Common Bond of Parenthood

There is nothing subtle about the common bond of parenthood, as shown at the end of this video sponsored by Similac, a formula company.  I’m practically certain that an anti-formula group of breastfeeding (BF) zealots would never have sponsored such a video.  The last thing the BF zealots want to show is that there is even a hint of commonality between moms who BF and moms who formula feed.

What is the common bond?  Well, as you’ll see by watching this video, it’s that parents are–regardless of our parenting style or choices–parents.  Period.  The video even has a group of men (whether they are single parents or stay-at-home-dads is not clear), which is Similac’s intent to bring fathers into the picture, because after all, fathers are parents too.  Parents have a desire and obligation to do the best they can to care for their children with the means best suited for them.  Our children are our responsibility.  We brought them into the world.

At the end of the video, when a baby and parent need help, everyone–regardless of their parenting style or choices–drops their differences and runs to the aid of that baby and parent.  Now, that’s what it SHOULD be all about.  Forget about stupid and meaningless mommy wars.  Putting aside our differences and recognizing and respecting each others’ differences– instead of putting up walls to separate ourselves from those that are different from us– is what it should all be about.  Non first-time parents know what it’s like to be a parent for the first time and know how challenging taking care of a newborn baby and being a first-time parent really is.   Wouldn’t it be nice if experienced parents shared their experience with other new parents instead of thinking “Well, I learned the hard way, so can he/she.” Wouldn’t it also be nice if there were parent support groups in EVERY community, not just here or there and not known to/hard to find by the vast majority of those seeking support?  Parenting is about community, not about individual parents in isolation, left to their own devices because of how they choose to parent.

It takes a community to parent, period.  You can’t go it alone.  And you should not have to.

For added perspective from a writer and advocate for mothers whom I admire very much, please visit Suzie Barston’s Fearless Formula Feeder’s blog post about this video.  It’s titled “You’re Proving the Point.”

And another piece written by Amy Newman titled “Let’s Lower Stakes in Breastfeeding Debate.”

I Am My Own Kinda Parent

Okay, so it’s been 3 weeks (holy smokes) since my last blog post.  That’s a long time, relatively speaking, for me.  But seriously, folks, it feels more like a week.  Where is the time going?  Why does it seem time is passing by so fast?  We are in July already.  It will be the end of summer soon at the rate we are going.  And yet it feels like it just started.  From the mouth of a summer lover.  Heat and all.  I love summer!

I haven’t posted not because I haven’t had any inspiration, but because I just haven’t had the time.  June 18th was my birthday, and that’s the date of my last post.  For weeks leading up to June 23rd, I studied for a standardized exam that I had to take for my job….and boy, do I hate standardized exams.  I passed that, and then I’ve been busy sorting through the piles of stuff that have accumulated over the past 7 years….since before my daughter was born and before I dove head first into writing my book.  I’ve been putting it off and putting it off….and now I can’t put it off any longer.  I need to convert the 3rd bedroom from storage room to actual bedroom once and for all!  And I need to do that before month end!

Yesterday, I stumbled across a blog post written by Jill Smokler (author of the Scary Mommy blog and the book, Confessions of a Scary Mommy) on HuffPost Parents titled “What Kind of Parent are You?”  Needless to say, given all the parenting feuds that have been going on of late, that title grabbed my attention.  I knew I had to write a blog post about this.

It was a short blog post, but there was plenty to get my thoughts flowing on what to write.  What kind of parent AM I?  Well, first of all, I am my own kinda parent.  I don’t care what other people call themselves or how they categorize their parenting styles.  I’m not in a competition, after all.

I parent the way I parent, and I don’t care how this compares with other parents and their parenting styles.  The less we try to compare among ourselves, the less likely we will feel bad about not meeting up to so-called “societal standards,” the less we will feel guilt and all that negativity that can eat away at a mom that is already suffering, or on their way to suffering, from postpartum depression (PPD).

