Posts Tagged ‘mommy wars’

We All Need the Village

Tuesday, October 4th, 2016

We all need the villageFor much of the day, I am solely responsible for my children’s livelihood, safety, and well-being. As a caregiver to three young children mine suddenly take on a particularly vulnerable feel. We all know the scenarios of varying likelihood—robbers, kidnappers, terrorists, clowns. I am a very vulnerable target with my car seats and non-mobile, slow-moving children who, now outnumbering me, are prone, as all children are, to getting distracted, being loud, and ignoring instruction. Of course the scenarios can be far more realistic. Allow me to demonstrate.

I’m at the grocery store with three young children. I’ll assume all goes well in the store, “well” being defined differently by various people who witness my existence. I get outside with a cart full of groceries, baby fussy and ready to nap and two preschoolers frustrated that the other keeps touching his side of the cart. It is 95 degrees outside. If I put kids in the car first with no car on, what am I doing? Trying to overheat them to death? Of course if I leave them in the cart or standing by the car, oh the horrific possibilities of cars hitting them or the cart rolling away on the never-even pavement. If I put them in and start the car, what about that one news clip I saw about people jumping into a stranger’s car to steal it—with my children in tow!? Oh the danger! But it’s hot.

I decide my course of action. I strap them all in as my frozen goods melt, because strapping in three children takes time. I’m not complaining, as I did choose to have these exquisite children all in a row, but who really wants melted ice cream even if they chose the lifestyle that leads to it? I start the car and stay vigilant as I quickly load the groceries. Then I must decide—leave the cart like a jerk in the parking lot or take it three cars up to the cart area. There is literally no way for me to complete that scenario where someone could not point out how I potentially endangered my children.

My scenario is relatively minor but that’s how it adds up for many of us. Mommy shaming seems like a phrase of the moment but I assure you it is a daily potential experience for many of us. I’m tired of hearing about mommy shaming (and blaming). I want to talk about something more important: the supportive village.

I don’t need to defend why I exist or why my children exist or that we deserve to exist. I don’t need to hire a sitter or leave them at home with someone else for your (or my) convenience. I’m not saying let’s allow our children to run amuck (though the argument can go so far as to say we all deserve a little grace and we all sometimes run amuck); nor am I saying you need to bend over backward for me. I’m saying I have kids and we are all invested in their outcome. Every time we go out in public, they learn to become more civilized, though at times the side glances or under-the-breath comments from adults are less than civil.

Instead of blaming me for all the ways I potentially put my children at small risk just in order to make it through the day—to put groceries in the car, grab a quick shower, let them learn to climb the monkey bars alone—help me. At the very least just let me be. Better yet, be the village. Instead of pointing out the ways my child could be stolen, create an environment where we instead blame the person who is…you know…stealing the babies. I’d even go so far to say care for the criminal too—I doubt he or she had a village. Mothers and caregivers get blamed and shamed rather than welcomed into the fold. Protect us and look out for us, the vulnerable. Offer to take my cart those 30 steps. Drive more cautiously in the parking lot. Stop looking at the things I do that seem potentially concerning in a minuscule way and look out for the things that are actually concerning.

I know, I know. I’m asking you to take on some responsibility for my choices of having children. That’s true. We all take turns being the vulnerable—we were all once kids, we all have times when we’re sick, particularly overburdened, or for whatever reason emotionally, mentally, or physically distracted in our lives. We become more vulnerable as we age, too. We all benefit from a village, so please care about it, whether or not you have children. Look out for others rather than point them out. Fellow moms I’m talking to you (and I’m reminding myself). We sometimes opt for mommy wars rather than help, maybe because we are so thinly stretched and know too well how vulnerable we are. It’s easier to keep vulnerability at a distance. We need to take the step, even in our exhaustion, to build the village too.

More is at stake than a smooth shopping trip. It’s our investment in one another, our relationship with each other that keeps us connected as individuals and groups at large. We’re living in an individual wants-before-greater good world. I am in a season of vulnerability. Look out for me, will you?

