The following is a list of horrible things I’ve done as a mother (so far):
- Had an epidural
- Fed my son formula
- Nursed in public, including a time on an airplane where I’m pretty sure everyone saw most of my left boob
- Shared a bed with my son (co-sleeping)
- Gave my son ice cream for dinner without even trying to feed him anything “healthy” first because I knew he wasn’t in the mood for anything healthy, so I just gave him ice cream
- Applied the methods of Dr. Richard Ferber and let my son cry in his crib for prescribed amounts of time
- Let my son go outside without sunscreen or a hat once (and it was way sunny!)
- Let my son mindlessly watch television for hours and hours as I stared into space
- Nursed while drinking a beer
- After a day at work, left my son with a sitter so I could go out with friends or my husband, meaning I saw my son for a total of about an hour all day.
- Knowingly allowed my son to eat dog food off the floor – okay, to be honest I was pretty sure he was nibbling on it, but I went into denial mode and thought, “He’s probably just playing with it,” when in my heart I knew he was actually eating it but I was too damn tired to get up off the couch and make him stop.
Okay, so – the truth is I actually don’t think any of the above items are horrible. They are all perfectly fine, in my opinion, and yes, I have done them all. But I’m willing to bet I could find plenty of angry ladies on the Internet and in real life that would disagree with me and threaten to call CPS. The militant Dr. Sears types might weep at my use of Ferber and formula and wonder how I could ever think of not giving birth all natural in my bathtub despite the fact that I had back labor and contractions for 52 hours (but who’s counting).
The more conventional types would probably be super freaked out by the co-sleeping and the boob on the plane thing, and everyone might be a little disturbed by the dog food.
All right, the dog food thing is disturbing. I’ll cop to that.
But regardless, it doesn’t take a lot of trolling around on the Internet or listening to moms chatting at the park to realize there’s a lot of mom-on-mom violence going down these days, and it burns me up. I remember when my BFF from high school had her first kid, and I went to visit her. Being sort of rules-oriented and somewhat hyper about doing things “right,” I projected myself into her shoes a few years down the road. How, I asked her, did she know what to do?
“I always thought there was one way of having a baby,” Lisa told me, “and that when I had a baby, I would just find out what that way was and do it. But it turns out there are lots of ways.”
Oh was she not kidding.
Once I had Elliott, I was completely taken aback by the number of mom blogs and forums and online debates about the best way to parent. I was utterly shocked by the militancy of some of these ladies, and their obsession with spewing their opinions in comments and posts all over cyberspace. I’m willing to bet that in real life parties and get-togethers, they might be too shy to say what they’re thinking out loud. But they’re thinking it, no doubt about that.
And what are they thinking? Here are just a few examples: You’re gross/weird if you breastfeed past twelve months. You’re awful if you choose to work. You’re stupid if you choose to stay home. You’re endangering your child if you co-sleep. You’re the spawn of Satan if you let your little one cry it out. You’re a criminal if you give your kid Similac, which is akin to nothing less than rat poison. (You think that’s hyperbole, but Google “formula and rat poison” and check out the absolutely psychotic commentary that exists out there.)
When I first encountered this Army of Psycho Mommies, I could only think to myself, “Wow. These women suck.”
And it was always ladies, you know? Dads didn’t seem to care much about such issues. (I know my husband didn’t seem too concerned about any of our parenting choices as long as Elliott was healthy and happy most of the time. Wow, how novel of him.)
And maybe I’m wrong, but this Internet raging doesn’t just seem to be the purview of women, but of a certain kind of woman. A middle to upper middle class lady (usually white) who loves to tell other moms what to do. That’s not to say that some working class woman of color waiting tables at Denny’s doesn’t have the intelligence and sophistication to self-reflect, but she’s probably too worried about being sexually harassed by her boss or busy finding affordable health care for her family to navel-gaze about how she feeds, diapers, and comforts her kid.
I’m not saying we can’t have debates or discussions. Frankly, debating and discussing are two of my very favorite things, right up there with whiskey and pizza for dinner. But what we can’t have is whacko, super judgy women jumping down other women’s throats over nonissues. It’s not feminist, it’s not productive, and frankly, it’s not very nice.
I mean, think about it. Did these women ever consider that if we stopped beating up on one another and banded together we might, oh, I don’t know, finally achieve parity in the Congress? Just sayin’.
I’ve been a teacher for seven years and I’ve seen kids who were the victims of abuse. Real, break-your-heart, make-you-sick-to-your-stomach abuse that had me calling CPS. And I’m here to tell you that none of those cases involved giving your son formula or letting your daughter sleep in your bed or hiring a babysitter when your kid is 2 months so you can get a break or putting your child in day care or nursing your kid into toddlerhood or making organic baby food or spooning mass-produced Gerber out of a plastic dish absolutely covered in BPA. I’m here to tell you none of those things qualify when you call CPS. Not a one.
Like my friend Lisa discovered and I quickly learned, there are many, many ways to be a mom. Probably about 95% of them are okay. So why don’t we all just relax a little and do what works for us and for our families.
Although I’m willing to admit you should probably hide the dog food. That’s just gross.
P.S. One of the best sites for moms ever.