What has also given me inspiration for this post are some recent pins I stumbled across on Pinterest.  Yep, I’ve fallen under the spell of yet another social media tool.  It is very addicting.  But in this, my first, week of pinning, I’ve found it very calming.  I guess it’s because you see words in pictures that affirm what is deep in your thoughts and now you can “pin” on your own personal board, letting that be your outlet.

Here’s one that is relevant to this post….about people respecting each others’ choices (from Sketch42Blog.com):

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Anyway, here goes….

I was a breastfeeding-challenged mom who did the best I could to give my daughter breast milk for 1-1/2 months before having to go on an antidepressant for insomnia, panic attacks and complete debilitation thanks to PPD.  After surviving PPD and failure at breastfeeding, I’m highly sensitive to the judgmental remarks made by others who have not suffered from PPD or had breastfeeding issues.   Not sensitive as hurt my feelings sensitive, but grate on my nerves sensitive.  To the moms who ever so readily attack others for supposedly not trying hard enough or being selfish/lazy, think before you criticize.  Like the pin up above says, you have NO idea what others are going through.  I’m not going to defend my failure other than to say that, if you had to endure what I endured with my emergency partial hysterectomy and all that followed (previously blogged about and now detailed in my book), you just might understand.

I was a co-sleeper failure, having had to let my daughter start sleep in her own crib in her own room far sooner than I had originally planned.  I’ve shared this before on my blog (and now in my book) that it was due to my alarming insomnia that we had to do this, as I would wake up at every single sound my daughter made through the night (which was very frequent).  And it didn’t help that she couldn’t sleep flat for the first whole month of her existence.  She was most comfortable sleeping in her little car seat that sort of made her feel like she were still curled up in my womb.

I am a didn’t-know-any-better-at-the-time mom who let my daughter’s eczema and cradle cap get out of hand. I did the best I could with the information I was given by the pediatrician until she finally suggested we see an actual dermatologist, so I don’t blame myself that my daughter’s skin got so bad so quick.  I have genetics to blame as well. But what counts is that we finally found a remedy and my daughter’s hair finally grew back in….and what a relief.   We continue to do battle against her eczema/dry skin today.  As with other aspects of motherhood (and parenthood, in general), dealing with my daughter’s skin issues has been a learn-as-you-go experience.

I am a lover of social media that is trying hard to spend less time on Facebook, Twitter, my blog, and now Pinterest.  So far, I’ve only been successful when it comes to Twitter.  If I lose followers, I lose followers (though I do hope my friends on Twitter understand). I know where my priorities lay and what I can manage each day with my full-time job and trying to squeeze time in for my daughter before she goes to bed each night.  I blog on average once a week and only late at night after my daughter goes to bed.  That leaves Facebook and Pinterest.  I believe the novelty of Pinterest will wear off in a few weeks (I hope). But Facebook is one way I stay in touch with my friends around the globe, so it is absolutely a part of my daily routine.

I am a return-to-work-when-maternity-leave-is-up mom who, until my daughter was born, had already worked nearly 2 decades and admittedly thrives on the constant deadlines, demands, multi-tasking, interactions with co-workers, and the stimulating analytical, documentation, and customer service challenges at work each day.  Faced with the reality that one salary wasn’t going to support the three of us, I had to return to work when my daughter was but three months old.  This is a reality that many moms are faced with.  Leaving your baby/ies is a very difficult transition–and one that is not guilt-free– to make.

I am a daily NYC commuter, which means that I’m NEVER able to volunteer at school….not unless I take a day off from work (or work remotely, which is frowned upon unless I have a “real” reason like a doctor’s appointment in the middle of the day, sick daughter, or lack of back-up care).  This also means that the people in my ‘hood think I’m anti-social.  They haven’t come right out and said it, but their not inviting us to get-togethers lately (we used to all get together throughout the year) is a clear indication that we don’t really fit in even though we do try where time and situations permit. <Here’s where the Sesame Street song “One of these things is not like the other” comes to mind>

I am a lousy cook.  I like playing the role of sous chef, cutting up vegetables and meat, but I’m a lousy cook (because I really don’t care for it). My husband and I make a great sous chef/chef team.

