I don’t normally do this (please see all the posts I have NOT written of late), but today I came across something that set my blood to boiling. After four years of being a reluctant player in the Mommy Wars game, I thought I was pretty immune to all the ridiculous hate parents can and do throw at one another. I was so wrong. It all started out innocently enough: A post claiming sympathy for moms out in public with crying children in carts or strollers or what-have-you. Mothers not carrying their children about their daily tasks during the brief periods of time in which the author saw them.
From this, the author drew the only logical conclusion: These mothers were harming their children by not holding them when they cried. No matter how short a time she saw them nor what the circumstances were nor the condition of mother and child, her advice? Mothers, don’t let your babies cry alone. Pick them up. Haven’t had a shower or peed or eaten? PIck up your crying babe.
Yep, because that’s not a one-way ticket to PPD hell or anything.
I’ve seen this before, but I think what got me this time was the way she veiled her clear criticism behind faux concern: Oh, I know she looked tired, and I WANTED to offer to help her, but I decided that would be too weird, so I just got online and blogged about how she should be a better parent by holding her baby instead of pushing him/her in a stroller.
Why is it faux concern? Because if the author genuinely wanted to help, she would have. Instead, she just parlayed other mothers’ misery into a post extolling her own personal brand of parenting.
I guess what I’m saying is this: The next time you see a parent out in public and they look overwhelmed, and you’re tempted to condescendingly extoll the virtues of always holding their baby, don’t. Instead, hold the baby your damn self. Know a new mom who’s at her wits’ end with a colicky baby? Don’t tell her, essentially, “Fuck you, pick up that baby who’s screamed for six out of the last eight hours.” Offer to watch the baby while she sleeps. Know that mom and dad just need half an hour to shower and pee in peace? Hold the baby so they can take care of themselves, too.
Parents who have neglected themselves or given themselves over 100% to a baby’s needs with no thought to their own won’t last long; they’re more likely to fight with each other, to lose their tempers, to do irreparable damage to their marriages or relationships in sleep-deprived anger, or to hurt themselves or others in a daze of exhaustion. And single parents? I honestly have no idea how they manage, because it was hard enough for us to make it through those early days with two of us taking turns!
It takes so little for us to help one another and to build a healthy parenting community. Just hold a baby!