Tuesday, January 8, 2008

Guilt free living, circa 1997

I love Peggy O'Mara and this is a nice one she wrote.

I have been absolutely inundated/drowning in self consciousness, fears, doubts, insecurities, lately about so many things...alot of pregnancy hormones and stuff going on in my personal life.... so reading this tonight helped push me back towards something that has been helping lately when I get off track: I have been harkening back to the times, in my own past, that I lived the closest to my own heart, free or nearly free from "shoulds", "checklists", or what anyone else thought, and one prime example of that kind of existence was when my Greta was a baby, ten years ago.

I nursed her because that seemed nice and good, but I had never read a single thing about it being BEST or wonderful or difficult or anything. I had a few fuzzy memories of my baby sister being breastfed but that's about it. No stance, no fierce "position". I was intelligent enough to know that obviously, powedered cows milk in a tin would be costly, and inferior and stank to high heaven, but thats literally as far as my personal opinion on the whole affair went.

I kept her in the bed with me because my crotch was sliced open and sewed up painfully and it really hurt to move and so I didnt want to do all this up and down BS when me and the baby seemed so happy to just lie there and chill out all day. Never heard of Family Bed, Smothering the Baby, or little side-cars or blue plastic thingies to put the baby in. My arms seemed fine.

I didnt "wear" her too much because I didnt know too much about it. Someone gave me a weird front-carrier thing that was uncomfortable and she hated it and so I just carried her whenever I could, and sometimes she would sleep in her little carseat bucket and that was nice, too. No wraps no slings, but also no ignoring, no cruelty, none of any of that. Hadn't even heard of it. Just used my arms and hip.

There was a vague worry about her not having a crib late in my pregnancy, but as soon as we got her home we didn't give it a second thought until months later when nursing being well established, and me being back on my feet, and her being able to roll and buck and wiggle, did we start to want to "have friends over again" in the evenings and be able to lay her down for a little while. So, my family got us a nice used crib and helped us set it up, and for the most part, it made a great laundry basket for a while :) until after age one when "co-sleeping" turned into "Baby crawls on our faces, smacks us in the eyes, and says MAMAMAMA DADADADA and crawls off the bed and starts playing with the electrical sockets at 2 am"...then, without Ferber or anyone else, we got her to sleep in the crib after about a week of mild to moderate protest and fussing.

I gave her a nap everyday after that, in her crib, and let her have all sorts of toys and books in her crib with her. She threw them all on the floor, jumped up and down, took off her clothes, sometimes even took off the sheet and threw that out, too. We thought she was hilarious, and took lots of pictures! Sometimes she slept and sometimes she didn't. Even if she jumped and hollered the whole time, when the naptime was over, about 90 minutes, I would go in and get her and feign great surprise at all the stuff on the ground, and she would crack up. "Naked baby?!?! Books on the floor!??! Wheres your blankie you little rascal?!?!" There wasn't anything about being mad, really, at all back then now that I think about it.

We watched Sesame Street and Teletubbies and Blues Clues and Price Is Right and Jeopardy and never worried about it in the least! We never for one second worried about "too much TV", or really anything like that. This was our family, our marriage, our home, and the baby was here now, and we watched shows, like always, and it was all good. We thought it was really cute when she danced and clapped to the theme songs, we had some ideas about hating Barney and not wanting her to wear clothes with characters on it because that was ugly and tacky to us, but seriously, that's all the thought that went into it.

I made her baby food sometimes, when that seemed fun, and sometimes we bought her little jars of Gerber, when that seemed fun. I mean, come on, when you are a baby-o-phile like I am, how many years did I wait to finally get to shop in that aisle? The one with the tiny adorable precious jars of peaches and peas in it, are you fricking kidding me? The little soaps, the little creams and the little powders? It was a blast getting that stuff, and it was a blast feeding her bites of KFC mashed potatos, giving her lemons and ice cream to make her make crazy faces, letting her have pudding and bananas, popsicles---I didn't read the lables, she was breastfeeding 'round the clock, and we were just having a great ole time! We didn't give her pop or beer or jalapenos, because that just seemed wrong but besides that, she always got little nibbles of our stuff, it was so much fun to see her reactions.

