There’s been a lot of news items on certain
parenting mothering practices. In fairness, these news items have probably been produced with a similar frequency for the last few years, it’s just now that I am a mother parent that I’ve been noticing them. Afterall, prior to having a child I wasn’t on the internet reading blogs and news items about parenting, mothering, maternity care and breastfeeding. I was probably better off. In fact, I often think that I should get off the internet.
My mother frequently says that she had it easier. She doesn’t remember having to face a culture of questioning and proselytizing mothering choices. While she and her neighbourhood friends bounced around to Jane Fonda (on LP – nostalgia anyone?) they gossiped about that week’s soaps (nostalgia redux), neighbours and their husbands. At my mom and baby fitness class, the mothers danced around issues of parenting trying to figure out who was into attachment parenting and who wasn’t, or more accurately, who was the most “attached.” Women pulled their lululemon tanks down or across to breastfeed. Those with kids under 1 who weren’t nursing were just, as far as I could tell, not fed during class time. Ever. It seemed like there was an unwritten rule that if you had a toddler, a bottle was ok, which but today’s standards means that no one was quite attached enough. At the music/play and parenting group it was the same thing. Those with bottles seemed to hide them. I know BF rates weren’t 100% but in 12 weeks I never saw any of the mom’s bottlefeed. When we had discussions about baby care issues, those that subscribed to the politically “correct” (at least in middle-class urban circles) parenting strategies held the floor. The first week 2/3 of people came with strollers. By the end of the class there were only a few babies that showed up in strollers. Slowly, one by one, those evil contraptions were replaced by slings and wraps. In fact, a few of the Bjorns were replaced by slings/wraps too. I was the only one that had sleep trained…but I wasn’t the only one that wanted to. Attachment parenting and its components was mentioned more times than I can count but we never had a discussion about returning to work or trying to find childcare.
Well, I’m sure it seems really important how you
mother parent a young infant at the time. Kind of like how before my baby was born I had this irrational need to make sure that only organic natural fibres would ever come into contact with his skin. Oh marketing and hormonal craziness, what have you made me do? Now? Well, now if the cost of clothing divided by the predicted number of wearings is > $0.05 I don’t buy it. Kind of like how when looking at a room of preschoolers you can’t tell who was bottle or breastfed, who was worn, who was pushed in a stroller, who slept where etc etc. My standards haven’t slipped – my rationality has returned.
Lets face it, how I feed my child or transport him or nap him probably has very little bearing on his future health and happiness – despite what Mayor Bloomberg and that NY breastfeeding lobby group or any of the other crazy elements out there might think. The trouble is that the things that are going to be significant threats to his health and happiness are difficult to fix. What are these things? Well, in no particular order (except as they sift to the front of my brain):
1) global warming
2) our obesigenic society. The easy availability of high calorie, low nutrient food and an urban environment engineered to minimize movement and maximize sedentary time is easily one of the biggest threats to my son’s health.
3) gender inequality. It would be great if men and women were paid the same amount for the same amount of work done. It would be great if dry cleaning a woman’s cotton button-down dress shirt cost the same as cleaning a man’s rather than 2-3x as much even though it is constructed in the same way from the same kind of material. How does this affect my son’s future health and happiness? Well, how about the mental health of not internalizing that one half of the population is inferior to you? How about internalizing the lesson of reward based on merit rather than fixed demographic characteristics like gender? How about the increased wealth and prosperity of a society that is more egalitarian?
4) The increasing divide between the 1% and the 99%. The occupy movement might have been poorly organized and/or derailed, but you can’t tell me they didn’t have a very valid and relevent point to make.
5) Cumulative lifetime UV exposure and the risk of skin cancer
6) The erosion of quality public education
7) The re-emergence of vaccine-preventable illness caused by declining vaccination rates
8) Diabetes. This might go along with #2. Adult onset diabetes affects both the maternal and paternal sides of my son’s gene pool.
9) Deer. And dogs. The two most dangerous animals out there according to statistics of morbidity and mortality caused by animal encounters.
Okay, maybe that last one was a little tongue in cheek.
What do you think are the biggest threats to your kids?
OT: I have just returned from a vacation in a neighbouring province and was struck, absolutely struck dumb, by how as soon as you crossed the provincial border, changing tables disappeared from the men’s washroom. What the heck do they think that a father is supposed to do? Never leave the house without a woman who can change his baby for him? Are you kidding me?