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Friday, July 16, 2010

Parenting: You're Doing it Wrong, Part I

Friday, July 16, 2010 By

Parenting is complex matter deeply filtered through our own psyches, experiences, dreams and situations. And, as such, not a lot of people can really express their parenting ideology, or style. Authoritarian? Permissive? Democratic? Indulgent? Neglectful? Abusive? Attachment? Nurturant? Slow? Positive? Concerted? There are many more styles of parenting than those to which we've given names. There are styles of which our culture cannot even begin to conceive.
But one thing seems common among parenting ideologies. When it comes to raising our little apples, there are many camps but one message: Your way is wrong.

It starts with the foods you eat during pregnancy. When I was about 8 months pregnant, I finally gave into my fetish for feta. A woman I had never met actually snatched my salad plate out of my hands.
Nevermind that taking food from a pregnant woman is like pulling a dead gazelle out from under the claws of a starving lioness. This woman had the audacity to hiss at me: “Do you know what you’re doing to your baby?!”
“Do you?” I replied.
She drew in her breath, and stood tall: “You could kill it,” she said.
“How?” I asked.
She didn’t know the science behind it, she admitted. But she knew one thing: certain foods are bad for pregnant women – never mind that women in France don’t start suddenly pasteurizing everything they eat; forget the idea that mothers-to-be in Japan wouldn’t think to cease nomming on sushi. And their infant mortality rates are significantly lower than the U.S. rates. Nonetheless, because I had a scoop of cheese – tasty, tasty cheese – I was a bad mom.
I calmly took my plate back from her and asked her to leave. She gave me a look designed to crush me. It did not work because, although I was not yet a mom, I had already been down in the trenches of the mommy wars for several months. I had lost my appetite, but I refused to give into the Tyranny of Motherhood.

It moves on to the food you eat while breastfeeding – what, you’re not breastfeeding?! My first weekend out of the hospital after having Emerson, my mother took me out to lunch at California Dreaming. A woman I’d never met walked by our table. She saw The Divine Miss Em chilling in her car seat, sucking on a bottle.
“Is that breast milk?” she asked.
“Uhh…” I didn’t know how to respond. “Not at the moment.”
She smiled – if you can call it that – a tight, closed-mouth grimace that never reached her eyes.
“You know, breast milk is the best thing in the world for babies,” she began, as though it was all new information to me.
“Yes, I know,” I replied, calmly. My mother and I exchanged looks: “Who is this woman, and why is she butting into my business?”
“You’re allowed to breastfeed in public,” she said.
“Yes, thank you,” I replied, and then – despite the fact that it was none of this hooker’s flippin’ business – shared my personal disappointment. “But I’m not able to breastfeed.”
“Well!” she scoffed. “Have you even tried?”
“Seriously, go away.”
I think I shocked my mother, who was raised in Birmingham, Ala., in the 50s and 60s. But I just didn’t care. This woman was judging me based on a medical impossibility, which already made me feel like crying. At least let me eat my salad in peace without booby trapping me.

Read Part II tomorrow...


  1. I figured I would read some of your other posts since I read your eyeglasses post on payperpost. I totally agree that strangers should stay out of another mother's business. I didn't breastfeed my babies because I have Gulf War Syndrome, and although my babies are perfectly healthy, many things are transferred through breast milk even when they're not transferred during pregnancy. I believe that it was healthier for my babies and it was no one else's business!!

    People's nerve amazes me sometimes. My oldest daughter, now 11, had neck problems when she was born and couldn't turn her neck to one side. I had a total stranger come up to me in the store and try to adjust my babies head while she was in her car seat because she said she couldn't stand to see babies necks flopping like that. I pushed her hand away and told her to leave us alone. I didn't owe her an explanation, but I felt like I was being judged, so I explained that she was seeing a chiropractor for her neck and never touch someone else's baby again or the next person might not be so kind!

  2. Andrea, I respect your decision to choose formula for your child. Studies have shown that, all things being equal, children fed formula do just as well as children fed breast milk. Of course, all things are not always equal, which is why I, personally, was so disappointed in not being able to breast feed.

    I just have to wonder: Do these Breastfeeding Champions worry so much about other people's children on different issues? Are they in schools tutoring to underprivileged children? Are they out in neighborhoods building safe playgrounds?

    I suspect not. Any time I see a person try to shove their convictions down another's throat, I suspect it's because it's a way to make them feel superior. Every once in a while, someone will acquiesce. It's the slot machine effect.