Lynette is a mom of three children from 6 months to age four. She has cloth diapered all three since birth and enjoys all things eco-friendly and mindful living.

Does My Parenting Style Even Matter?

Friday, February 12th, 2016

Does my parenting style even matter?Much of the bluster of the so-called “mommy wars” centers around parenting styles. But recently, I read an article in The Sun about parenting around the world by Utah State anthropologist David Lancey, who contends that parenting style at the infant/toddler stage doesn’t make a real difference.

Shocking, huh? Stay with me, because it makes sense. For most of time, parents couldn’t really afford to get too attached to pregnancies, babies and even small children. Death was common. Most societies put value and stock in the older members of their societies, which makes sense. Older people have life experience and wisdom that needs to be passed down. Especially so in the sense of ancient societies, where the wisdom these individuals carried could mean the difference in your clan or tribe surviving or not.

In some societies today, this thinking carries on. In China, it’s a common belief that it’s better to lose a child than a parent, for you can always have more children but a parent cannot be replaced. Western thought recoils at this idea, and that’s because we are what the author calls a “neontocracy” where babies and children are what matter most.

Now, any mom who has had to wield a cart full of groceries with two preschoolers in tow, or who has walked into a non-family friendly restaurant with two hungry kids to scowls and frowns from other patrons would tell you that is absolutely not the case. But the amount of time we spend worrying about, arguing and reading about parenting in these early years bears out his claim.

The truth is, we put so much pressure on ourselves to make sure our babies are learning and growing and developing on par with their peers when in reality, these things happen on their own. Babies learn to speak, eat, walk, use the potty and sleep through the night largely regardless of what we as parents do.

Lancey’s argument is that in Western culture the babies and kids are fussed over so much because they become our trophies—our measurement of self-worth. To have a “good” baby is to be a “good” parent. To have a an intellectually or athletically gifted child is something to brag about, so we try to get our kids to talk earlier, walk earlier, play sports earlier and read earlier than anyone else’s kid. Who is this helping? Certainly not the children, and it’s stressing us out as parents.

So what’s the solution? Lancey says it’s simple: maybe just chill out and quit placing so much pressure on our children to be our everything in life. Give your child free time to play. Let them interact with individuals of different ages. Let them learn at their own pace. Give them jobs to do. Don’t place your self worth in their accomplishments. Most of all, let them make mistakes, and let them learn from them.

Saying your parenting style doesn’t matter doesn’t mean that you are harming your child by taking a certain approach, just don’t ever get too down on yourself or too proud of yourself, regardless of the circumstances, because you are affecting the outcome much less than you think.

Erin Burt is a freelance writer and mother of three girls who lives and writes in Oklahoma City.  

Double Cart, Single Kid

Friday, October 9th, 2015

Double Cart, Single KidVisiting my brother and sister-in-law out of town one weekend, she and I ran to the store to grab some groceries. As I saw a mom with one child pushing the decked-out, double-seated car basket, I voiced my frustration to my sister-in-law how I don’t appreciate when single kids get that cart and I’m left with the regular single-seat basket while juggling my one- and two-year-old children. Within our conversation she voiced that her one young daughter really enjoys the treat of riding in the cart and how the little special things can make a child’s day.

Later, I read a blog post written by a mom with multiple children in which she strongly held her opinion about the pet peeve of single children in double carts. A couple of days later came the response of a “singleton” mom. I had three thoughts about my talk with my sister-in-law. First, Man, I put my foot in my mouth! Second, my sister-in-law is a sweet heart. Last, I really hope I was not as self-centered in that moment as I am fairly certain I must have been.

Herein lies the trouble with so-called mommy wars: Both sides often have good points. Yes, there is general consensus among everyone that breastmilk offers additional benefits; there are a number of real, relatable reasons a family may need or choose formula. There are multiple perspectives with co-sleeping vs. crib, babywearing vs. stroller, homeschooling vs. public school, and more.

