Thursday, January 23, 2014

End the Mommy Wars!

When you're pregnant for the very first time, you learn just how many opinionated people there are in your world. When you have that baby, even more opinions and advice gets hurled at you.

  • You're too young to be pregnant!
  • What are you going to do when you have the baby?
  • I hope someone will be there to help you.
  • You aren't going back to work, are you?
  • You do know, breast is best.
  • Don't use disposable diapers!
  • There's no point in breastfeeding past 6 months.
  • Food before 1 is just for fun!
  • You have to let them cry it out so they learn their own coping mechanisms!
  • Your baby is crying, you better feed it.
  • You're a new mom, you have no idea what the future has in store for you!
  • Get lots of sleep now, because you won't be sleeping when the baby gets here!

Those are just a few of the things people said to me while I was pregnant and right after I had my baby. What's better is, that didn't stop when I was pregnant with my second! And now I'm pregnant with my third, and I *still* get the questions, advice, and opinions.

The point of me writing this is not to say how much I hate this or how much I want it to stop, because that's not the case.

99% of the time, these things are said by well-meaning individuals who maybe thought it sounded different in their heads before they said it. Or maybe the things they comment on are things they've experienced. Or maybe their own mother or sister experienced those things. Or maybe they read it in an article somewhere and are passing it on to you, to be helpful.

No, the reason I am writing this is because I really, honestly want everyone to know that EVERY. PARENT. IS. DIFFERENT. Every child is different. Every experience is unique to the person experiencing it. Similarities are present, of course, but first and foremost, everyone is different.

What does that mean?

It means that my parenting style differs from that of my parents, and that of my sister. It means that I am different from the well-meaning grandmotherly-type woman who told me I needed help after my baby was born. It means I am different from the moms in the groups who chatter about "food before 1 is just for fun!"

I am different because I choose to research on my own. I make educated, informed decisions. My husband and I talk, constantly, about what we are doing and why we are doing it. We keep ourselves on the same page and are on our own team when it comes to raising our children. We are doing the absolute best we can to raise our children as we see fit.

My decisions might be similar to the decisions you make, or they might not be.

When my son was 5 months old, he started screaming whenever he was in the car. He started screaming when he saw the car, or saw me get his diaper bag. He started screaming when we said we were going bye-bye. He would scream in the car so much that his face would be red, he'd run out of breath, and lose his voice. He screamed so much that it made us both physically sick. He screamed so much that we avoided going anywhere.

One night, we were driving 10 minutes down the street to my parents' house. He was his usual self, screaming relentlessly... I had it. I was done with this. I stopped in a grocery store parking lot, got out of the car, took my son out of his carseat, handed him to my husband, and turned around the carseat, from rear facing to forward facing. It was everything I had ever promised myself I would never do. I cried while I was making the switch. I was afraid of what could happen. I was afraid of everything people would say to me.

When we put him back in the car seat after turning it around, it was a complete transformation. He was happy, he was laughing, he was looking at all the lights, and he could see us. He was so happy, he fell asleep. He didn't cry in the car ever again.

We made that switch right around 7-8 months. That means we handled the screaming for almost 3 months.

Why did I tell you that story?

Because it was in our best interest as a family to turn the car seat around. It went against what some people believe as right. I am NOT saying to turn your baby's car seat around right now. I am saying, do what's best for your child. Yes, there are great risks associated with turning a car seat to the forward facing position too soon, but I believe leaving it rear facing was far worse than the dangers associated with forward facing. I drove extra careful, did everything to create stability and safety, and did my best to be safe.

Do you have any idea how many opinions I heard after making that change?

If you guessed a lot, you'd be right. But something changed in me that day. I was doing something for my baby, not for anyone else. I became a new mother, a new woman, a new person. Everything I did for my baby was no concern of anyone else. And any opinion anyone ever gave me from that point on was taken with kindness, but with no more thought than what someone thought of this show or that song. "Everyone is different," I kept telling myself. "Their baby wasn't sitting in the back seat, screaming til they were blue in the face. They didn't have a 6 month old with no voice."

I recently came across an incredible photo series by Connecticut Working Moms, featuring Mom's of all different walks, who choose to raise their children as they see fit. It is called, "End The Mommy Wars" If you haven't seen it, I highly suggest you click over and take a look.

Why is this so incredible?

Because they recognize that every mother is different. Some moms formula feed from the start, some moms extend nurse. Some moms cloth diaper, some moms use disposable. Some moms feed their children only organic foods, and some moms let their kids eat fast food. They aren't judging each other, they are acknowledging their differences, and supporting each other. Being a mom maybe isn't the easiest thing I've ever had to do, but judgement placed on me by other moms certainly doesn't make it any easier. We can be supportive of each other while we be the best mommies to our babies.

Hi, I'm Melody. My kids were turned around in their car seat around 8 months old. I extend-nurse. They love veggies and fruit and string cheese. They love chicken strips and hot dogs and cheeseburgers. They love watching Disney Junior. They love playing video games. They love going to Disneyland. I am a stay-at-home-mom. We don't go to church. We co-sleep. We talk, we fight, we love, we share emotions. We love our children, and our children love us. I get annoyed with my kids and lock myself in the bathroom for a few minutes. They tell me they don't want to be my friend anymore because I won't let them have dessert if they don't eat their dinner. It doesn't bother me. I know I am doing my absolute best, and I know they are good kids.

That is who I am, that is how I parent, that is how I raise my kids.