I’ve had a good summer. I’ve spent this summer being me: daughter, wife, mother, grandmother, woman over fifty-five who needs to get in shape. I’ve done some reading for school. I’ve worked on my assignment sheets, typed up questions, gone to meetings, and taken a couple of computer classes, but mainly I just did what I really like to do. What I really like to do involves HOME. I’ve gone back to baking bread, learned new ways to make yummy veggies, cut up watermelons and cleaned out under the stairs. I’ve gone swimming and hiking with grandchildren. I’ve rocked little ones, made peanut butter and jelly sandwiches, filled kiddie pools, hooked up sprinklers, and attended plays and programs. I helped my mother throw a bridal shower, went on a road trip all by myself, and tried on many pairs of jeans even though I’ve yet to buy any. I’ve also walked and run about four hundred miles. Those miles gave me some good thinking time.
Maybe it’s the fact that I’ve spent so much time with the littles. Maybe it’s that I feel so much better than I have for a long time. Maybe seeing my girls and their friends post about their lives on Instagram and Facebook has made me nostalgic. Probably it’s all of those things, but in any case, I’ve been reflecting a good bit on motherhood then (1980’s and 90’s) and now. I’ve written about this before. I have a great deal of admiration for today’s young moms. Being a mom in an internet dominated world is a daunting task. I salute you. I admire you. I also have a little bone to pick with some of you. As I’ve had time to follow links posted by various young moms this summer, I’ve found a theme that disturbs me. I think the move toward natural birth and breast-feeding, back to cloth diapering, baby wearing, and baby led weaning is great. Terrific. You go, girls! However, I dislike the implication I have seen in several articles and posts that this is the first generation to get it all together as moms. I read one post about how horrible and oppressive we were because we put our babies in cribs. It made us sound like a whole generation of Mama Stalins and compared the nurseries we spent so much love and time and care preparing to Siberia.
I applaud the move to normalize breastfeeding in public. Those of us in my generation who nursed had to know all the nooks and crannies in the mall where a mom could go to feed her baby. I guess we were wimps, but let me tell you it took some courage to stand up to older doctors and declare our intent to breastfeed at all, especially in the early ’80’s. We did what we could. It wasn’t until I gave birth to my third child in 1985 that I was able to labor and deliver in the same room. Birthing rooms were a new concept. We pushed for that. We may not have had doulas or birth photographers, but we managed to get our husbands in there for the delivery. You’re welcome.
And while I’m on the subject of things we did, you can’t get more “crunchy” than do-it-yourself education. The homeschool movement–yep–that was us. Homeschooling still wasn’t legal in several states when I started in 1987, and I don’t even want to mention public opinion. It was rough.
Here’s another thing I’ve noticed. You all can be really mean and snarky to one another. I’ve seen people comment on pictures of really cute kids in car seats, not saying how cute the child is, but criticizing the placement of the chest clip. Really? Do you do that out of real concern, or do you do it because it makes you feel superior? When I brought my first child home from the hospital in 1981, there were no mandatory car seat laws, and there were very few decent car seats available.
By the time my second child was born in 1983, we couldn’t leave the hospital without an approved seat. That’s progress. My grandchildren are much safer on the go than their parents were. I’m thankful. I’m not saying that we weren’t ever mean to each other back in the day, but at least our snarky comments couldn’t go viral.
There are always going to be differences in parenting choices. Even within a family, parents might make different choices about feeding, diapering, or education from child to child based on needs, personality, and circumstances. Most decisions involving our children are difficult to make. The fact that a friend makes a different choice for her child is NOT a judgement against you or your parenting. Most of us do the best job we can. Being a grandparent is interesting. My three daughters and my daughter-in-law are all different kinds of moms. They make different choices, use different styles. Some of my grandchildren have been breastfed, others did fine on formula. Name just about any gadget or method bouncing around in parenting today, and someone in our family has tried it. I’m proud of all of them. They are all doing an amazing job. I’m cheering them on.
I learned this from my own mother. She came to help me when my first child was born. I was determined to breastfeed. I wanted to do it because it was best for my baby. I was also highly motivated because it was inexpensive and we were on a tight budget. It was very difficult at first. My mother gave birth in the day when they bound your breasts after childbirth and gave you drugs to dry up your milk. The party line was that formula was more hygienic. Yet as I struggled, as all first-time moms do, through those early days my mother encouraged my efforts. I remember one evening when she brought Amy to me for a feeding. She sat down on the edge of the bed and watched us. She got a little teary. She told me that she wished she had known how wonderful breast feeding was, how peaceful, how simple. She didn’t take my decision to breast feed as a critical commentary on her choice not to do so, and I didn’t judge her for her decision. We were mothers of different decades, but we’re family and we’re part of the great fellowship of motherhood. We are FOR one another. Her encouragement pushed me to keep going, to be successful in feeding my baby. I’m grateful.
The Fellowship of Motherhood! All of us have had throw up in our hair, breast milk or formula, and urine on our shirts, and peanut butter and jelly stains on the knees of our stretch pants, wind suit, sweats or yoga pants. Does it really matter whether the peanut butter was natural or Peter Pan or the jelly organic or Welch’s? Does it matter if we put our babies in a bassinet, a crib, or a co-sleeper? I don’t think so. Here’s to differences and lessons learned. Here’s to my grandchildren being safer and healthier than my children. Before you know it, that baby tied on your back in the beautiful organic cotton and hemp woven wrap will be having babies of her own. It’s the way life is, and it’s good. Embrace it.