched teeth exuding pain. I was harrassed by perfect strangers after this decision, which made an already tortured decision even more difficult. I’m not sure where it came from, but there’s a great (and very true) quote:

                      “Unsolicited advice is almost always self-serving”

                      I think about that a lot, and what motivates people to criticize the clearly non-abusive choices of other parents. I think the criticism from many people comes from a place of their own insecurity in their own choices. Or at least that’s what my husband thinks.

                      1. I love that quote. Really love it.

                        I think your husband is right; people need to validate their own choices and for some people, the way they do that is with criticism.

                        I’m glad you chose the peaceful, enjoyable way of feeding. Kids need US more than anything in the world – our presence, love, and stability.

                    4. Nice. I saw that tweet and was gonna make a snarky comment and thought better of it. I was lucky and got to breastfeed my daughter until she was 22 months old. But I know so many more women who STRUGGLE that I can’t say anything. I was LUCKY. Very Very Lucky.

                    5. Love this! I get judged everyday (not by ppl on twitter but friends and family) exclusive breastfeeding is strange to them, babywearing is strange to them, cloth diapering is sickening to them. Their judgements don’t make me change my mind on what is right for ME and MY baby but rather it makes me just stay quiet. And just staying quiet is a shame. We need to be supporting one another not tearing down. So Thanks for writing this lovely post!

                    6. “fussing around the fringes” I love it.

                      I wholeheartedly agree with you and hate the X vs. Y debate. I breastfeed because, yeah, I believe it’s healthier but, honestly? Because it saves us money and money is tight.

                      I had a hospital birth with an epidural and an induction with my first and am considering a natural home birth for the second. Am I pro-either? Nope, just doing what’s right for me in my heart.

                      I love that you posted this and I’ve forwarded this out for my friends to read. I hope it touches others and spreads because every parent needs to read it.

                      1. Thank you! This debate; it circles and spirals and loops back on itself. It gets louder now and again (yesterday and today, for example) but it never, ever goes away. Ditto the natural birth/medically managed birth debate.

                        It makes me so sad.

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                    8. I’m not sure people in the collective sense will ever learn that different does not equal unacceptable. Sad.

                      You are totally incredible and I want to thank you from the bottom of my heart for being who you are. I’m so glad to have met you. You have NO idea.

                      Also? When will they understand that self-righteousness is so not cute?

                      I’m pretty sure eating some bugs never hurt anybody. If the Similac had had something in it like cyanide I might be able to understand the shit storm, but as it is? Get a grip, throw the formula away and get a new can. As for the breastfeeding trash-talking moms? Yep, your breast milk is sterile and perfect for your child, but how is your slanderous and judgmental attitude going to affect your children? Hmmm?

                      1. Oh, Roxane, it’s totally mutual!

                        Yeah; that’s the part that I think many people miss. If we’re being self-righteous and nasty, our children are observing that. So even if you don’t think that formula-feeding parents deserve kindness (which I cannot understand AT ALL; we ALL do something that someone finds distasteful/dangerous/gross/weird/wrong), at least think of the example you’re setting!

                    9. ok. this has a million comments. So I am just going to say thank you.

                      I am one of those moms that gets the shit storm for her choices since I didn’t breastfeed. Somehow? not even trying? makes me evil.

                      this is everything i always wanted to say, but was too mad to do well.

                      you did it well.

                      thank you.

                    10. I’m one of the mothers who got (and sometimes still does even though my oldest will be 21 next month) because I didn’t breastfeed either of my boys. Well, I hate to break it to the masses, but it’s kinda difficult to accomplish when you have no milk in the first place. 🙁

                    11. I hate to tell people this – but the number of bugs your kid is going is going to be in the double digits. Do you know how many bug parts are in normal, every day food? A lot. Dirt, too. Bugs are just extra protein. Yummy!

                      And yeah – people need a good dose of empathy laced with some STFU. I can’t squeeze out critters due to lupus. My sister never breastfed because her milk glands never fused together as an adolescent. I’m not advertising either in any playgroup me and my sister and our litter of kids go to. I had one lady cuss me out at a playground for not pushing Chickpea on a swing! She sure felt bad when I stood up and the cast on my leg became apparent.

                      Parenting theory is just that – a theory. We give ourselves too much credit, thinking that we can protect them from all harm while giving them life experiences that will turn them into awesome adults. No matter what method we use we all hope for the same thing – kids who grow up, stay alive and stay out of jail.

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                    13. I completely agree with you on the gist of this. I have four completely “natural” childbirths. I breastfed all my babies — and I help other women breastfeed. I don’t buy into the need to put other women down, the tendency to enjoy formula contamination a little too much — or the belief that “perfect parenting” is possible.

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