My mother thinks that moms these days are under tons of pressure. When she had us, there was Spock and not much else. Now there are entire bookstores full of parenting manuals. Everyone is a lay developmental psychologist and we’re still recovering from several decades where it was trendy to blame your parents and childhood for everything. It’s not enough to have a kid anymore, one has to have a parenting theory and the anonymity of the internet means that we get to bash strangers over the heads with the self-proclaimed superiority of our particular theory.
I am of the humble opinion that most of these theories follow certain steps…
First, they lay the ground work by asserting that these first few years of your child’s life are vital and if poorly handled you’ll miss out on developing a mother-child bond (for some reason most of these theories seem to be throwbacks to a time when Dad only started bonding once the kid was old enough for baseball), succumb to neuronal atrophy (the kid, not you), have delayed school readiness and the inability to form social relationships as an adult. That’s a lot of pressure and now that they have you suitably anxious….
…the theory-markers then go and find some supportive research. This research usually takes place in non-humans (mice and rats are popular) or involves extreme cases (children who were severely neglected) but it is nevertheless gets extrapolated to your child. You’re 100% human, non-neglected (and never to be neglected no matter if you co-sleep or use extinction, or if you happen to use the stroller *gasp* instead of a home-made organic sling) child. If you were anxious before, now you might be terrified. Not only are these first years vital to everything, actual research has been done to scientifically describe and quantify just how badly you might screw this up.
But do not despair! The theory makers have a convenient solution! They can make it all better by selling you stuff.
Books, courses, child activities, special food and supplements…and my personal favorite….attachment parenting bum-wipes.
Marketers, as we all know, find it very effective to play off of our emotions and it seems that inducing parental anxiety is a very effective way of moving product.
The problem is, it’s working. On me, anyway.
It’s not that I’m buying stuff, but I am anxious. My head sounds like this:
Is my son getting enough stimulation? The right stimulation? Am I talking to him enough? He’s not babbling and the books say he should be babbling. Is he doing enough tummy-time? Why hasn’t he learned to roll yet? Does he laugh enough? Is he sleeping enough? Why doesn’t he laugh as much as the other babies in his swim class? Is it because I don’t laugh enough? Is he picking up on my mood? Why aren’t I enjoying this stay-at-home mum thing as much as the other mom’s I know? OMG, my baby knows I’m not having a good time. I’m screwing this up.
TAF doesn’t have these kinds of anxieties. Maybe it’s because expectations for fathers aren’t nearly as onerous as they are on mothers. Maybe it’s because he hasn’t spent 9 years in medical training seeing every kind of ill kid; every kind of developmentally delayed kid; every kind of neglected kid. Or maybe it’s because he’s much smarter than I am. He didn’t read any of the baby books. He doesn’t read anything about parenting on the internet, instead he reads about hockey. When he holds our son he just makes funny noises at him and tickles him until they are both giggling. And a few evenings ago, when I was lying in bed unable to sleep because I was wondering how badly I was screwing this up he just turned to me and said, “it’s okay. He knows how to grow.”
Now, when I wonder if I am actually The Inadequate Mother, I close my eyes and take a deep breath and say, “it’s okay. He knows how to grow.” And it helps…sort of. I still wonder about the tummy-time.
And if maybe everything would actually be better with those attachment parenting bum-wipes.