All moms have their struggles no matter the number of children or the particular issues of each individual child. In the case of the grocery cart, I think one of the underlying assumptions we don’t mention is the “might” that comes with an increased number of children. For example, moms with multiple kids may talk down to mothers of “just” one kid, forgetting how much of a challenge it was to have one kid when they were in the midst of it. It was the training that came with “just” one kid that helped prepare them for more. Likewise, I often see “choice” cited for women with more children—as in, you had them all (and by all, here in America, we mean any more than 2) by choice so now you must never, ever complain about it.

My work and family leave me intensely depleted at the end of some days (many days…). And now another mama wants me to see her personal, intricately personal point of view, consider how she lives out her similar values? Ain’t nobody got time for that! But I need to find the time, because the world does not revolve around my life experience. My values are not the gold standard. I don’t make meaning of her life through my life; her life has meaning—and worth— in and of itself. When I try to see her through my perspective, I miss out on hers. It only takes a second to bite your tongue.

My sister-in-law had a kind response to my soapbox at the time. She said, “Well, I never thought about it that way. That’s a good point.” Of course I don’t know what was happening internally, but since she listened to me I felt open enough to consider her point of view as well. She’s juggling a young one and elementary-aged kiddo. I don’t need to compare it to my situation of one- and two-year-old. Both of us are working our tails off to meet a thousand different wants and needs from a dozen different sources every single day.

I say WE should ride around in those carts and our loved ones can push US around.

Lynette Moran shares her life with her husband and two sons, ages 2 and 3 years. She has cloth diapered both since birth and enjoys all things eco-friendly and mindful living.

Tags: parenting, mommy wars, infants, toddlers, motherhood

How to Stop the Mommy Wars

Monday, July 20th, 2015

_DSC8297As a mom who has gone through many evolutions of what I think it takes to successfully raise my own kids, I can relate to parents who are on many sides of the heated issues that the media loves to call the “mommy wars.” I’ve also seen several beloved moms groups split, fracture or completely implode due to where different people stand regarding these issues—even when the only people affected by the issue is the parent and child in question.

I hate that the media knows they can title anything with mommy wars and the clicks and comments and views come rolling in. They know it gets us, and that passion translates into ad dollars, which means more posts and stories and more angry exchanges over social media and eventually more lost friendships.

The problem with the mommy wars is twofold: First, social media is a relationship lens that removes boundaries. We can see and consume everything that is happening in front of us, and it gives us the illusion that we are included. Second, everything we consume is proliferated. So anything you read, comment on, or share is given new life. Every story you click on is like a starfish that you’re cutting legs off of and throwing back in the water—it multiplies. When you combine those things, it can be toxic.

With those two things in mind, here’s how you can stop the mommy wars:

  1. Don’t share or comment on things that are ignorant, trolling, or obviously one-sided just because they make you that angry. Clicks are clicks. No one cares if they are angry clicks. The only way to make stories or posts go away is to ignore them. No attention is the only way you win. It can be tempting to share things that make us mad, but when you do that, the person who put it out there wins.

    There’s no value in your opinion on it’s own. Do you have an experience, knowledge of a fact, or information that changes the story? Do you want to encourage the author? Then comment. Otherwise don’t.

  2.  Don’t give advice unless someone asks you for it. No one is ready to benefit from any one else’s experience until they ask for that wisdom. So, tempting as it may be, save your advice. Offer help, say you are there for them, offer to help them find resources, offer a listening ear, but let them ask you for what they need.
  3. Remove yourself from unhealthy relationships. There are people out there who just want to stir up trouble and make other people miserable. There are people who love drama and want it all the time. Create and maintain healthy boundaries in your relationships and back off of relationships that are not healthy.
  4. Remember to engage with people in person. Talking to people with whom you disagree is actually very healthy for your brain. You can see other people’s tone of voice, body language and hear their inflection. If your group or someone you are friends with are starting to get into it online, or if there’s a post or exchange you can’t stop thinking about, have a coffee date or moms night out and discuss the problem in person.
  5. Get to know people. A little compassion goes a long way in this world. We can’t and shouldn’t have to go around explaining our entire lives to everyone from acquaintances to complete strangers. Every time I see a post from Humans of New York it reminds me of the vast stories and experiences wandering around out there in each and every body that, if we only knew them, would inspire compassion and understanding. We can’t ever know those stories, nor are they any of our business, so the only alternative is to assume they exist and just treat other people accordingly.