We brought her everywhere, and it wasn't some big pout-fest about "we couldn't get a damn babysitter". We wanted to bring her everywhere, she was a great and fun baby, and she was nursing. In fact, back then, we did have a babysitter, and a very zealous one at that-- Steve's mom--but I didn't know the first thing about pumping milk, seemed scary and ridiculous to me, so their babysitting obsessions didn't get to be fulfilled until she was a little older. We never owned a baby bottle, but not as some militant statement, just didn't need them, didn't know too much about when to introduce "drinks", I think she was about 11 months old when a friend of ours asked me if she could drink from a cup and I said "I dont know" and she gave her one of those fabulous Gerber sippy cups that we still use today, and Greta didn't get it at all, but eventually she did after a few minutes, and had a bit of water or kool aid or something. See how much I didn't worry? KOOL AID, call the organic police! Lol

I didn't "switch" her to cow milk at age one or anything like that, we thought cow milk was pretty gross and knew it was generally bad for humans in the name of mucus and constipation and so we just never did that. We used Soy Milk on our cereal and so we gave her a cup of it and she hated it. She got really into Orange Juice when she was a little older, and so we got her the calcium kind. If she got any diaper rashes we cut back on acidic foods.

The good times rolled on, and yet things change. I could never begin to list everything that has changed, happened to me since my first baby was my only baby 10 years ago...but one major factor, one major negative factor was The Internet. Yeah, I said it. Reaching out for information, reaching out for others, trying to "network", started the beginning of the end of alot of things for me. So many other Pandora's boxes awaited my mothering journey, new neighbors who seemed so perfect and turned (quickly!) into living nightmares, email lists and local groups who showed me a competitive, aggressive, defensive, vindictive side of "Attachment Parenting" that I could not have fathomed existed, and then the Homeschool stuff, good lord I cant and won't even begin to re-walk that sore path for you tonight...so far from the original intent I wandered there for a while...I shudder to think of the seminars and products I got lured into...

But where am I now? Well, I am on my way back to goodness. Happiness. The Right Path for Us. There is alot of unlearning to do, and alot of perspective going on. This nice little article by Ms. O'Mara helps. So does every single word of The Mother Trip by my guardian angel and certified imaginary best friend, Ariel Gore. It helps and it helps and it helps. Pulling ourselves out of the activities that don't work for us, pulling myself out of the books and the bulletin boards and the chat rooms, pulling myself out of the parenting books and the self help books and realizing, remembering, accepting, that really, no one of any importance or relevance is truly looking at me except my children (and, if you are so inclined, God). Anything else is my choice. Sharing pieces and bits of my time and myself through phone calls, blogging, emailing, visiting, going out, inviting in, that is my choice, and I do not have to do it if I don't want to or if I don't feel good about it. I feel sure that being able to make this distinction has to be one of the growing up things that I am learning now, at age 32.

I don't want to have to wait and end up one of those old ladies who write on the homeschool boards about how they wish they had made more mudpies and been more patient and made more cookies and left the dust bunnies. I don't want to wait until I am a grandmother to whisper things like "I wish I held the baby more and worried less about money" to 20 somethings. And thankfully, oh so thankfully, I do not have to be one of the women I have met time and time again, who looks off longingly and says "If we would have started sooner, I would have definitely had more babies...."

Here's to all of us getting back what is real. Whatever that means to you and your tribe. Please have a tribe, and please have it be one that you want to be in. Now. It will never be as hard or all consuming as it is to live your life for the real and imaginary others and their check-lists of why you suck. Go live your life, as you imagine it to be, and it will be. I want to give all of you who know what I am talkin' about a Get Out Of Guilt and Self Conciousness Free Card, but I cannot. It has to come from you.


Rixa said...

