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Karen Bergreen Headshot

Why You Are A Bad Parent

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I have friends who were born to mother. A friend of mine (full disclosure, she's a nurse) popped out her baby without an epidural and gave him a bath in her hospital room within hours of his birth. All this after delightfully feeding her competently-latching little charge with her abundance of milk. She got up, only in a little pain, to perform a diaper change, followed by a swaddle which could have adorned the cover of Martha Stewart Living.

I wasn't this kind of mother. I needed a diaper-changing tutor.

Breastfeeding was a nightmare: My son was born premature, weighing only four and a half pounds. He had weak lips and couldn't latch, so I had to take off my shirt and wear a silicone hat on my nipple every time he breastfed. We were a perfect match -- I was a failure as a milk producer. I had a low milk supply and spent every two hours attached to an industrial pump, reading how-to books. I churned out a meager five ounces a day. A lactation expert came to my house and encouraged me to get donor milk.

I needed to wake him up every two-and-a-half hours in his first few weeks to make sure he drank enough.

Baths were out of the question.

I sucked.

And yet, miracles do happen. This past Sunday was Mother's Day. My son is now 8. I am happy to say that even though I was quite terrible at infant logistics, he was "desperate to give me the four cards" he had made. They were all loving, imaginative and in better handwriting than that of both of his parents (and in cursive, no less).

How could this have happened? I didn't sleep with my kid or wear him in a sling. I left him with a sitter when I went out to work. I forewent the donor milk and gave him formula that I bought in a store. My husband and I watched a particularly violent episode of The Sopranos the night we came home from the hospital.

Am I just lucky? If I believed everything I saw on TV and read in books, the answer would be yes. According to talk shows and parenting books, there is only one way to parent: the way the publisher is telling you -- as you fork over $36.99 for their book.

Last year it was Tiger Moms and then, French Moms. Now it's Non-Working-Moms-Who-Sleep-With-Their-Kids-And-Breastfeed-Them-For-Years. I have nothing against these parenting styles, but they don't work for everyone. I don't need a straight-A concert violinist at my dinner table, and I'm still not sure why I would want a French kid. I would, of course, never have been a candidate for attachment parenting. My kids would have starved, and we would need an emperor-sized bed -- as we are a family of thrashers.

Some parents don't want to breastfeed. They don't enjoy it; the kid doesn't enjoy it and it doesn't work for them. That doesn't mean their kid will be a bully. I use that example because Dr. Sears said on The View this week that attachment kids don't bully. This doesn't ring true. Wouldn't common sense suggest that bullying comes from something other than Similac and a crib?

Scientific reports from the pediatric community say that kids who breastfeed have fewer allergies, colds and fevers then non-breastfed ones. I believe this. But I question the disparity here. I know dozens of children with asthma and allergies. Most of them were breastfed. Significantly, I also know dozens of formula fed children with no health problems. I know this isn't scientific, but it is just enough to make me question the manipulation of some of the statistics that are being rammed down our throats.

Women with small babies are vulnerable. Their bodies have been through trauma, they are tired, nervous and many are in unfamiliar territory. My kids are 8 and 6 now. We have had many choices to make: dealing with death, schooling, pets, bullying, illness, video games. TV, crime, terrorism, explaining sexual predators, religion, money and others that I can't think of just now. These have all been bigger events in our family than bottle-feeding and sleeping arrangements.

Please, oh media, stop telling us what we're doing wrong as moms. If we are giving our kids crystal meth or forcing them to watch pornographic movies, you may condescend to us, but please show us more respect right now.

www.karenbergreen.net
Perfect Is Overrated, July 17, 2012