I’ve only been a mother for 6 months. During this short time, I’ve already encountered challenges I never anticipated and have been forced to make decisions I didn’t feel ready to make. As a mother, you constantly learn on the job because no amount of parenting classes can really, truly prep you for the moment that tiny baby is placed in your arms.
Life as a mother is hard. Emotions rage, babies demand, hormones fly off the charts, your house falls apart, and the worst part is that other mommas constantly boast in their method of handling it all.
You’ve been handed a brand new baby and now the question is, “What are YOU going to do?” Enter stage right: MOM GUILT.
1: Mid-wife or Doctor? In recent decades, this hasn’t been much of a question. The generally accepted, normal answer was allowing an obstetrician to deliver your baby. But now, with more recent studies on medication side-effects and observations of birth around the world, many mothers are choosing natural birth outside of a hospital setting. As a mother, a typical question you might receive is, “Where did you deliver?” Depending on your answer and who is asking, judgments and unwanted advice may ensue. I chose a natural, birthing center delivery which my husband wholeheartedly supported.
2. Breast or Bottle? There are obvious pros to breastfeeding. But if you have ever picked up a container of formula at a grocery store only to be told by the cashier, “breast is best” you are not alone. Breastfeeding advocates can be ruthless. This is one that I personally have struggled with. I went into breastfeeding assuming that I would love it. But I hated it. Then I figured I would like it once it got easier and less painful. But I still don’t enjoy it. I think it is weird and it cramps my style. The Facebook mom groups I am in are filled with mothers who LOOOOOVE snuggling with their babies while breastfeeding and advertise such. In the first weeks post partum I felt guilt over not loving it and failing to experience its apparent “serotonin-boosting” abilities. I wondered, “Should I feel like this? What’s wrong with me?!” I chose to breastfeed based on health reasons, but very seriously contemplated quitting.
3. Vaccinate or Not? Some people get personal with this one. “Oh you vaccinate? Well, we love our children and don’t want them to have autism.” There are studies pro and anti vaccinations. There is no right or wrong here folks. But this discussion is a Pandora’s Box. Tread carefully. And don’t use this as a conversation topic when trying to make friends. I chose selective and delayed vaccinations (basically middle of the road).
4. Cloth or Disposable? Okay, despite the “green” conversation out there, diapers cause waste. You either use a freakish amount of power and water cleaning your cloth diapers or you chuck disposables into a land fill. There just isn’t a non-waste-ful way to get rid of your child’s….waste. On the flip side, cloth diapers are quite hygienic, contrary to popular belief. There are pros and cons to both. I ultimately chose to use disposables. We started with disposables, then did cloth, then did partial cloth, and now use exclusively disposables. I decided the cost was probably worth the convenience.
5. Schedule Feed or Demand Feed? Oooo this is a big one. It can be difficult for those with a set opinion to see it from the other point of view. A decision on this will lump you into one of two categories: 1) a mother who doesn’t care if her baby is hungry or 2) a mother who lets her child call all the shots. Neither stereotype are true. But these are real, legitimate problems in the mind of the opposing party. I chose….yeah, I still don’t know what I’m doing in this regard. Someone might ask, “When did he last eat?” My response: *crickets*
6. Work or Stay at Home? This is a really important option for my husband and I. We believe babies need the stability of a parent at home. But, despite that opinion, I’m willing to admit this choice may not be for everyone. I get that. Totally. It is not easy living on one income in this day and age. If you choose to stay, stay well. If you chose to work, work well. And above all, be available for your kids when you clock out. Many families have two working parents and they are turning out juuuuust fine. Obviously, I chose to stay at home.
7. Sleep Train or Not? Some people “train” their babies to sleep through the night and take good naps. There is the cry it out method, the partial cry it out method, the put-down-pick-up method, the attachment parenting style (which basically caters to the baby’s preferences) etc. Well, this momma has tried all of them and my baby still doesn’t sleep through the night. The guilt in this department has been a battle. Example: “I’m such a terrible mother! I’m SO inconsistent.” That’s a lie. I’m not a terrible mother, I’m human. A human that needs sleep just as much as anyone else. Our sleep saga has caused many tears and has challenged my personal growth more than any other problem I have faced in motherhood. But regardless of which side you take, please avoid making ridiculous statements about other methods. Like, “Letting your child cry herself to sleep causes emotional trauma and is child abuse.” That’s a knee slapper. No, it doesn’t. Those people need to do their homework. Conversely, don’t say, “That baby is two and still sleeps with his parents? I know who the authority is in THAT home!” I have tried cry-it-out sleep training *gasp* and so far it has gotten us the closest to good night time sleeping than any other method. But, I am not hardcore nor super convinced. My best advice to expectant families would be to read SEVERAL baby sleep books BEFORE baby arrives to decide what method you want to try.
8. Homemade Baby Food or Convenience Options? Preservatives in baby food are of the devil…according to some. Make your own, buy it off the shelf, regurgitate like a penguin….whatever. Just feed your kids. And don’t inwardly feel superior to other mothers if you take the extra 20 minutes to prepare your baby’s food. Because I endorse healthy eating, I would like to make my own baby food when that time comes. Will I? Stay tuned.
In light of all this, a verse comes to mind: “Am I now trying to win the approval of human beings, or of God? Or am I trying to please people? If I were still trying to please people, I would not be a servant of Christ” (Galatians 1:10). I am not innocent in the man-pleaser department. So many times I have thought things like, “What will Aiden’s pediatrician say when I tell him we don’t want that vaccination…what will she think when I tell her cloth didn’t work for us…what will my family say if I tell them I don’t want a hospital birth…etc”. The answers to those? WHO CARES!
Mommys and Daddys should make these decisions together and before the Lord. The main-stream opinion doesn’t matter. When I was struggling with breastfeeding, a friend of mine, Lenae, gave me really beautiful advice. She said,
“And honestly, in the long run it doesn’t matter that much which approach we use. If you watch kids at a park you can’t tell who was a c-section or natural birth, who was formula or breast fed, who got homemade baby food and who ate out of those jars. Please don’t make yourself miserable over it. Aiden feeling his momma relaxed and happy is more important than if he’s breast or bottle fed.”
Amen. Mothers have enough stress to deal with. If you are a convenience momma, work it. If you are a momma who likes the added pressure of blending carrots and scrubbing pooh outta cloth diapers, do it! But most importantly, don’t judge your own self-worth based on what you accomplish or how you measure up to the way other people are doing things. It’s not worth it and it will steal your joy.