Hot Button

Last week, yet another media outlet tried to re-ignite the M-word Wars. (And grossed out a lot of people in the process.)

Here’s a unique idea, American media: instead of attempting to set women at each other’s throats, how about you get down and dirty with some real issues that challenge families? We parents, for the most part, are more concerned with the economy, jobs, family leave policies, and other options to help us raise our children and pay our bills. How about some provocative stories on that, huh?

I have the urge to go on the record here about what I did with my own children. And, ya know, it’s my space, so I’m going with it. As to why we did it that way: because it was right for our family at the time.

Breast Feeding
I breast fed both girls exclusively the first four or five months, and I pumped. I also supplemented with formula from about five months on. Both girls weaned themselves at 10 months.

Now when I talk about them weaning at 10 months, I am being told (by certain people) that the girls weren’t weaning themselves, they were going on a “nursing strike”. I first heard this term last year. My pediatricians never used this term; my midwives never used this term. So when the girls seemed to find my nipples more amusing (seriously, Kate used to play with them) than appetizing, I buttoned up, gave them formula a couple times a day for a couple of months, and then transitioned them onto soy drink or cow’s milk once they were a year old.

Michael is a different story. I breast fed and pumped for a little over two months. He had a terrible latch — not painful, but lazy. I used to have to squeeze my breast while he was feeding. So after struggling with his latch and pumping several times a day, I made the switch to formula.

Co-sleeping
We slept with Flora in our bed for two months. We slept with Kate in our bed for four months. We slept with Michael in our bed for about five months.

Flora got the shortest time because Flora was a noisy baby. Honestly: she squeaked and chirped and mewed, and kept me up all hours. (I am a notoriously light sleeper.) Our nickname for her was uccellina, Italian for “little bird.” With her in the crib, I actually got consecutive hours of sleep in between bf’ing sessions.

Kate and Michael were both quiet infants, so they got to hang out with us longer. Plus, as M went on formula early, he actually slept the most consecutive hours as an infant. But, ultimately, Dan and I went for marriage bed over family bed.

Although, make no mistake, we “co-slept” again when the girls were about 3 years old. They each went through a phase where they had bad dreams, and came into our room. It was far easier to let them come into bed than get up and escort them back to theirs. At this point, they are both sleeping in their own beds *knock on wood*. I expect that Michael will go through a similar phase when he is 3. Maybe we’ll have a king-size bed by then!

Cry-It-Out (CIO)
CIO, also known as sleep training, is nothing that Dan and I needed to do with our kids. Between 8 and 10 months, I started putting our babies down at night when they were drowsy, but still awake. Flora “protested” the most, with a few minutes of crying. But it wasn’t screaming, sobbing, heart-break crying. It was more of an inquisitive “wah? wah?” And then she fell asleep. Neither Kate nor Michael cried much, if at all.

Same thing when (if) my babies woke up at night. If they escalated their cries, I went into them to see what, if anything, I could do (nursing, medicine, a bottle). Through teething and ear infections, I learned what real distress sounded like as opposed to, “Hey, I’m kind of awake, and I’m not really happy about it, and I’m going to fuss a bit, but if no one comes to get me, I’m going back to sleep”.

I never dealt with screaming, red-faced infants who clung to my hair as I was putting them to sleep on their own. We were really blessed to not *have had* to sleep train, IMO.

Work
I have been a work-at-home mom; I freelanced when Flora was a baby. I have been a stay-at-home mom (for about a year after Kate was born). And I have been a full-time work-outside-the-home mom.

It was easier to be a WOHM when Flora was my only baby, and right before I was pregnant with and had Kate. With three children, it’s really hard. Evenings are killing me slowly. If Dan’s work situation were different, and we were both home in the evenings, I think it would be better. But it’s not, and we’re not.

I don’t like it, but we haven’t figured out a way around it yet. If I were making my own life up, I would work part-time out of the home. Dan and I are working hard to help me do that.

Vaccinations
Dan and I did put our children on a less aggressive schedule of vaccinations when they were infants. Yes, it meant more doctors visits, but it gave my husband peace of mind. At the time Flora was born (and Kate, too) he saw so many autistic and developmentally delayed kids, and at the time, vaccinations were still suspect. We know differently now, and he’s had some looong conversations with our kids’ pediatricians that helped. Ultimately, unless your child has a rare, RARE condition that makes him or her ineligible to receive vaccinations, you should vaccinate. If it helps YOU to put the child on a less aggressive schedule, your pediatrician should work with you. But not vaccinating at all just isn’t right. (Okay, totally judging here. Not sorry. This is a parenting decision that impacts people outside of the family.)

Spanking
I don’t spank; I use timeouts and bribes (let’s face it, “taking away privileges” is just another way of saying “bribing”). Dan spanks — not often, because in general our kids are good, but he does. It’s about the only place we are not on the same page as far as discipline and parenting.

++

I think what makes telling others about our parenting choices so difficult is our own insecurity. I fought the urge to justify to you, dear reader, *why* I switched to formula with Michael instead of struggling on. Not because I don’t respect other people’s opinion, but because I won’t tolerate judgement.

I am doing what I need to do for our family. Dan and I are facing the fact that something needs to change about my work situation, but we don’t have a comfortable enough financial situation that I could just up and leave my full-time job. Plus, I *like* working outside the home. The months I was a SAHM with Flora and Kate were not good for me, mentally or emotionally. And if mama ain’t happy, ain’t no one happy.

