After four kids, ten moves and nearly two decades, we are still blissfully in love (most of the time) and I found myself back in the state I was born and raised in. It has definitely been a journey. In fact, on our 18th anniversary we pulled the last of our stuff up over the pass and into Montana, leaving our surprise love, Idaho, behind. But Montana is a great place. The last best place according to some. And we fully intend to explore as much of it as we can! Join us on our continued adventure through life, love and other stuff that comes with it.

Monday, June 21, 2010

Some more conference thoughts, and such

When I was putting the museum display together I learned more than I dreamed I would. One thing, and I blogged about it earlier, is the universal need for the practice of babywearing and how we as a culture have lost that. The other thing I learned, or rather learned again, is that we as a culture pretty much throw our young mothers out there with little to no information and then sit back and wonder why they are having trouble breastfeeding and why they are suffering from post-partum depression and why they feel isolated and such.

A while back I blogged about the problem with women. And then I realized I had more to say, so I blogged about it again.

The whole idea behind those two posts was basically that we are not raising our children to raise children. We are raising them to go to college and follow their dreams. Because that is what is important in our society--every individual must reach their potential. And parents are the driving force behind this.

But then there are girls in China who are raising silk worms, harvesting silk, spinning thread from that silk and designing gorgeous baby carriers for babies who aren't even conceived yet.

In fact, these girls aren't even married and they might even wear these baby carriers to market to attract a potential husband.

And in Thailand there are girls (and boys) at a very young age who are carrying their younger siblings in beautiful carriers and taking care of them while their parents are working close by. It's their job as older siblings and it is part of their training--informal or not.

Both these societies, as well as I'm sure many other societies around the world, are training their children up to be parents. And as a society, we have forgotten how to do that. Now we have all these parents out there blindly feeling their way through parenthood as islands. And many times, islands are very lonely and very sad. (And somehow marriage got caught up in this cycle, too, since we aren't training them to be good spouses, either. But that's another subject for another day.)

I was that island. When I was pregnant with Grace seven years ago, we made the decision (we had actually made it before we were even married) that I would quit my job and stay home with our children. And beyond that, I had no idea what I was going to do.

My mom played a big part in the decisions that I made after that. She was a pioneer of sorts in the 1970s and nursed all her children. She even wore my two youngest brothers in a Snugli. And she really encouraged me to nurse my children. That put me on one path I don't regret going down. I went out and found support before Grace was even born. That was key to my success.

But after she was born, I was still an island. We lived out of town and all my friends were associated with the job I no longer went to. And I needed to find new friends. It took me a good year to find friends that I felt were "real" friends, not just people I considered acquaintances. And I didn't know what else to do other than troll for friends. I took baby and me classes. I went to the mall with my giant travel system. I struck up conversations with folks at church and other random people who made promising eye contact.

Since then, I have encountered innumerable mothers who are in the exact same situation. They had a baby. They quit their job. And now they are trolling for friends and information.

I don't have all the answers. And what answers I do have aren't based on a formal training of any sort. The answers I do have are based on my experiences over the last seven years. And really, I'm a little angry with society for making moms islands.

For example:

Breast is best! (But if you run into trouble, we don't have the time or resources to help you figure out what the problem is and we'll just tell you to give the baby formula because that's just easier for us.)

We don't SEE moms in public nursing their babies or wearing their babies or even being friendly to one another. We see moms with giant travel systems and bottles eyeing one anothers' storllers with envey and disgust. And we hear about moms getting kicked out of restaurants and off of airplanes because they were nursing their baby.

We don't have friends who have children. And if we do, we aren't really friends with them because we've been so different for so long that we feel silly asking them for advice.

We read parenting books and parenting magazines. But the truth is they are so contradictory and we don't know really if any of them actually KNOW what they are talking about. Are they parents? Are their kids happy, healthy and well adjusted? We have no idea!

Do I really need a travel system, a swing, a bouncey seat, a play mat and a handful of other plastic devices taking up 3/4 of my house? Really?

