The modern parenting movement is demanding. Raising two young daughters in a highly progressive neighborhood in one of America's most liberal cities (San Francisco) has had its challenges. When the girls were babies, the playground moms had an unspoken, yet very evident competition. The winner was always the mom who breastfed the longest, didn't own a television or stroller, made her own baby food, co-slept and whose baby's first words were uttered in at least two different languages. I lost, on all counts.
My second daughter weaned herself at a mere 3 months of age and I made her exactly three batches of pureed vegetables before declaring the entire process of buying, washing, prepping, steaming and mashing to be annoyingly laborious and switched to dry Cheerios and prepackaged food. I half-heartedly co-slept the first few months with each child, only because I was too lazy to scramble down the hall five times a night for feedings. In addition, we own two televisions, three strollers and the only second language taught to either child was via the trusted teacher Dora the Explorer.
Yes, I often took the easy road in parenting. But, why does "easy" need to mean "bad"? Take television, for example. Last year, Jessica Gottlieb, a Los Angeles-based parenting blogger, commented that her family would never sit down to a meal without the help of Blue's Clues. "It doesn't make you a bad parent to do something that is easy," she said in an interview on KQED Radio. Yes, turning on a half-hour cartoon was probably the easiest method Ms. Gottlieb could use to find thirty minutes to prepare dinner. She could have made the effort to set up an art station at the kitchen counter complete with glitter glue, foam stickers and pompoms. However, that would also require no less than five interventions between squabbling siblings over who had the purple glitter first and fifteen minutes of clean-up on top of the dinner dishes. Television may not only be easier, but healthier for the sanity of the parent.
My first child's introduction to a daily routine of Sprout television began at the tender age of 2 1/2. Every time I needed to put her infant sister down for a nap in the nursery, my toddler would shed her clothing and pee on her wool rug. Every time! However, if I turned on Max and Ruby, she happily sat still while I attended to the baby, and afterward her room was stench-free.
In my opinion, one crucial flaw of many contemporary parenting philosophies is that they fail to take into account the mother or father. While an organic, screen-free and natural childhood may all be fabulous ideals, they are not always practical. Should the needs of the child always outweigh those of the parent? Can't we find balance? A frazzled, exhausted parent is not beneficial to the children or the family.
The same holds for breastfeeding, co-sleeping and jarred baby food. Shortcuts are not inherently problematic. While I understand that homemade purees are preferable (many prepackaged food contains bisphenol-a), there are a variety of commercial brands that do not, including Sprout Baby and Plum Organics. If a parent chooses to spend her time doing one of the numerous other duties associated with parenthood instead of steaming and mashing sweet potatoes, it may be easier, but it is not bad.
As a community of parents, let's agree on one thing: we do not need to reinvent the child-caring wheel with each new baby. We are all doing the best we can for our children and our families.
Taking the easier route does not make you a bad parent, it makes you a less complicated parent.