Saturday, March 12, 2016

Mom Guilt

I recently discovered (thanks to a fellow mom friend) the Podcast "One Bad Mother".  And I LOVE it.  They vent about things I can relate to (newborn with a super-serious face who cries every 2 hours and doesn't smile yet?  Been there, done that!), and every episode features both a "Genius" and a "Fail" moment, a venty rant from a mom who is on the brink of a nervous breakdown, and ends with the hosts telling us all, "you are doing a GREAT job".  Because we all need to hear that.  Lest the Mom Guilt get the better of us. (Awesome podcast about Mom Guilt behind that link.) Seriously--it could be a game, right?  If it weren't so sucky, and if there were an actual prize other other sleeplessness.

Granted, I'm still new to the ranks, and I have 20+ years of guilt to go, for new and interesting things.  But here's a few of my current faves.

1. Being a Working Mom:  This one gets me.  I love my job, I love my coworkers, I feel validated by the work that I do.  I make a really good living doing it.  But because my husband & I (currently) have no debt, we technically don't *need* my income.  We could live without it--about 30% of it goes into my retirement savings before I even see my check.  Am I being greedy by continuing to work?  I've read articles that talk about "how to afford being a SAHM", which noted that the median monthly income for women was about $3000 (FYI: median monthly income for a dude is about $3450--but we can save gender pay gaps for another post) and talks about how once you factor in taxes and daycare and work clothes (seriously?  Who is spending $50/month on work attire?), you actually almost have a net gain by staying home.  Which is great, if your monthly income is actually close to that median. But when I start plugging in MY real numbers, it's nowhere near that.

Some moms HAVE to work to make ends meet.  Is it wrong to be a mom who chooses to work even if she doesn't HAVE to for financial reasons? Of course the answer is a resounding "no"; there are dozens of articles about how children benefit from being in a two-working-parent household.  My son will grow up seeing both parents working as partners, sharing responsibility for finances and household chores, challenging passe gender roles.  He will likely rely on both of us equally since he doesn't spend more time with one or the other parent.  He will have more opportunities to travel and explore the world because his parents have more disposable income.  We'll be able to contribute more to his college fund.  He will [hopefully] be a totally awesome, well rounded kid.   

And here's the thing: I'm the child of a working mom.  I started going to a sitter when I was about 4 weeks old.  Do I harbor any kind of resentment toward my mom for not being a SAHM?  No.  I loved my sitter--she was an older lady who watched me and several of my cousins, so it was like having an extra set of grandparents--we actually called her "Grammy".  I can't even say I've ever wondered about how life would be different if my mom had stayed at home instead of working. I've never thought about it.  I was well cared for and I have great memories of my sitter.  She taught me to garden and sew, and I loved playing "School" in the basement with the other kids. I remember the swing and great climbing trees in the backyard. I remember watching Captain Kangaroo, Sesame Street, Mr. Rogers, Reading Rainbow, Square One, and 3-2-1 Contact (also, the Frugal Gourmet, which may have been the kernel of culinary interest that eventually fueled this blog). I also remember hanging out with her while she watched her "stories" (which were bold, beautiful, young, and restless). I remember drinking a lot of Tang and instant tea, and getting a special sweet treat (usually a Hostess cherry pie) on Fridays if I'd been good all week.  I had a good great childhood.  So why do I get to feel guilty for giving my kid the same thing I had? 

2. Breastfeeding for Less Than 1 Year:  My mom was only able to nurse me for the first 4 weeks before she had to go back to work.  I turned out fine [debatable].  I made it my personal goal to make it to 6 months, because it seemed doable--the first 3 months I'd be home on maternity leave, so what's another 3 months of pumping at work?  Plus, several studies said "breast is best for the first 6 months" (AAP & WHO...or so I thought).  So BAM.  That was my goal.  But now I hear about different recommendations from AAP and WHO stating that at least ONE YEAR is best for baby...WHO even goes so far as to recommend up to 2 years.  TWO YEARS OF PUMPING AT WORK?  No thank you.  As far as continuing past 6 months, we haven't hit that deadline yet...and I'm not opposed to continuing to nurse for a while and pump if it's not a huge inconvenience and as long as my body is producing enough...but I'm not going to stress about it.  Nor am I going to start shelling out a bunch of extra money for Mother's Milk tea or lactation cookies if things start tapering off.  Does that make me a bad mom?  I'd like to think not.  I already seclude myself in a bathroom for lunch every day to pump--I think that's pretty self-sacrificing.

