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“Up All Night” Critique

15 May

I was so excited when this show started. I am a new mom, and watching the first few episodes was an almost cathartic experience. Seeing our exhaustion and challenges reflected in popular culture felt reassuring. In the first episode, the exhausted parents struggle to change their baby’s diaper, saying “we’re on your team; we’re just trying to help you.” Been there! But, as the season continued, I began to notice aspects of the show that glamorize the first year or are simply not realistic for most of us. Moreover, the show portrays unsafe, inappropriate, and misleading examples of parenting.

In general, I feel that the media glamorizes parenting. We see celebrities pregnant, and they look gorgeous and small, with cute little baby bumps. Then, after the baby is born they are back to their pre-baby bodies quickly and are out in public well-dressed, wearing make-up, hair done, and looking bright-eyed (until my child was about 6 months, I looked exhausted, I felt pampered if I was able to put on anything other than moisturizer and powder, and only sometimes remembered to do something to my hair. As for clothes, I lived in the same three jeans and five shirts because it was too much work to find other outfits).

So, “Up All Night” was a welcome change of pace. They discuss baby weight gains, dressing like a “mom” and “dad” vs. dressing in a way that is attractive to your partner, and the conflict between wanting to live your life similarly to the way you did before baby, but having new priorities and needs.

I really want to like the show, and I do enjoy it.  But, I have a hard time getting past the following issues:

1. Car seat: Their child, Amy, recently turned one, but she has been in a front-facing car seat the entire season. The AAP (American Academy of Pediatrics) recommends children ride in a rear-facing car seat until they are age two OR the maximum height and weight for their seat. Car accidents are the number one killer of young children, and a major source of childhood injury. I really feel the show should set an example of safe travel.

2. Feeding: There are many reasons that mothers choose not to breastfeed, and I think that needs to be respected; there are women that struggle with supply issues, latching issues, failure to thrive, and other issues that make formula feeding necessary and the better choice for their family. However, for the vast majority of moms and babies, breastfeeding in the best choice. The AAP and the WHO (World Health Organization) recommend exclusive breastfeeding for the first 6 months of life. According to the CDC, in 2011, 35% of babies in the US were exclusively breastfed by 3 months, and only 15% were exclusively breastfed by 6 months. There are many places where woman do not feel comfortable, and are even not permitted, either explicitly or implicitly, to nurse their babies, so to have a show about the challenges of new parenthood, not address that issue is disappointing. Moreover, I think that something a lot of working moms find difficult about returning to work is the pumping and cleaning that fills their days and adds to their to-do lists – those moms really are up all night!

3. Where is Baby?: There are many scenes in the show, where my partner and I say to each other, “where’s their kid?” The couple goes new car shopping, and magically someone takes care of their child, and they don’t even bother lugging their car seat to make sure it fits in the new car; they decide to go out for the night, and magically someone is able to come on short notice to watch their kid; they invite people over for a last-minute dinner party, and their child is asleep and their house is clean and they are able to prepare a dinner, all with no fuss. What parents are able to do those things so easily? Interestingly, at the beginning of the season, a minor plot point of a show was their search for a last-minute babysitter so they could get out. But, that apparently was not “good tv” so now they just go out last-minute, and rarely deal with what happens to the baby. Wouldn’t life with a newborn be so much easier if when it was inconvenient to have a child, the child was magically able to sleep through the night and/or a sitter was able to be there?

Now I’m curious, are there other shows that glamorize parenthood or show things that bother you in some way?

 

 

Things I was not prepared for #4 – Crying

20 Jan

I knew that my child would cry; all babies cry. Some cry more than others, and as I was a colicky baby I was prepared for the worst. We got lucky though – our baby is not much of a crier, in fact the first three months were relatively quiet. When our baby cried we were always able to easily soothe him, a long bout of crying would never last longer than four minutes. Quiet times have left the house and we now listen to our baby cry often and there is often not an easy or quick way to soothe him (but that is another issue for another post).

But that is not the crying that I am surprised by, it is my own crying that surprises me. I knew I would love my child and I knew that there would be aspects of parenting that I would find more difficult than others; but I was not prepared to be the mother that cries listening to the cries of her child. I thought I would be the tougher parent, the one who would not be afraid to make the tough choices and could handle protests. Well, I have found that I cannot. Not even a little.

