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.”

Spotlight on the Royal Birth

Wow, two posts in two days!  This is a record!  Everyone else has been blogging, tweeting, commenting on news articles, and talking about the royal birth.  I figured I might as well too.  I was all set to go to bed at midnight, which for me is early, but I had to check something on the computer and then all of a sudden I found myself feeling the sudden urge to blog about the royal birth.

Was I obsessed as some people were about Kate and William and their much-anticipated prince or princess?  No, not really.  Then why am I blogging about it?  Well, for one thing, I’m annoyed.  From morning til night, all I saw in my Facebook feed were comments about the royal birth.  Let me clarify.  I’m not so much annoyed by the amount of coverage as I am about the number of people that are annoyed about the amount of coverage and the nasty ol’ things that they had to say about it all.

As with everything including politics and religion, there will be the extreme camps.  In this case, you have the people who don’t give a rat’s butt about the royal family, angry that we are focusing so much on a baby’s birth (something that happens every second around the world) instead of more relevant issues like the state of our country and our economy, insisting that no one here gives a hoot (but plenty of people around the world and in this country do give a hoot or else why would there be such excessive coverage?).  While the other extreme camp has gone on and on and on for weeks leading up to the childbirth to try to predict the baby’s sex and what the baby’s name will be.  And then you’ll have what I refer to as the neutral camp who just want to go with the flow and carry on with their daily routines and not really care about the coverage in the news about the royal family.

I happen to belong to the neutral camp.  That is, until I was triggered.  What was I triggered by?  But of course, the meanness in people.  Meanness that stems from ignorance!  Yes, I stumbled across some mean comments/tweets on today’s Christian Monitor article titled “First glimpse of British prince brings comments about mom’s postpartum body.”  As soon as I saw the title, I thought to myself  “Do I honestly want to see the comments, which will no doubt be extremely ignorant and dumb, to put it mildly?”  I braced myself and read through the comments and quickly grew infuriated.  When I saw Kate and William walk through the hospital door earlier in the day to introduce their baby to the world, I instantly thought “Uh boy, Kate is still showing her bump, and I will bet you any amount of money that that will be the cause of a lot of mean-spirited comments from a public that is already weary of the extensive coverage about the royal birth.”  And here we are.

People calling her fat. <– omg, Kate, fat?  What, are these people nuts?  If she’s fat, then that makes me an elephant.  Ridiculous.

People joking that it looks like she’s still pregnant. <– Well, duh….this is how ALL mothers look after they have a baby.  And all mothers and their husbands/significant others know this because they have been through this themselves and know that you simply don’t blink away the belly that has been carrying a baby for the past 9 months.  It’s just NOT POSSIBLE.  What do people think really happens after childbirth, anyway?  That the entire contents of the belly simply come out with the baby, and that’s it?  What about all the skin and muscle that have had to stretch over the course of 9 months to accommodate the growing baby?!  I may have dropped my weight rapidly, thanks to the postpartum depression (PPD) that caused me to UNWILLINGLY lose my appetite and not want to eat anything for several weeks….this, after being literally starved for a week in the hospital after having my baby because my doctor wanted me to be prepared to go into surgery at any moment’s notice, thanks to my placenta accreta.  BUT I still had a residual belly when I left the hospital.

People joking that perhaps there’s still a twin in there. <– This is such a stupid comment that I’m not even going to address this.

What these idiotic comments show is that the image of a perfect postpartum body–thanks to celebrities and their personal trainers and not showing themselves in public until their tummies are gone–that the media focuses unhealthily on is causing the general public to have this unrealistic expectation of mothers all miraculously ridding themselves of their bellies and returning to their pre-pregnancy bodies immediately after they give birth.  I have blogged about this previously, and I’m actually quite sick and tired of this…I really am.

So, if women who have been through pregnancy can all vouch for the fact that the rapid return to pre-pregnancy selves is a myth, then why does this false perception continue to exist?  I’ll tell you why.  Because they don’t want others to know about their struggles to return to their pre-pregnancy selves, much like mothers who have suffered from PPD don’t want others to know out of feelings of guilt and shame that they didn’t experience the perfect childbirth experience they’ve been longing to have and society expects all mothers to have.

So…..with mothers not speaking up, the only examples we see are the celebrities flaunting their perfectly fit, postpartum bodies for all the world to see.  Therein lies the problem that we continuously and persistently perpetuate in one annoying, vicious cycle.

Last night, I saw a USA Today article titled “Will and Kate: New parents face joy, challenges” come up in my Facebook feed.  At first glance, when I saw that it was another article about the pending royal birth, I was going to skip it.  But then I saw who was interviewed for it.  My friend Dr. Diane Sanford, psychologist in St. Louis and co-author of Life Will Never Be the Same: The Real Mom’s Postpartum Survival Guide.  I read it, and I was quite pleased to find that it offers refreshingly REALISTIC information about what Kate and William–like all other parents–should expect when it comes to becoming a mom and dad for the first time.  It was, quite frankly, a really great platform to educate on the realities of having a baby and parenthood…after all, it’s an article about the ROYAL BIRTH in USA Today, and bound to generate a good number of views.  So, I applaud the fact that Dr. Sanford was called upon as a resource for educating the public. It’s NOT just an article about the royal family’s baby boy.

I can only pray that, over time, the number of smart articles educating the public about the realities of pregnancy, childbirth and the postpartum period will increase so there will be fewer articles spreading false perceptions of what it’s like to have a baby.   More education will mean less idiotic remarks like the ones people have been making about the Duchess…who by the way, was brave for showing the world her REAL postpartum body!

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.”