Sunday, September 23, 2012

The Almighty "THEY"

A few weeks ago I talked about my online mom group.  I gushed about how awesome they are and how having that group is really amazing for helping me through mommyhood.  That is all true.

Most of the time, we just talk about our lives.  Sometimes we ask questions and try to get advice, but more often that not we'll just write a little anecdote about our day, or vent about a meltdown (usually the toddler, not ours) or ask for good wishes on an interview, or something like that.  Occasionally someone will post something to get a good discussion going, and recently we had one of those topics.

The question was, "is there anything that you didn't or did do that "they" say you shouldn't?"

Responses came flooding in, and I found a lot of things really interesting.  Either what people felt was a "shouldn't" contradicted what someone else thought was a "shouldn't" or people felt incredibly guilty.  I've grouped them into two sections because I think there are some really interesting themes that emerged and deserved their own discussions.

(Names are omitted to protect the innocent...or guilty...or the realistic.  And yes, some of these are me.  No, generally speaking, I'm not telling you which.  I also polled some of my other mommy friends who aren't on this particular board.  So there are about 40 respondents included in this list from various places in my life - plenty of anonymity.  And by the way, I'm going to write these all as "I" because it flows better and that's how people responded.  Anonymity always present.  I'm there for you ladies....I'll take the judgment!).


  • I switched to a forward facing carseat before two.
  • I rear face after two.
  • I stopped breast feeding before six months.
  • I breast feed my 2 year old.
  • My baby was a tummy sleeper.
  • I didn't do the recommended amount of tummy time.
  • I started baby food before 6 months.
  • I started baby food after 6 months.
  • I never cloth diapered.
  • I cloth diaper.
  • I did sleep training.
  • I co-sleep/co-slept/lie with my baby until they fall asleep.
  • I used the bumpers on the crib.
  • I never used the bumpers, even after his/her feet got stuck in the rails every night.
  • I used blankets early.
  • My two year old is still in a sleep sack because I am afraid of blankets.
  • I moved to a toddler bed before two.
  • My two year old is still in a crib.
  • I attachment parent.
  • I let my baby sit in the bouncer/exersaucer/walker/jumper/playmat while I get things done.
  • I give too much juice.
  • I never give juice.
  • I bathe every day even though I know you're not "supposed to".
  • I only bathe twice a week.
  • I've swatted my kids.
  • I've been accused of being too "lovey dovey" in my discipline.
  • I don't vaccinate.
  • I pick and choose which vaccinations.
  • I alternate schedule vaccinate.
  • I just let them do the vaccines.
  • I've never left my child with anyone not related.
  • I had my child in daycare at 6 weeks/have a regular babysitter/have my child in daycare/preschool even though I'm not currently working.
I opened with these because I thought this group was fascinating.  Anyone else notice why?

EVERYTHING up there is a contradiction!  These are people's confessionals, which means that in order to be the ideal parent you need to switch from rear facing at exactly two, exclusively breast feed 6 months to a year, do tummy time but never let the baby sleep that way, start solids at exactly 6 months with just the right amount of correct liquid, have a perfect sleeper without sleep training or "assist" sleeping, and do the right level of attachment parenting/bathing/discipline.  Easy peasy, right?


  • My baby still uses a pacifier.
  • We watched TV before two.
  • We play iPad/iPhone/video games.
  • I don't read as much as you're supposed to.
  • We eat fast food.
  • I give them what they want so they'll eat SOMETHING instead of insisting they eat what I serve.
  • I bribe my toddler.
  • When they fall asleep in the car I let them stay there sleeping (people justified this one like crazy because everyone has different living/parking situations.  What one person thought was totally fine was a huge issue to someone else).
This is the group I like to think of as the "sanity" group.  Yes, ideally our kids would have happily given up the pacifier before 1, never seen TV until they turned two and then just a max of 30 minutes of screen time.  All food would be healthy food.  And the kids would consistently behave correctly from the intrinsic motivation of wanting to do the right things.  But our kids don't.  So we do what we have to do, whether it's TV, or fast food, or a lollipop for behaving in line at the DMV.