We buy stuff for the baby assuming it's safe and our baby will be safe using it. But then we learn that it's recalled for some reason or another and we need to either throw it out or we need to take it back.

And the rules keep changing. Yes, you should give your child a fever-reducer to bring the fever down. No, you shouldn't give a fever-reducer because it's the fever that kills the bug that is causing the problem in the first place. Oh, wait . . . is that right? I don't remember.

All the while we are feeling inadequate and depressed because we are looking at other parents who seem to have it together and such and wondering what we are missing and what we are doing wrong. She always looks so nice with her styled hair and her make-up all done and her car is clean and her house is spotless. And her children are dressed to the nines. Does she sleep?? Ever?

Then we wonder what all those people in other parts of the world do to raise children. And the answer is simple:

They were trained up in the raising of children. And their instincts are turned on and working full speed ahead. They have places to go when they have questions that need answers. They have help and support because their community and society knows that being an island parent is not something that is healthy or beneficial to anyone in their community.

Where does babywearing fit into this picture? For me, after my mother, the babywearing community is what started it all. They've supported me through this journey into parenthood. And they've helped me learn to listen to my instincts and parent my children in ways that make more sense to me than a bunch of plastic containters and contradictory advice. No, I'm not perfect. But some days I look at my beautiful, dirty, happy, well-nourished, mostly polite children and want to burst with pride.

Experiencing the conference once again solidified all that for me. And more. My children and my family are better off because of babywearing and all the people who are out there helping moms like me figure out how to raise children and not screw them up too badly. And yes, I will continue to shout it from the mountain tops. Because it's that amazing and that important to our families, our mothers and fathers, our children, and our society.


Arie said...

Clapping!!! Heidi, I love this, it is awesome & so very, very true.

Stefani O said...

This is a wonderful article. I completely agree. I am part of the fortunate few who saw all my younger siblings breastfed, carried (snugli or arms), spoken to with proper grammar, included in discussions/decisions.. We harmonized in the car and my older siblings helped raise me. I, in turn, helped raise the little ones. When I was pregnant with my first son at age 17/18, I was actually worried.. Not worried that I wouldn't know what to do, but worried because you're supposed to love your baby more than anybody in the world, and how could I love anyone more than my two-year old brother? I was taking part in everything but nursing him, because my dad was sure that we needed to know how to take care of fragile babies if we were ever going to give him grandkids!
By the way.. My heart grew, of course. And when I moved out and then had my son, I knew what to do. He turned three the day before his little brother was born and helps me in daily taskings with the baby. He's going to make a great daddy one day (he even wears his dolly!)

Andrew and Marie Harris said...

Amen! Beautifully written. We should start a "No Mom is an island" campain.

Adina said...

I love this!! And you are spot on about mothering across the board. In the community (and job probably) that I'm in, I've found to be a working mom to be just as much of an island too. All the places where I could get support are during my office hours and my coworkers are so not the parents that I want to be. My daughter is two and I still really struggle with this.

RE: peanut said...

I was just thinking about this the other day. I have been going to a mom and me class locally, just so I can have some special time with Finleigh while Ryan's at school. Some of the moms there (and not all first timers), are SO INSECURE it's frightening. These are intelligent women reduced by doctors, magazines and "friends" to piles of insecurity. One mama's pediatrician told her that at 4 months, her baby should be laid down to fall asleep on her own. This baby prefers to nurse to sleep (as is biologically appropriate). Yesterday, mom was fine with nursing this babe to sleep, and wearing her for naps. Today, because of this doctor, she feels inadequate. I asked her if she was OK with nursing/wearing her baby to sleep (because if it was an issue for her, then sure, let's try to find another way for them). She replied that she loved it. To her, I replied, then why stop? Why not trust yourself, who knows this baby better than anyone?

It saddens me, truly. I hope that I can raise my daughters both to be good wives and mothers (should they choose someday) and also to be educated (in case they choose otherwise, or life choose another path for them).