Any mom or mom-to-be out there knows that every one of the decisions that we make is apparently up for judgement by committee. Everyone has something to say, sometimes overwhelming negative, and it gets really, really old.
Oliver is 9.5 months old already (I can’t believe it), and the one consistent judgement I’ve felt from late pregnancy until now is related to nutrition. Am I going to breast feed or bottle feed? Are you sure that you can’t just breast feed normally? What do you mean you exclusively pump? When are you starting solids? Did you give cereal? What about purees? Are you only feeding organic? What about gluten-free? Are you introducing foods with high allergic reactions? Are you still nursing? What about finger foods? Baby led weaning?
Breastfeeding vs. Formula Feeding
I have a secret… I really did not think I wanted to try breastfeeding, but I let myself feel pushed into it by random strangers on the internet. I bought into the ridiculous notion that formula would not be good enough, despite the millions of children who do just fine on it, despite that I also was formula fed from the beginning and I’m not defective in any way.
I’m glad I did it, and though I ended up pumping exclusively for 5 months, it worked for that amount of time. We always supplemented with formula, which, guess what, is not poison, and has in no way hurt my son. I refuse to feel demeaned by the decision I made to stop giving my son breast milk, and I will defend anyone who is put down by those who think they can parent all of us. I don’t know what we’ll end up doing for our next child, but I can safely say it will be a decision that will only be made by my husband and myself.
The reverse can be said for those who judge mothers who, in their view, are nursing too long. That is so amazingly not any of your business. Breast milk is very, very healthy for infants and toddlers and if someone is still nursing past 1, past 2, that is absolutely great for them. Let them be. It’s not your decision to make.
We started solids at 4.5 months with Oliver’s doctor’s go-ahead. The 4 month solid starters vs. the 6 month solid starters is another ridiculous judgement I felt. We started based on a medical decision from my son’s doctor. I’m happy if you decide you want to wait until 6 months. Good for you. My son displayed all the signs of being interested in eating actual food, and we have not found anything he doesn’t like, or is allergic to, in the 5 months he’s been eating them. He’s a healthy boy who, like his mom, likes to eat.
And I don’t give him all organic, all natural either. I buy the Gerber purees, and he gets puffs, but he also gets Cheerios, and bread and jam, and bits and pieces of our meals that are not whole grain, organic foods. He gets gluten. He has had a splash of actual milk in his scrambled eggs. There is sugar in the jam.
Here’s the thing… our babies, our lives, and our choices are all different. We all do what’s best for us, and unless I’m feeding my baby dog food, I don’t think it’s any of your business to judge me, or your other friends, for what we decide to feed our children.
If being a parent has taught me one thing, it is that single moms and dads should get a goddamn medal.
And I say this not as a single father, but as a happily married husband with a Wonderwife and a veritable army of family members who have helped us take care of our little guy.
Still, these past eight months have given me at least some idea what that might be like.
Let me explain: I work a 9-5 job, and my wife works retail. Because she has a variable schedule, every few weeks my wife closes from Friday-Tuesday. This means that on those days, I go to work, then come home and take care of the little man at night.
Those nights are fun: I show him rocket launch videos on YouTube (his reaction: OOOOOHH!), teach him how to do a high-five and desperately attempt to get him to say dinosaur.
Still, by the time the early evening rolls around, I’m usually dead tired. Nonetheless, his sleep schedule is as constant as a countdown, so I usually have several hours before he will go to bed.
When the second or third consecutive day of working/baby-watching rolls around, the early evening hours can be pretty hard, even if he’s in a good mood. And if he’s sick, or has teething problems, look out, it can be outright rough. If it’s been a rough day, when the wife gets home, I immediately put her on baby-watching duty (or if he’s actually asleep, I make her monitor-spy), and I try to find a way to unwind.
When I pass the baton, that’s usually when I realize just how good my wife and I have got it. We’ve got each other, and we’re only a phone call away from the grandparents cavalry.
But single parents don’t have the same luxury; my stressful hours are probably just their average workday. The effort they put in almost always goes unremarked and unrewarded. On the contrary, our culture often disparages such parents, especially single moms. That’s ludicrous, as these parents are doing exactly what they should be doing: everything in their power to care for their kids. Too often, our society focuses on how the pregnancy (and single-parent situation) came about–teen pregnancy, births out of wedlock–than the daily, non-stop work that is the life of a single parent.
Such a focus is unhelpful; once the child is here, there’s no reason to bother focusing on the circumstances of its conception. That parent (and the child) need help, real assistance, not moralizing and condescension.
Instead, the focus should be on helping the single parent. After all, we should want them to succeed, in order to give the child raised in the single-parent household the best chance to thrive–and preferably grow up in a stable two-partner household in the future.