Short of outright abuse or aggressive neglect, and smoking around one’s children (I will tell you I cannot stand seeing that, e.g. a parent with a baby in a stroller and a lit cigarette), I really think parents are doing their best. Let’s just cut each other some slack, and maybe focus on a different picture, one that will work to benefit everyone (and not just parents!).

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13 thoughts on “Hot Button

  1. Sometimes I am so grateful to have twins- many of these hot topics were out of my control. Birth plan? Haha, NO. Breast feeding? I gave it my best, but no. There is not enough time in the day to pump (K never latched) and bottle feed and sleep and pee. Co sleeping? Not enough room in the bed. Baby wearing? Haha, no. Vaccinating? My preemies? Hell yes. I am a little rigid about what they eat now (to a fault really, but it’s important to me), all the other stuff (working, discipline, etc) I am doing my best. I think my kids are turning out okay. I think yours are just fine too, as are most kids I know, regardless of what choices their parents made on what formula they bought or what bed they slept in. All this judging is just so ridiculous, I actually warn new parents about it before they get blindsided.

    • Oh, warning parents-to-be. That’s a good idea. Either that, or striving to continue to change the dialog away from judging or “absolutist” parenting. Maybe telling them that a lot of people will have a lot of opinions, and they have to just let it roll off them. They’ll know what’s best for their babies, their families.

      Plus, there’s a difference in being encouraging and shoving your opinions down someone’s throat. If asked, i totally encourage a new mom to breastfeed. I also try to tell her the reality of it — it can take a while, it can be painful until good latch is established, etc. But it’s not like I’m harrassing her weeks later to make sure she did what I said!

      I was hit or miss with babywearing — I think my ideal would have been to do it more, but my reality was very much “whatever”. And, yeah, I’m probably pretty strict about what they eat, but I’m not super stringent. I’m a lazy vegetarian in some ways, although they get a lot of fresh food too. I think it’s working out for them!

  2. Hear, hear! I’m with you all around. You make the decisions you make for the reasons you make them at the time that you make them. And that’s all there is to it. As parents, those decisions are typically tempered with a strong bit of “what is best for our children in this situation?” but all of those decisions are made, and you make things work the best you can in the end. I never understand why people judge others so much. I know we all do it, but I try my best to keep an open mind, as you never know all the facts of a situation that someone else is in. Let’s all just try to support each other more, instead, ok? Life is hard enough as it is without the extra junk.

    Keep on keeping on, and all the best of luck to you and Dan working through your current stresses. I wish the world didn’t run on money (or any other substitutive currency) and that we could all just do the things we felt were best for our families without needing to worry about making money situations work.

    • Oh, dear lord, I didn’t even think of this. I mean it’s not even on my radar. You get pregnant, you stop doing stupid stuff that’s bad for you (primarily smoking and drinking alcohol). Not that drinking is bad for the mother, but it can be really bad for the baby, especially through the first two semesters. A lot of people are leary of caffeine, too, but I never did completely give it up — I just cut way back.

      • Clearly you don’t spend as much time at bus stops in the city people watching as I do. I see it at least every few months. Very young pregnant girl, sucking away on a cigarette. I’ve talked to my SIL the obgyn PA about this, and a lot of the stuff that pregnant women aren’t supposed to consume now is ridiculous. The risk of those things is so small, for things like caffeine or lunch meat. If you’re really serious about avoiding risks like that, then you shouldn’t be driving or walking down the street either. She doesn’t want her patients consuming more than 32 ounces of coffee in a day, which is a CRAZY AMOUNT OF COFFEE if you ask me. She’s more concerned about dehydration than anything. Even sips of wine or beer aren’t a danger.

        But some things clearly are dangerous while pregnant. Smoking. Substantial drinking. Drug use, dear God. And yet, it still happens. Sigh.

      • Seriously, if we took away all risks from pg women they wouldn’t leave the house. It’s totally insane.

        I had some wine and beer in my third trimesters. Maybe a 1/2 glass every weekend. Not in public, of course. I didn’t need that crap. 🙂

  3. I notice that in all of these comments and stories in various mediums, no one addresses the helicopter parents. You know, the ones who do the project for the kids, harass the teachers to give better grades when they are not deserved, or practically live their kids lives for them. They are not doing their kids any favors either. We are to be creating kids who can live independently of us, solve most problems without our help, to live without mom and dad hovering over every little decision.

    One thing about breast feeding that no one is saying. It makes you incredibly hungry and how that woman on the cover of time stays that thin and buff makes me suspicious. You have to spend serious time exercising to get that way and if you are, is breast feeding the way you connect to the kid? Was that judgmental of me? Yes, yes it was.

    I am sick of these parents who say there is only one way to raise kids. Really? I have four who have four different temperments and need four different types of encouragement.

    • Re: helicopter parents. That’s an interesting point. I suspect that the judging that goes toward “extreme attachment parenting” practices implies this. That if you are such an AP, you will be a helicopter parent, and that’s not good for the children. I don’t know that I’ve seen that stated explicitly anywhere, though.

      As to bf’ing and losing weight, it was my experience that BF’ing burned so many calories, that combined with my high metabolism, I lost too much weight after Flora was born. Plus, that mother is only 26 — her metabolism is probably very different as well.

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