Other Mothers

Having a baby has made me insecure and guilt-ridden, apparently.  How the hell did that happen?

My subconscious drew up a complicated birth plan and a rigorous set of rules for RR.  Worse, I find myself comparing our actual experience and techniques to those imaginary standards and the experiences of everyone we meet and coming up short.  Imaginary standards.  In moments of clarity, I’m reminded that this unflattering and inherited tendency is one that nudged us toward D carrying.

Aside to RR: Look, I’m sorry.  I don’t know about these hidden expectations until they actually happen.  So if I inexplicably want you to wear that plaid skirt on the first day of school or take pottery classes, just chalk it up to mama’s craziness.  Hopefully, it’s not contagious.

Here are the things I apparently boxed us into without even realizing it: all natural, drug-free childbirth (complete with a grassy hidden glade and frolicking fawns), breastfeeding, baby-wearing and cloth diapers.  And when it hasn’t worked, I feel like we’re doing it wrong.  Don’t hit the comment button yet.  I realize this is insecurity.  I know it’s unflattering.  I know we’re doing what works for us.  But what’s WRONG with me?   Here’s what’s happening:

We had the perfect childbirth for us.  Sure, it could have gone differently.  There was, in fact, no grassy hidden glade.  I consider myself incredibly fortunate to have witnessed the miracle of my wife laboring.  When I hear other mothers talk about their eight centimeters dilated and water breaking and no epidurals, I feel a little as if we didn’t try hard.  In fact, we tried very, very hard.

We can’t breastfeed.  It didn’t work.  Thank goodness we don’t have to contend with cholera, hoards of the unvaccinated, or distant medical care. But when other mothers talk about breastfeeding and how they have to feed on-demand, I hear the implication that we have it easy because formula fed babies don’t need to eat when they first get hungry and that they sleep for days straight.  We don’t have anything easy.

We opted not to cloth diaper and thank god.  I see other mothers do it and I’m so incredibly envious.  This was something I actually articulated that I wanted.  Disposable is what worked better for us, but when I see other mothers sighing about having to change their babe from cloth to disposable for the ride home I feel an intense pang of regret.  I’m suddenly certain RR will be in diapers until she’s 18 and will be scarred for life with permanent diaper rash, not to mention the gas mask she’ll have to wear cause I’ve single-handedly ruined the environment.

Also, I said I’d wear that baby everywhere.  But you know what?  It’s summer and she’s hot.  I get enough screaming at home without poking her with a hot stick while we’re on a walk.

I dread the other imaginary standards at which I don’t even I know I’m about to fail.  I got a hint of this the other day when one of the other mothers said that they don’t ever have time to watch tv.  In fact, she can’t imagine the last time she turned it on.  At our house it’s on.  Perhaps RR’s brain has rotted already.  Good.  Then she’ll wear that plaid skirt I mentioned.

All those other mothers aren’t trying to be superior – I’m generating this inferiority complex on my own.  I wish I could be less hard on myself.  Because I’m not the mother I expected I’d be, I’m a better mother than I expected I’d be.

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7 Responses

  1. Bravo! You go girl.

  2. I feel inferior already, and I haven’t even given birth yet.

  3. Someday I’ll have to tell you all the story about the time I PINNED A CLOTH DIAPER TO MY DAUGHTER’S STOMACH.

    Yeah. Then I used disposable. And I figured: hey, at least there’s not the chance of me stabbing her again. So I must be doing something right.

  4. That other mother is probably right. She doesn’t have time to watch tv–because between diapering, feeding, soothing, twittering, facebooking, and playing Farmville, she doesn’t have time. And she can’t imagine the last time she turned it on because it hasn’t been turned off in 3 months.

    Every parent screws up their kid. the degree to which the kid is screwed up is the measuring stick.

  5. I am just waiting to see how big a difference there is between the ill-defined standards I’ve set for myself as a parent and the way things actually turn out. (Because I know that there will be one.) We shall see how it goes, I suppose…

    I think we’re all insecure and guilty, because it’s all so new and so important and so overwhelming and such a big responsibility. And we get so much conflicting advice, and everyone likes to imply that if you don’t do *exactly* the right thing, you child will end up as a serial killer or a middle school drop-out or whatever. It’s hard not to feel insecure. It’s also hard to wrap our minds around the idea that what works for someone else might not work so well for me, especially when the other person is suggesting, either subtly or blatantly, that if it isn’t working there’s something wrong with me. Or even if I’m just reading that into the situation.

    Perhaps I should blame Freud, for attributing all life’s ills to one’s parents. We’re all secretly afraid that we will screw up our children to the point where a life of crime is their only option, and then they’ll go in front of the judge and say “It’s all because my parents used disposable diapers, your honor”. Or, you know, something like that. That might be just me, though.

  6. *cheers you on*

    You rock it, mama.

  7. I think a very helpful thing is having a very, very small set of references… i.e. we don’t read a lot of how to books or websites. We’ve got a couple of local friends with kids – and they’re great and laid back too. We read all you lovely lesbian moms and love the stories of how it really is!

    We figure whatever works is good, whatever doesn’t – well, doesn’t. Breastfeeding has been a challenge, but that’s ok. I like the cloth diapers more than Ching does, so I’ll use them more when she has to go back to work.

    And we’re totally rotting Noah’s brain with tv instead of reading to him. But he’ll be very thankful we don’t sing to him!

    Hang in there – I’m realizing that all of the crap thrown at new moms is just that… crap. So much of it is tied into money and sales, or it’s this weird parenting competition. Do what makes you three happy. I know you’re all doing great!

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