Sunday, July 29, 2012

Confessions of a Mildly Detached Mother

In hindsight, I'm ashamed that I spent so much time arming my child and myself against the party hostess's unfiltered judgements. Cloth diaper on baby bottom? Check. Bottle of breast milk (not formula), casually but clearly identified as such? Check. I'd already considered ways I could steer the conversation away from daycare and its inevitable role in our future. Let her tongue click later. I just had to get through this one party.

It was all going so well. She graciously offered to let the baby sleep in any one of their quieter rooms, if I felt comfortable leaving her alone. Certainly, I said. I wasn't one of those parents who had to hover over their kid non-stop. Not like my friend so-and-so with their toddler, I said.

The party hostess's face fell. Obviously, she had hovered over her kids when they were that age. In mocking my friend, I had mocked her, too. And then I just felt like an asshole.

Cursed judgment, it's so contagious. The party hostess tells other parents how they should raise their kids. And when she's not around, those other parents criticize her for homeschooling her brood. It never ends. In my ideal world, everyone stops giving a shit what anyone else thinks and everyone also keeps their mouths shut. But I don't see that happening, especially since I can't even live up to that standard.

Child rearing shouldn't be a competition, but that's how it feels at times. And I've gotta say, the attachment parents are usually the worst. I use "attachment" as a catch-all term for the generally liberal, usually middle class parents who are philosophically dedicated to at least some of the following - natural childbirth, breastfeeding, co-sleeping, organics (food, fabrics, etc.), cloth diapering, cooking their own baby food, delaying or refusing immunizations and never, EVER letting their kid "cry it out". Strict adherence to these methods requires sacrifices of time, money and sleep. And some among us seem to be keeping score. Since my days of working in nonprofits I've never met so many cutthroat martyrs. Who will give the most of themselves purely for the benefit of their child?

Answer - not me. Sure, I share many of the aforementioned values and lifestyle choices. But, my reasons for doing what I do are not always based on what's best for baby. In many ways, I am mildly detached from my child. This is how I keep myself sane. I'm proudly imperfect and in this series of blog posts, I’d like to tell you exactly how ~

For the first six months of my baby’s life, I fed her nothing but breast milk. I was able to do this because I am both lucky and privileged.


  • Nursing your baby does not cause significant physical pain
  • You don't rely on a prescription drug to get through your day-to-day life
  • You don’t have any serious issues with the mechanics (latch-on, milk supply, etc.)
then you are lucky like me.

  • You are able to stay at home with your baby for an extended period of time
  • You work for people who are genuinely supportive of your nursing habit
  • You own a breast pump
then you are privileged like me.

Breastfeeding is a fantastic experience and I’m truly thrilled if you or your partner are able to do it. But please acknowledge your luck and privilege. And if you must judge parents who feed their babies formula, please use your pre-mouth filter. It’s really none of your business.

So, yeah, I’m a World Health Organization superstar, and I continue to nurse my baby between solid food meals. Bully for me! Alas, I would probably not qualify as a La Leche League superstar, because I do not always feed my baby whenever she wants. If I know she's not needing food and I don’t feel like it, I may find another way to placate her.

And speaking of placating someone when they’re cranky - I broke out my breast pump for the first time back in December and have used it frequently since. Yet, I didn’t go back to work until last month. Why would I bother pumping if I’m gonna be around my baby anyway? So I can have a couple beers and not worry about it getting into her milk. Sometimes mommy needs her bottle, too. This is what I mean about being mildly detached. My life is mostly about her, but I get to enjoy these little patches of pure self interest. I’m able to keep my balance and I think we both fare better in the end.

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