3. Using (off-brand) Formula: I ranted about formula in a previous post, but to recap--no mom should have to feel guilty about feeding her child.  If your child is healthy and has a full, happy belly, you are doing a great job and deserve a cookie (or five).  And yet, we feel guilty if we have to give our kid something other than boob milk.  And then, even when tata juice is no longer an option, we feel guilty if we give our kid anything "less than [second] best".  Is that organic, non-GMO, brand name soy-based formula really better for our kids than the store brand? Or is the store brand really just the name-brand stuff in a generic package?  [For the record--the milk coming out of my tatas isn't organic or non-GMO, either.]  Is our child going to develop a hormonal imbalance, growth defect, or just be stupider than his classmates 5 years down the road because we wanted to save money? I'd like to think the FDA cares enough about the future of this country that they wouldn't let us haphazardly poison our kids. (That being said...stay up on any product recalls, obvz.)

Ultimately, it comes down to what works best for your kiddo's digestive system--some babies don't tolerate off-brands well.  Conversely, some babies don't tolerate the brand name and end up finding a store brand that works great.  Again--the thing that should REALLY matter is that your kiddo is happy, healthy, and has a full belly.  So if you can achieve that spending $1300/year on store-brand formula, you are NO LESS AWESOME than a mom who chooses to (or has to, because of her kiddo's needs)  buy the high-end stuff and spends closer to $3000/year.  We got a couple month's worth of free samples when Baby J was born, all brand name, but more than likely when that's all gone, we'll be moving to Target or Wally-Hell brand as long as they agree with his system.

In another 7-8 months, I'm sure I'll be having Mom Guilt over whether we give our kid regular milk or start buying organic.  So never ends.

That's a good segue into talking about food, right? 

4. Feeding Too Early/Not Feeding the Right Things:  As I've mentioned before, we got the OK from our pediatrician to start experimenting with a spoon and cereal at his 4 month appointment, because he had good head control and could sit up with just a little support.  She did tell us to wait until he was about 6 months before introducing any "real" solid foods.  But this then sparked a debate amongst fellow moms, since *most* pediatricians recommend waiting until 6 months to start trying foods.  So then there's this internal debate of "do we go by what our doctor says, who is basing her approval on his personal developmental progress, or do you wait for an arbitrary date because it's 'generally accepted'?"  Then there's the debate over whether or not starting with cereal is even useful and whether you should just do baby-led weaning and start with finger foods.

(In reality, you'll likely be so frustrated and overwhelmed by the entire thing that you just forget about it until he's at least 5 months old.)

Let's just summarize:  as a mom, you get to freak out about everything that goes into or onto your child's body.  Even if you're nursing--are YOU eating the right things to make your milk as high quality as possible?  Then the time comes for outside foods, and we feel pressured to give our child the very best--even if WE OURSELVES don't eat the very best.  Everything is treated like it could kill your kid, and NOBODY agrees on anything.  So do you splurge on the organic oatmeal cereal?  Or do you just stick the oatmeal that's already in your pantry in a blender and grind it down super-fine?  Does it ultimately matter if it's really just a training tool and he's only going to be eating like a few teaspoons a day until you decide to try "real" food?  
 "Toes are organic, right?"

As a scientist, I could drive myself nuts reading through articles about what pesticide was found in what food and then back-researching to see what the actual legal limits for that chemical are so I can make an "informed" decision about whether or not to care about that finding (because it's my actual job to know that just because something was detected doesn't mean it's "contaminated").  But doing that for 
that goes into my child's mouth is likely to occupy WAY too much of my time.  Does that make me a bad mom, or just a sane person who would rather play with her kid on the floor than do research?

5. Not Getting Enough Tummy Time:  Our doctor recommended at least 15 minutes a day.  Some resources say at least 30 minutes a day.  But ultimately--our kid is at day care for 8-9 hours a day (see Mom Guilt #1) and we have no idea how much tummy time he gets there.  We try to make sure he gets at least 15 minutes a day on the weekends, and we spend most of our at-home time in the evenings playing on the floor.
"Who is that dead-sexy baby in the mirr--oh wait.  That's me."

Oh, and at a certain point, they learn to roll from belly to back--so after that point, if they don't wanna Tummy Time, they ain't gonna Tummy Time.

6. Flat(ish) Head: Another good segue here.  At our 2 month appointment, our nurse noted that Baby J's head was a *skosh* flat on the back, but wasn't concerned about it.  Because that's the benefit of getting to be the nurse--she gets to say something and walk away and not go home with the baby with the skosh-flat head and then worry about it constantly.  She's not the one who will now be obsessed with trying to get in enough tummy time or who will be searching on Amazon for anti-flat head pillows or tortle caps (not that we ever bought either, but I've read a lot of reviews).  She's not the one who will stare at the back of her son's head every day, trying to determine if the flatness is improving or getting worse.