Parenting is not easy, and now I see that I need to work on growing a slightly thicker skin.

 

Things I was not prepared for # 3 – Eating

21 Nov

Altogether I love being a mom; watching my baby develop and grow is so much fun! I am finding being with my baby is more fulfilling and exciting than I anticipated. However, I continue to find that there are aspects of parenting for which I was not prepared.

Every time I sit down to eat I think, “hopefully I can make it through this meal” and rarely has that happened. In fact, sometimes the food goes cold while I (or my partner) feed, change a diaper, bathe, put to sleep, or some combination of the above. Usually we’re able to eat at least part of a meal together, at a decent pace, and in relative happiness (thanks in large part to the bumbo that our baby sits in on the table). But most meals, especially dinners, are ended with one or both of us hurriedly shovelling in the last bites of food so we can run and do whatever needs to be done with the baby.

I don’t want to complain; I want to admire the generations of parents that have gone through this ritual for years and then look back fondly on this time.

Things I was not prepared for #2- Going to sleep

27 Oct

While I was pregnant I spent a lot of time mentally preparing for the challenges of having a newborn. I knew that I would not be able to sleep as much as I would like and that I would not have time for a lot of things that I enjoyed doing pre-baby. But one thing that I was in no way prepared for was how incredibly difficult it can be for our baby to fall asleep. Pre-baby I assumed that when our baby was tired we would rock, and maybe sing for a little while (5-10 minutes) and the baby would be asleep. We very quickly found out that this is not how our baby thought things should go.

I rock, sing, use a pacifier, nurse, and repeat for up to an hour with a crying, and obviously tired, baby some days. I think that if I time it right going to sleep will be easier and quicker and so at the first sign of sleepiness, I run to put our baby to bed. Sometimes this works like magic and other times I’m singing “Twinkle, twinkle little star” until I’m hoarse.

Ever the optimist, I keep telling myself that tomorrow will be easier…here’s to hoping it is!

Things I was not prepared for #1 – Breastfeeding

5 Oct

While I was pregnant I knew that I would breastfeed my child. The health benefits to the child (eg. reduced risk of SIDS, decreased likeliness of becoming overweight later in life, immune support, etc.) are significant and reason enough for me to choose to nurse. Breastfeeding also offers benefits to mom (eg. increased postpartum weight-loss, reduced risk of developing certain types to cancer [although I believe you need to breastfeed for a cumulative year or more to experience this benefit], etc.) and does not involve the preparation that formula requires, making night feedings slightly easier.

After one week I realized that breastfeeding is an intense choice. I was feeding every hour, and never had a stretch longer than 2 hours for the first month. At almost three months I have a 4-5 hour stretch at night, and feed every 2-3 hours during the day. The books described the bonding that occurs while nursing and encourage just sitting there and enjoying the time with your child. I tried that for a few days, but quickly found that half the time my child is dozing off and not looking into my eyes. Further, as my child prefers being held and worn than laying and sleeping anywhere else feeding is a great time for me to catch up on reading and emails (thanks to the invention of the Kindle and smart phone).

Many people and books also encourage pumping regularly so that your partner, or other caregiver, can give the baby a bottle, allowing mom to sleep (or really do anything besides feed) and the partner/father to bond with the baby. I loved this idea when I was pregnant and was ready with a pump and bottles to start at three weeks (most books and lactation consultants seem to believe that introducing a bottle earlier would create nipple confusion, although there are a LOT of exceptions to that advice).

What I learned as three weeks approached and I was starting to pump is that:

1) milk supply is not established enough to pump in the early weeks/month, so pumping enough for a feeding can take a VERY long time;

2) it requires forethought and careful planning to pump initially (difficult to come by while sleep deprived and recovering from childbirth);

3) babies feed so frequently in the early weeks that making time to pump means giving up time when you could be sleeping; and

4) while your baby is feeding from the bottle you need to pump to maintain your milk supply, which is just as labor and time intensive as feeding your baby.

Finally, I was not prepared for the impact nursing would have on my wardrobe. Everything I wear has to be easy to nurse in, and if I’m planning on going out with my baby I have to wear a top that I can discreetly arrange with one hand under a nursing cover while the other hand is holding a screaming infant. I was so eager to get out of maternity clothes and into my “real” clothes that having another kind of limitation on my clothing choice seemed crushing at first.

And now, time to feed.