Readers — Here’s a great post from Amy Wilson, whose book, “When Did I Get Like This? The Screamer, The Worrier, The Dinosaur-Chicken-Nugget-Buyer, And Other Moms I Swore I’d Never Be” just came out this week. Congrats, Amy! You can follow her on Twitter (amywlsn), visit her blog, check her out on Facebook, or order her book. And in meantime: You can enjoy her article right now!
How Did This Happen? By Amy Wilson
I did not think that I would be a worrying mother.
I thought motherhood would be when I finally relaxed.
As the oldest of six kids– and one of 25 grandchildren — I started changing diapers and loading dishwashers before I could write my name in script. So I was pretty sure that motherhood would be second nature for me. And it was—or should I say, it could have been.
It was only when I listened too carefully to the “experts” that I lost my way.
I listened to the experts who told me that the doctors and nurses at the hospital were the enemy, out to sabotage my “better” childbirth unless I educated them on how to provide superior care.
I listened to the experts who told me that if I let anyone give my newborn a bottle, EVEN ONCE, I was doomed to fail as a nursing mother.
I listened to the experts who told me that gaining more than 35 pounds while pregnant was both risky and lazy, that my child should be walking by 12 months or else a specialist should be summoned, and that any television before two was dooming my toddler to a lifetime of pudding-brains.
I found every such absolute thrust upon today’s mothers impossible to achieve, and therefore spent a unreasonable portion of my early years as a mother feeling bad about myself, and worrying about how my children might suffer thanks to my sub-par parenting choices. I was a sucker for all the messages of self-doubt that mothers receive from every corner: advertising, the Internet, scary news stories, other mothers with a chip on their shoulders and something to prove.
Seven years and three children later, I know better. (Most of the time.) Now I get mad when I see something out there designed to make mothers hysterical, only so our society can then make fun of those same mothers because they are hysterical. The New York Times printed a story two weeks ago saying that fat babies are on a “obesity trajectory that is hard to alter by the time they’re in kindergarten.” Nowhere in the article was there a voice of reason, saying that by “fat babies” they of course did not mean the typically delicious thigh rolls of an eight-month old. Next month, however, there will probably be another article, snorting with derision at the crazy and destructive mothers who are rationing their perfectly healthy babies’ rice cereal so they won’t be fat.
I think mothers have to stand up to this fearmongering when we see it. We need to be honest with one another about the realities of our lives, and about how far they are from these silly standards. Sometimes I think that laid-back mothering can only be earned by experience, and not learned. But if the more Free-Range among us can call out the scare tactics for the nonsense that they are, we might save some other mothers out there a whole lot of worrying—and help them have more fun along the way. — A.W.