Before becoming a SAHM when we moved to Germany, I was a pediatric social worker (also known as a maternal child health social worker). I worked in a few different hospitals, having mostly similar roles. I was called in to assess instances of child abuse, domestic violence, traumas, bereavement, adjustment to new diagnosis, provide resources for community assistance, and assess safety and mental health. In my most recent position, I worked primarily with new families right after delivery of their newborn. I helped in all of the same areas I just mentioned plus provided support and education as needed for these new parents. Some of the things I found difficult is the amount of judgement and forced beliefs onto new parents. As a social worker, my code of ethics focuses on the right to self-determination. Meaning, I will provide you with the assistance and education you need and you ultimately make the decisions as a person and as a parent.
Now, how does this fit into Monster Momday? Well, because as a mother there is a huge question I have yet to find the answer for: Why are we so convinced that there is only one “right way” to parent? For the life of me, I can’t comprehend why there are so many who feel so strongly about certain issues that they will deem you a bad parent for utilizing any other method than the one they have chosen as the preferred one.
BREAST-FEEDING. BOTTLE-FEEDING. The cry-it-out method. Attachment parenting. Co-sleeping. Baby-wearing. Pacifiers. Crib bumpers. Safe sleep. Bumbo seats. Baby-led weaning. When to start solids. Sign language. Crawling. Walkers. Sleep sacks. Swaddling. Laundry detergent. Organic everything. Baby Food. VACCINATIONS. Grocery cart covers.
These are ALL things in which I have had someone tell me the “right way” that I must do as well as being a medical social worker, I have been taught there are “right” ways I should teach my families.
You see, the issue I am having is using the word “right” which is why I keep annoyingly putting it in quotes. I don’t believe there is enough research done on many if the issues to emphatically say they are right and should be the only.
Education. Education. Education.
This is what I feel is important. As a parent, I think we should educate ourselves on the issues and then make the choice that is best for our family. Not your family. My family.
After that, I think we should support each other no matter what someone chooses. If you are not abusing your child, then why do I care if you chose to breast or bottle feed? Yes, I said chose. That alone, can make some people go nuts because they feel that there is no choice. Breast is best. Choosing anything else is a tragedy for your child and you may as well be feeding him poison.
Parenting is hard. It is endless sacrifice and sometimes isolating. But there is no greater love in the world. It is worth every hard moment. So why are we not helping one another? Why do we feel so strongly that our choices are the right choices? How can it go from just trying to educate one another, to judging one another? Why can’t it just be, “Hey Sally, here is a great website on breast vs. bottle. You should check it out so you can make a more informed decision.” The. End.
I found it heart-breaking to go speak to a new mom who was crying because she was made to feel like a bad parent because she couldn’t breast-feed. When I say couldn’t, I don’t only mean instances where a woman could not produce, but also ones where she just couldn’t be comfortable with it. For whatever reason, it did not feel natural to her. I didn’t need to know the reason. If she felt that way, her baby would feel that way. She needed to do what would instill love in her, therefore, bonding with her new child. She did not need more guilt or negative emotions. Does anyone ever consider postpartum depression? The last thing a new mom needs is to feel guilt from others. I promise you, she already feels enough on her own for a multitude of reasons.
There are websites out there hating on moms who made the other choices. Well world, hate on me. Because these are the choices I made.
I bottle-fed formula. BY CHOICE. I co-slept (not as a routine but in dire situations). I never had crib bumpers, animals, pillows or anything in my son’s crib. I put my son to sleep on his stomach; still do. I have let it him cry it out on several occasions. I most certainly do vaccinate. I used whatever laundry soap we bought for the household. I never fed him organic anything. I did make homemade baby food but because I enjoyed it not because I thought I had to. I’ve never “worn” my baby. I used a Bumbo seat without the new strap. I did give my son a pacifier, but he never liked them. I read a million and one books about the “right” ways. I threw them all away. I discipline my child. He will play games where he wins or loses. I let him watch cartoons. He gets sugary treats sometimes.
And guess what, he’s alive, happy and healthy. I am educated on the issues. I am aware of the justifications for and against these things. I have educated many other women. But these things were my choices. As a parent, I have to live with them. I have to be able to know I did what I thought was best for my son. I can’t live by someone else’s reasons; someone else’s way of being a parent.
The fact that society is moving more and more into forcing these decisions on new parents is disgusting to me. I am all about education, so I love all of the campaigns promoting those types of things. I am saddened by the ones I see where there is force, judgement and hate.
Please love each other. Life is short. Life is hard. The world is a troubled place and we are all fighting battles within ourselves. We need more education, love and support with less ignorance and “right” or “wrong”.