I am a lousy creative player, but good at playing games and coloring…..the only activities with which I’m comfortable because they are what I grew up with.  Thank goodness my husband makes up for my lack of creativity!!!

I am a disorganized person at home, but strangely enough a highly organized one at work.  I don’t even make my bed each day…only when company comes over.

I am a good homework helper, especially when it comes to writing, spelling and grammar (which helped my book-writing tremendously).  I certainly didn’t have any help with that when growing up because my parents’ native language is Mandarin Chinese….which is why I am fluent in speaking Mandarin Chinese.  I’m pleased to have a positive impact on my daughter (see photo below).

I am a good chauffeur and provider of encouragement in terms of activities, even though my daughter would rather stay home like daddy.  I tell her that I don’t want her to grow up like I did with zero activities.  Activities are important in building a child’s self esteem.  She is not a team sports player that I hoped she would be, despite all the encouragement in the world.  I wasn’t one either, and I had wanted things to work out differently for her.  But there is only so much prodding one can do.  Forcing the issue will only serve to traumatize her.  I wasn’t going to do that because I remember all too well what it was like being forced to play piano for 4 years.  Ugh.

I am a determined playdate coordinator.  I do my best to help my daughter stay in touch with her friends from her former school, which is hard because they don’t live in the same town and the only time my daughter can have a playdate is during weekends, which is when most families try to do things together rather than have playdates like other moms can arrange during the week.  I am determined to keep them in touch because of my own nomadic experience all throughout childhood and having to make a new set of friends nearly every year until third grade.  I made friends then but lost them all when I moved four years later.  And forget about high school.  Making friends from scratch in a junior high school where I was the only Chinese girl (and a shy one who was self conscious about her looks and lack of wardrobe) out of 350 students in my class was a complete and utter joke.

I am a dedicated book reader to my daughter, seldom missing a night since my daughter was an infant.  I also didn’t have this when growing up, and subsequently, I don’t care too much for books (I know, blasphemy).  And this coming from a book author!

I am an empathic provider of emotional support when my daughter is distressed about something. I didn’t grow up with parents who were particularly empathetic or patient with my fiery temperament (and thanks to pubescent hormones), so my mission is to support my daughter 100%.  Though, I have to say I am completely dreading her teenage years!

I am a good schedule keeper, always making sure my daughter and I get up 1-1/2 hours before any weekend activities, including Chinese school, ballet, and swimming.  That gives us time to eat breakfast (and she’s a very slow eater) and get some TV or playtime in before leaving home.  Transitioning environments has always been somewhat of a challenge for our daughter, but thankfully, she is getting better about it as she gets older!

I am a good outfit coordinator, given budget limitations.  I’d like to think I have a good sense of style.  My daughter doesn’t have a dress on everyday like some girls in school, but that’s okay.  As long as she doesn’t deal with the conditions I grew up with (i.e., rotating among 5 outfits to wear each week in HIGH SCHOOL and having to deal with kids who don’t want to be friends with me because I don’t dress well and wasn’t the most well groomed girl in school), I am satisfied.

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I used to care what other people think of me to the point that I felt pretty bad about myself.  Having survived PPD and having my daughter have put things into perspective way more than anything else has ever done before.  Now, my goal is to provide a good life for my daughter.  In order for me and my husband to do that, we try to do the best we can as parents to her.

Make sure she is healthy and happy.

Nurture her.

Be there for her.

Love her.

Who cares what anyone else has to think or say about my parenting style.  Period.

Out with the Old, In with the New……When It Comes to Parenting

On the eve of the Lunar New Year, wishing you a HAPPY YEAR OF THE DRAGON.  Gong Xi Fa Cai!  Gong Hay Fat Choy!  新年快樂

Whether you celebrate Lunar New Year or not, it’s close enough to the actual Western calendar that welcomed its new year only 23 days ago for you to observe this as yet another opportunity to bid adieu to the old and usher in the new.  Chinese traditional new year customs include cleaning one’s home, a symbolic sweeping out of the old year to welcome the new year.  I only wish I were motivated to do that today.  It’s hard when you’re bummed about how the snowstorm and ice foiled our family’s plans to celebrate today with relatives.  Boo to winter, snow, ice, sleet….! 