At his 4 month appointment, the pediatrician also noted he was a little flat, but that everything was still symmetrical and that we shouldn't worry about it, as long as he was still getting plenty of tummy time (cue Mom Guilt #5, which causes Mom Guilt #1, etc).  The fact is--the "Back is Best" campaign is producing a bunch of babies who will (at least temporarily) have a flat-ish head because they're sleeping on their backs for 12+ hours a day.  And short of babywearing every time your child takes a nap (or sleeps at night), it's just unavoidable.  And yet...we still get to feel guilty.
"No worries, head is just fine. Now let's talk dinner..."

7. Not Using Cloth Diapers:  I may be an environmental scientist, but I'm not a crunchy one.  I briefly researched cloth diapers back before we got preggo, and then set it aside.  Do I regret the fact that 5,000-6,500 diapers will end up in a landfill over the course of my kid's life? I'm not proud of it.  But we knew a) it would be harder/possibly more expensive to find a daycare that was willing to mess with cloth diapers, and b) the cost savings wasn't there for us.  Real world studies of the cost of cloth diapering showed an investment of around $1000 just for Year 1.  However, given that we were gifted our first 5 months' worth of diapers through baby showers, and then shop sales for diapers when they hit a target price point of 11 cents/diaper* or less, we will actually spend less than $700 over the course of 3 years.  

*Easiest way for us--stocking up on Target's store brand diapers. These are normally about 17 cents/diaper. Target periodically runs promos where if you buy two bulk packs, you get a free $25-30 gift card.  We then save that gift card and use it the next time we buy diapers (waiting 'til they run that promo again), effectively cutting the price to about 10-11 cents a diaper.

8) Letting Your Child Sleep Anywhere Other Than A Crib:  This one wracked me for months, but I've since calmed down a bit.  Our son has always slept at night in a crib--we started him there from Day 1, never did a bassinet and his crib is in his room across the hall from ours.  He sleeps great in his crib at night.  But he just doesn't nap well in one.  So we've always had to use a swing or bouncer, or hold him while he naps (that last one less so these days, but there were plenty of times that I had to put him in the baby wrap while I was on maternity leave just to get him to fall asleep).  He falls asleep in his carseat, and if we rock his infant carrier while we're out (say, having dinner at a restaurant), he'll generally conk out (if he's tired enough).  Do I worry about him getting "bucket syndrome"?  Not really, because these days the only time he's in his swing or bouncer (while at home) IS to take a nap.  If he's awake he's hanging out with us or playing on the floor.  He might use his Bumbo and/or exersaucer for about 15-20 minutes a day. I do know they have to use swings and exersaucers & other "containers" periodically at his daycare, and I don't know *how* much time he spends in them (Mom Guilt #1), but I do know he's not showing any signs of developmental delays, so until that's an issue, I'm not going to worry.
Chillin' like a villain.

9. Compilation Guilt:  Some days just start out bad, and every tiny thing stacks up into one craptastic pile that makes you wonder why you signed up for the job.  My son's first day at his new day care was like that.  First, I accidentally scared him when I went in to wake him up for the day.  I turned off the fan we use for white noise, which makes a "click".  Lil' Man was *awake*, but totally zoned out and probably about to drift back into Sleepytime, so he flailed when he heard the click and immediately started crying.  He calmed down while nursing, and was fine after, but he REFUSED to give me any smiles that morning.  He'd smile at Dad, but not Mom. #gutwrenching  

"No smiles for you. But can I interest you in a chew toy?"

Then I had to take him to his new day care, which was a mishmash of paperwork and chatting with another mom and telling the caregiver how he takes his bottles while handing my son over to a stranger... and then as I was leaving, I realized I hadn't given him a hug & kiss goodbye.  He was totally fine, playing already, but it broke my heart.  And THEN, as I was driving to work, I realized I forgot to put wipes in his bag, and that I hadn't labeled any of his stuff, like the paperwork I was holding had requested that I do.  And I felt like a crap mom.  Throw some PMS and a broken coffeemaker in the mix...and it's just a bad day.

So ladies, let's hear it--what's your *favorite* brand of Mom Guilt? 
(Note: all comments require approval, so when it doesn't show up right away, that doesn't mean it didn't come through. I will approve it and respond ASAP.)

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