I don’t think the mommy wars will ever go away. But by showing restraint, compassion, and just plain walking by when ignorance raises its ugly head, maybe, just maybe, we can push them to Page 2.

Erin Burt is a freelance writer and mother of three girls. She lives and writes in Oklahoma City.

Why Nursing a Toddler Isn’t Selfish

Thursday, August 14th, 2014

It’s a comment I see anytime the debate on full-term nursing is brought up: That mom is just being selfish.

Full-term nursing shouldn’t be a debate—the American Academy of Pediatrics and the World Health Organization both agree that nursing until 12 months is a minimum recommendation. By 12 months of age, most babies are now toddlers.

There’s no magical age at which breast milk quits having nutritional benefits. It has the same amazing nutritional content all along. As babies grow, it is replaced by solid foods more easily. But it’s the baby that changes, not the milk.

Here are a few things you need to know about nursing toddlers:

  1. It’s uncomfortable. When you nurse an infant, you are meeting their needs and all you have to do is sit there and relax. You can even take a nap if you want! Toddlers pinch, they scratch, they turn their heads and look around. They stand up, they sit down. They’re on, they’re off. Sometimes they bite, both intentionally and not. There is nothing fun about this for mom. No one likes being treated like a bounce house.
  2. They grow up gradually. You don’t come home from the hospital with a 25-pound toddler and start nursing. You bring home a tiny baby that becomes this 25-pound toddler. You make little adjustments to your nursing relationship all along the way to make it work for you both. You still know what they look like when they are sleeping, how they act when they’re tired, and when they need you. To outsiders, your baby might seem big, but when you see those eyelids flutter as they nurse off to sleep, it takes you back to your first nights as their new mom.
  3. You can’t make them do it. Nursing requires engagement by both parties. Latching is not an easy task, which is why so many moms and newborns struggle with getting it right at first. So to say that someone is “making” their child continue to nurse is just absurd. Just like you can’t physically make your child chew and swallow a food they don’t like, you can’t make a child nurse. The power to do so or not is theirs and theirs alone.
  4. They really do need it. (Really.) You hear people say that once a baby has teeth or can eat solid food, they don’t need to nurse. The benefits of nursing go well beyond food, even though breast milk is always nutritionally beneficial. Nursing helps babies and toddlers transition, it provides them comfort, and it helps them calm down when their developing emotions are more than they can handle.
  5. It’s a sacrifice but we do it anyway. Moms who nurse toddlers are sacrificing their personal space, their sleep, their comfort, and at times their dignity. When you see a mom nursing a toddler on a bench at the mall, in the waiting room of a doctor’s office, on a plane or bus, rest assured that she is trying her best to enjoy these last fleeting moments. It’s not easy. It’s not about flaunting anything or showing off. We are just caring for our toddler, who not very long ago, used to be a tiny baby.

People might misunderstand the things they hear nursing moms say, like “I will be so sad when she’s done nursing,” or “I don’t want him to wean yet!” or simply, “She’s growing up too fast!” But just like any other stage of life, we find the good, the blissful, even, in things we once found difficult.

Nursing is so hard. You won’t find a mom anywhere who hasn’t groaned, “Already?” at a crying baby in the midst of a growth spurt. But just like any other life stage, you find a way to get through it, and even find parts you love, and when it’s over, it’s bittersweet, even when it was the hardest thing you ever did.

Erin Burt is a freelance writer and mom of three who struggled to nurse her oldest and is enjoying every last session with her youngest. She lives in Queensbury, New York.