So, here I am, unmotivated to do much of anything, and I’m on Twitter.  I’ve been slowing getting back up to speed on Twitter these past couple of weeks, and I’ll have to say that if it weren’t for my new iPhone, I wouldn’t be.  Yes, the iPhone has actually made it possible for my return to Twitter!  Wahoo!  So, I am able to tweet before and after work and on weekends, time permitting.  With Twitter, I actually get access to some very interesting articles. 

The interesting reading I stumbled across was a Time article titled “The Parenting Trap: Why You Shouldn’t Care What Others Think of How You Raise Your Kids” by Bonnie Rochman. It grabbed my intention instantly and got my writing juices flowing…and hence, this blog post. This is a topic very near and dear to my heart. If you’ve been following my blog for a while, you’ll recall that I’ve previously blogged about competitive parenting.  You’ll also know that I’ve fessed up many a time about my low self confidence.  As I’ve known and as this article confirms, low self confidence (or low self esteem) doesn’t help when you feel that you’re surrounded by judgmental, competitive parents.

Who hasn’t worried about what the neighbors think of your chaotic attempt to get everyone out the door in the morning with homework and lunch in tow, or how teachers and other parents might judge the brands of clothing or food you buy?
 
Now, that there sounds like they went and plucked the thought right out of my mind! 
 
Being good parents, it seems, is all about balancing these pressures and knowing which ones are worth sweating about. New research finds that having high self-imposed standards can actually be beneficial, while caring what other playground parents think about the stroller you push or your decision to not buy organic milk may in fact undermine your confidence and up your stress levels.
 
I say Amen to that! 
 
The article proceeds to mention a very large study on first-time parents and factors that impacted their adjustment to parenthood.  The study delved into the concept of parenting perfectionism, which is further split into two types:  societal-oriented parental perfectionism (societal standards affecting how you parent and causing you to worry about whether you meet those standards and what other people think) and self-oriented parental perfectionism (having your own high internal standards and not being concerned about what other people think).
 
Not surprisingly, the research indicated that the former had a negative impact–i.e., high levels of stress, lower confidence–on the parents’ adjustment to parenthood.  The researchers point out such impact isn’t limited to adjustment in the early months.  It impacts the whole parenting journey overall.  And does this have anything at all to do with postpartum mood disorders?  You bet it does!   Trouble in adjusting to parenthood, feelings of guilt, anxiety and uncertainty of a first-time mom–these are all risk factors.  See my PPD risk factors post for more details.
 
Which brings to mind another interesting article from Time that dates back to October 2010. It ‘s an oldie but a goodie.  It’s titled “Mompetition”: Why You Just Can’t Make Mom Friends and I’d like to end this post with the video that’s highlighted in that article.  It cracked me up (it’s a video created by Valerie Stone Hawthorne who is mentioned in the article).  Enjoy! 🙂
 

 

Remember this…..
Life, and all that it’s comprised of, is not all black and white with nothing in-between.  It’s all different shades.  When it comes to parenting, there is no one right approach.  It’s not all black and white, and as such, the last thing people should do is pass judgment on others.  While you can’t control what other people do, you, my friend, can do yourself a favor if you currently fall under the societal-oriented parenting perfectionist bucket.  Stand firm. Don’t let what other people say or do get to you.  I know it’s hard. It’s been hard for me.  If someone tries to one-up you (the video has some juicy examples), don’t let that bring you down.  Don’t think you are less of a parent than they are.  Walk away from the situation.  Refuse to play the silly one-up game.  Plus, who wants to listen to the continued bragging, anyway? 

Out with the old you who might crumble and get all bent out of shape over a one-upper or judgmental parent. 
In with the new you who would hold your chin up high and–like the 2nd woman in the video–walk away from the situation, maintaining calm and keeping the mantra of “Everyone parents differently. I’m doing a great job. No one’s going to make me feel otherwise.”