Yay for you and your wonderful post! I loved reading this. Parenting shouldn't be about charts and schedules and "should-be-doing-X" and strict ideologies. I had read about differently parenting styles such as AP before I had my daughter, but I frankly think I would have done many of the same things regardless because for me they were just so commonsense and easy and fun. I love nursing! I love snuggling in bed with Zari! I am also okay putting her in the crib at times if she will put up with it...right now it's mostly naptime and when she first goes down to bed. She doesn't like being separated at night, but I too am getting a bit tired of the occasional nighttime gymnastics. Usually it's okay, though.

Well, thanks again for your post!

mama k said...

Awesome post.
I admit that I'm a little obsessed with trying to do everything the BEST way that I stress myself out more than need be. I still don't think ignorance is bliss...as my hubby likes to joke.
But agree about the guilt-free thing wholeheartedly!

Jill said...

THis is such a terrific post. Sometimes I feel like I don't have a tribe, since I do a few things on the "crunchy" checklist but also a few on the "mainstream" list. Ugh, who invented those stupid lists anyway??? My son and I are both happy and healthy, so obviously I'm doing something right. And so are you. We've got enough to be guilty about as mothers as it is, we don't need to feel bad because we can't conform 100% to some particular ideal.

Judit said...

Dearest Joy, you just wrote a super funny, articulate and profound post about some of the sentiments I have about where I am today as a mom (which I clumsily logged in an entry on my blog today). I am just doing what makes sense and what feels right and I can't even describe what school of thought that would put me in, not that I care to any more!

and, LOL @ the crib-as-laundry basket!!! I used to do the same :)

Andrea said...

Wow, another great post that puts into words exactly what I've been thinking lately. I've really been resenting lately the fact that mothering in this era seems to require a special license or something, you know? All this studying, all this stuff to know, all this competition and judgement toward people who take a different path. I've been trying to take it back for myself, stay out of the baby books, stay out of the forums that get so critical and uppity. I'm also trying not to care when I find out I'm doing something "wrong". Because the things I'm doing, they're working for us. And I change them when they stop working. We're doing our best.

It's funny, too, I've only recently chilled out, gotten confident and stopped feeling so defensive of my choices. At first I felt like I had to defend just wanting to do things that made sense to us, like holding the baby (against my MIL's protest that "babies need to learn to be independent) and not buying all the "essential" baby gear (playpens, baby gyms, etc) until it turned out we decided we actually had a use for it. I was all militant and defensive just trying to keep us happy and carefree, like you said in your post. But maybe I had to be that way, because now we're pretty much happy and carefree! As carefree as you can be with a screaming toddler.

Anyway, thanks again for the great thoughts.

Kelley said...

You brought back a lot of memories for me. I didn't start to realize that I wasn't doing the same things as "everybody else" until my oldest was a year and a half or so, and by that time our lives were destined to be so different there wasn't much point worrying about it. I must admit that I started to become concerned about Josh at that age, though, because I was beginning to see that something wasn't quite right. That's when the saga began with the autism and recurrent kidney infections and yuck like that. I'm just glad that I followed my instincts and took my family along with me.

Thanks for the delightful, wonderful post.

mama k said...

PS Linked back to you today!

Jen.b.in.az said...

You are so right, Joy. I too recall the blissful ignorance of our first, for whom I had no idea that there was a "choice" in how to feed; that co-sleeping wasn't encouraged; that people left their infants with sitters to "go out." I was honestly surprised whenever somebody asked "if" I was going to breastfeed - I didn't *know* that people didn't. *sigh*
I think I'm going to make a point to remember pure parenting as we once did...and stop getting tied up in groups and "shoulds." I fall prey to those far too easily. Thanks for writing this.

Angi said...

Wow-that was so cool and fun to read. So well worded and so refreshing. You put my inner mantra into words! Very cool...

Cappuccinosmom said...

Beautifully put! We don't follow any one particular line of thinking. I tried that and we were miserable. As I've matured as a mother, I've learned to take what works for us, and what is best for *our* babies, and leave the rest, including guilt trips, to the side. :D

Of course, that means that people on both "sides" (mainstream and AP) have choice words to say about our parenting, but what can you do?