"If I spent every second of my life wearing a newborn like an albatross, it would eventually be two of us who would be incontinent, drooling and crying." Photo Flickr/dontcallmeikke
I went to a breastfeeding group for new moms the other day. It was arguably a poor decision: after all, I’m an “old” rather than “new” mom, and I’m anything but a zealot when it comes to breastfeeding. I feel that people who attend such things are generally either first-time moms or people who are much more staunch advocates of breastfeeding than I am.
“What is most important more than anything else,” the lactation consultant told the small group, “is that you take care of YOU. If Mommy isn’t happy, no one is happy.”
Well, that was certainly an idea I could get behind. But when one mother voiced the apparently-controversial opinion that an ounce or two of formula here or there wasn’t going to hurt her baby, and even had the support of her pediatrician, the lactation consultant all but tsk-tsked.
“You know what you should do? You should WEAR your baby,” she told the mom. “Wear your baby–carry her around all the time, be with her all the time, nurse her all the time. That is what your baby needs.”
Um…what about the Mommy happy thing from a few minutes ago?
Because I know myself, and I know that if I spent every second of my life wearing a newborn like an albatross, it would eventually be two of us who would be incontinent, drooling and crying. Three, if we count the albatross.
So much of mothering these days is rooted in self-righteousness. “Well, I only fed my baby breastmilk.” “Well, I never let my baby watch television.” “Well, I always hold my child any time he cries.” The emphasis on the “I” in such sentences carries with it the implicit, if unstated, rebuke of “and if YOU don’t do this, you SUCK as a mother, and possibly as a person as well.”
When I read the Vogue profile of Sarah Jessica Parker quoting her as patting herself on the back that she didn’t have a live-in nanny, I thought, “Girlfriend? PLEASE.” [See Mayim Bialik's take on the same article here.]
“We don’t have any live-in help. We’re pretty hands-on parents. That’s something that’s important to both of us, and we don’t shirk it, because what’s the point in having a family if you’re not going to really participate in it, you know?” Parker said to her Vogue interviewer over breakfast in a West Village restaurant.
Now, I could be bitchy and point out that she could have had breakfast in her home if she wanted to always “really participate” in her family…but that would go completely against the point I want to make, which is that of COURSE she has help, because no woman who has her own career does it entirely on her own without help, whether from a live-in caregiver or a day care center or a relative or what have you. And none of that, by the way, means that the parent in question is in any way inadequate. Read the rest of this entry →