Now don't get me wrong, I'm not making the call of what anyone thinks is OK and what isn't.  Everyone has their hard lines.  If you personally don't watch TV or eat fast food, chances are it'll never come up with your kid.  If you don't have a device to play games on, your kid won't play games.

What's interesting is that in the first group people didn't seem to feel really guilty about their choices.  They justified them, but they felt really confident in why they did what they did.  They made a parenting choice, even if it wasn't what felt like a "mainstream" choice or the current recommendation.

But that second group...justification was FLYING.  People felt SUPER guilty when the two year old knows what a drive thru is or can count with Dora in Spanish or knows more about the iPad than the parents.

That's why I call it the sanity group.  Anyone who knows me personally knows that at least two of those are mine.  Madison watches TV and watched it before two.  And she still uses her pacifier at bedtime.  I'll add a third personal confession:  she recognizes environmental print.  She knows when we pass a Dunkin Donuts and will say "Mommy needs coffee.  Ok?  And a donut?  Pleeeeeeease?"

I do these things because it just makes things easier.  I can get us organized for the day without a two year old underfoot because Mickey is on at 8:00.  Madison doesn't fight bedtime because she knows she'll get her "paci".  And her sleep deprived (although less lately) Mommy gets her caffeine and sugar fix.

Do I feel guilty about these things?  Sometimes.  But I will tell you that my kid is stinking smart.  She knows all her letters, numbers, colors, and shapes.  She can say certain words in Chinese, speaks in full paragraphs, can tell you what emotions both she and others are feeling, can identify musical instruments and terminology, and can retell a story.  Although some of that does come from me working with/playing with her, a LOT of that comes from her shows.  I might be a music teacher, but I haven't taught my kid "crescendo" or "harpsichord".  But she knows them.  Thanks, Mickey, Kai Lan, and of course, the Little Einsteins!

Depending on what mood Madison is in, she's "just like June" or "just like Quincy" or "just like Leo".  She's never Annie.  I have to be Annie.  I am ORDERED to sing while she conducts.

She might still have a pacifier at night, but she sleeps comfortably and happily in her crib.  Her dentist told me (unprovoked by the way) that we need to remember that the pacifier is being used by an ACTUAL child, not a theoretical one.  If a kid needs it for comfort and it's taken away before they are ready, they'll go to their thumb or fingers, and those are much harder habits to break.  Ideally he told me she'll gradually stop using it at night.  Hasn't impacted her speech or teeth at all (yet, knocking on wood for her teeth of course, but I think the fact that she isn't a 24/7 user helps).

Madison with "that plug" in her mouth.

 The other interesting thing that came out of this discussion seems a little more philosophical.

Who are "they"?

Is it our parents?  Or peers?  Our doctors?  The AAP?  The media?  Parenting books (and if so, which ones?)

Who are we feeling guilty about letting down or going against?

Notice, none of these things are horrible (some people who feel strongly might disagree with me on this, especially on certain things).  But I know all these women who responded, either personally or online, and I can tell you every SINGLE one of them is an awesome mom, doing the best she can day in and day out.

In the end, I respect every one of these women as a mother, no matter what choices they make, and whether or not they feel guilty.  We're all trying to survive the first years of motherhood and raise good, smart, kind human beings.

The guilt will never abate for any parent, but to me, doing what you need to do to stay happy and sane means you are doing just fine!

1 comment:

Katie said...

I also find that people judge a lot more on the "sanity" stuff than they do for things on the "contradiction" list. If breastfeeding doesn't work out or a kid starts climbing out of her crib or a parent's car (or arms) can't handle a rear facing car seat and a 35 pound kid, then that's all understandable. But if you dare to bribe a cranky toddler with a ball or other small toy to ensure a smooth Target visit, you're suddenly up for judgment from everyone on the planet and guilt ensues. It's because those are "choices" that apparently perfect parents never make, right?

I find that I was a lot more judgmental of the "sanity" stuff when I was pregnant and when Lily was a newborn. The issue of putting on an episode of Signing Time so I could get dinner cooked was more academic then, and it was so easy to think, "I'll NEVER do that with MY kid." Since then I've seen that there are a lot of ways to go about this business of raising good kids and that they're pretty resilient.

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