Readers — Just got this letter from a new mom in a town that prides itself on health, humanity, even hippie-ness…up to a point, I guess. Her name is Esmeralda, she’s an artist, and I don’t think what she is going through is unique:
Dear Free-Range Kids: I thought of you recently when I took my baby Wesley to the doc. There were some hyperfear tactics that they were already trying to push on me. It was startling! I felt like I was being subjected the equivalent of subliminal advertising.
My husband, Hunter, is a light smoker, and does so outside of our house. At our son’s two-month appointment, the doctor spent a sizable chunk of time trying to convince us that if my honey smoked at all, even outside, the smoke would magically migrate into the house and give our baby respiratory problems. When we expressed incredulity, she gave us this look of condescension and continued to try and extract some kind of guilty admission that he was trying to quit or at least he felt really bad.
It was so irritating. I quit smoking when I got pregnant, but I’m not a militant convert. My husband doesn’t smoke in the car, or around our son at all. She tried to tell us that the smoke on his skin would give our son a debilitating disease, even though my husband washes his hands every time he comes back inside.
Last week, at the boy’s four-month appointment, we had to fill out a questionnaire about his development and our habits of care for him. The questions were just as overblown. Things like: Did we ever leave him alone in a room for even a couple minutes? (Mom does occasionally have to pee.) Did we ever lay him down for sleep in any position not on his back? (I’ll sometimes set him on his side when he naps on the couch with me.) The questions were reasonable… but only just.
It felt like this was the start of indoctrination into being obsessively vigilant. If I was not there *all the time,* or if I didn’t do everything according to the accepted doctrine, then I was somehow neglectful. The tone of the questionnaire left me feeling totally insufficient.
On that occasion we saw a different doctor who was much less disapproving than the first, and also somewhat dismissive of the questionnaire. It was quite a relief!
It may be much ado about nothing, but it really feels like almost every ad, article, questionnaire, TV crime show, doctor’s stern opinion — all of them are designed to turn me into someone who feels nothing but impending doom. That I must always be on the verge of an aneurysm or I’m not doing my job. I’ve only been a mom for 4 1/2 months and I’m already feeling the pressure!
I’ve attatched a photo because I’m not scared of using real names or of putting my baby’s face on the Internet for the millions of pedophiles who are no doubt reading my emails to steal. — Esmeralda