I meant to write this for Mother's Day, trying to keep with a theme and all, but three kids, pancakes microwaved for 12 minutes for Mothers Day breakfast and a busy day, well you can imagine how much time these days I get to sit down and write. I actually took some time in class to journal...yeah, I'm a great student like that.
Anyhow, my post is mommy tips, it was inspired by an experience I had last summer. I was sitting on a bench in a fairly affluent area in my city. We're having a nice conversation and I see them, 4 mothers with $1500.00 strollers a piece, and babies 6 months and under. Either I'm getting crusty with age or with motherhood, but I don't have a tolerance for a lot of new moms. I tensed up immediately, because they stopped on the boardwalk in front of us (ooops, did I just give the area away? Well anyone living in Toronto, is now rolling their eyes and nodding "Of course you had this ridiculous experience there!!!") and they milled about for a few minutes trying to decide where to go. They proceeded to sit on the benches right next to us, I should add there are a million benches in the area, but it's a free world, sit next to the two people enjoying a quiet conversation and drown that out with your mommy wars.
So I got a good earful of their conversation, it covered everything from trying to one up each other's birth and how natural it was, to how early their baby was smiling and hitting those milestones outlined in every new pop culture parenting book. Now I have to say I'm no innocent, I had those conversations too, but I'd like to think I wasn't nearly so mental. I was lucky to fall into a group of friends who were all new moms, but not really up on the one upmanship, unless you counted who got the best bargain on diapers. My kind of crowd. But I'm sure I had my moments, which I'm sure those friends will remind me of tonight over a glass of wine. Anyhow, as they're going on, I'm getting more and more annoyed and I had to do everything in my power to not yell "Who cares??? This shit isn't going to matter when your kid is three, licking yogurt off your floor, poking blueberries up their nose and climbing up the walls!!! It's going to matter less, when your kid is in grade one, arguing with you that the sky is not blue and trying to master the art of farting with his armpits!!!"
So new mommies, let me give you some tips, I admit I am far from an expert, at least everywhere but my own personal universe, so take them with a grain of salt if you will, but they have certainly helped my sanity.
1. Tell any Monday morning quarterback who has the audacity to analyze how you've given birth to put their head where the sun doesn't shine. Seriously! If you had the birth you wanted, and you and baby are safe and healthy and happy, that is ALL that matters. Even if you didn't have the birth you wanted, but are able to make peace with that, that is ALL that matters. I HATE Monday morning quarterbacks who pass judgment on moms who have had epidurals or c-sections. I hate it when they tell a mom outright, I hate it when they sugar coat it. Whether they are a stay at home mom, or the guru of all things birthing, it's none of their fucking business! They have no right to judge you. And when you tell them that and they look confused, you can tell them that Mamajoy and her 2 out of 3 births sans epidural and one at home told you to say that! Believe me, 6 years later, and all my friends kids who were birthed in many different ways, believe me, the c section kids aren't sitting in corners rocking themselves because they haven't had the glory of a water birth in the ocean with dolphins coming in to greet them.
2. Same goes for feeding. I know, there are a gabillion studies that point out that breastfed kids have a few more IQ points than non breastfed kids, but if you can't breastfeed, think about it, worst case scenario, have you ever known a person who has been too stupid to live a happy life because they were bottle fed? One of my friends didn't even get the luxury of formula, but evaporated milk or some other shit like that, and they're not doing too poorly for themselves. But ultimately, what is the ultimate wish that every parent has for their child? That they are happy? There hasn't been any studies that says formula prevents this. I was fed formula, I grew up in poverty, I'm going through a divorce for some pretty shitty reasons, but guess what? I'm still happy! I have awesome friends, great kids, food in my belly, the best family, an amazing boyfriend and a lot of cool things on the go. What will keep your kids happy is the ability to instill grace in them to recognize all that they have going for them. If your kids need to be a rocket scientist or be pulling down 7 figures as a result of those few extra IQ points in order to make them happy, then you're buying into a brand of parenting, of life! that is way different than mine
3. My oldest was singing songs, accurately identifying body parts and barnyard noises by the time he was 1, he was also potty trained in 2 weeks. He was sleeping through the night at 4 months AND taking naps 2x a day. By all accounts he was brilliant and the most awesome superbaby EVAH! Guess what? He's in grade 1, doing perfectly well, but not quite on the road to building a time space machine. He does have the ability to think up an excellent counterargument at the speed of light, but that also works against me A LOT! He hit a lot of milestones early, and some of his friends much later, but it all comes out in the wash, trust me.
4. Baby gear. I have a stroller library. No joke, my friends made fun of me, they still do. I've now traded in strollers for something far more awesome, which is purses and shoes (my friends all now want me to will those purses to them should I meet my untimely demise). Really, my kids are not better off, or more ergonomically designed because of the millions of strollers. Kids who've had nothing but organic fibre clothes made by silkworms from Awesomeville aren't in any better position than kids in regular old cotton. Trust me, they will outgrow, out last, out live and break everything else, do not spend a mint and do not feel inferior because someone has the baby high chair supreme deluxe 5000. Their money, they can spend it how they want, but in the end, their kid is still going to toss that oatmeal across the room just the same. Now if there truly was a device that washed, dried, folded, hung up and put away all the laundry....THEN be jealous.
5. Parenting philosophies. Geeze louise the things women put themselves through, comparing parenting styles is just crazy. You know what is the best parenting philosophy? The one that works best for your family, just like the one that works best for the Joneses family is the best philosophy for them. Believe me, the kids who are getting McDonalds once a week are not suffering horribly compared to the kids who are getting homegrown home made lentil cakes. I was once talking to a father of two grown women, both of the sisters had children about the same time. One was a serious attachment parent, and the other was more mainstream. The grandfather remarked that the kids were pretty much the same kids, neither more brighter, well adjusted or happier. It was a lightbulb for me, both of these kids were loved, but raised fairly differently, however other than superficial things, they both had similar values, attachments and ways of going about being kids. Seriously, if you put a bunch of kids in a room with different loving parenting philosophies, you're not going to have an easy time telling which kid was raised this way or that.
6. SAHM vs WOHMs. Do not torture yourself. Do what you need to do. There's been enough kids who have had to go to daycare who are just as socially well adjusted and bonded to their parents as those who have been raised at home. I speak as a former stay at home parent. My kids friends...still enjoy the same bum and fart and poop jokes, still bring their moms flowers, they're not burning down houses or torturing animals because they were in daycare from an early age.
Bottom line is don't get sucked into the competition game. Mommy groups can be wonderful things, if you find the right ones. I was lucky in that I had the right one which had given me my core group of amazing friends whom I can go to with any problem without being judged. Other ones, notsomuch. If you're stuck in the latter, run! Run away! There are cool ones out there. And in the meantime, remember that in 6 years from now when your little ones are on the playground, learning how to read, learning how much fun it is to gross you out with their wiggling tooth, what you put on their arse to catch their poop, what you fed them, whether you used an exersaucer for 20 minutes of respite is going to have little bearing on the human beings they grow into. Its the love you give them, the examples you provide and the values you instill that will determine what kind of person they grow into. Believe me, 10 years from now as I'm dealing with all the trials and tribulations of THREE teenagers, I'll be lucky enough to remember what I did in these early days, I'll just be trying to survive and enjoy the wild ride they're sure to provide. So plllllleeeeeease try not to torture yourself too much and keep in mind that parenthood is a lifetime gig and if you're getting stressed about these microissues now, you're in for a very bumpy ride later. Keep the big picture in mind and believe me, whether your kid wears Gymboree or George brand clothing, will be a very small pixel in that frame.