This is an archive of a series of blog entries on my old site:
Mommy Wars: Chapter 1
As a mother who is swiftly approaching an empty nest, I want to weigh in on the so called "Mommy Wars" that are so often the subject of reality tv, blog posts, and Facebook conversations.
Over the years I have been on almost all sides of this debate. I had natural/home births...but have also attended women, and have amazing friends, who have had births with varying degrees of intervention. I went back to work after my first, but started my own business after my second, giving me opportunity to stay at home most of the time. I also have been an independent contractor (Doula, Birth Educator, Swim Instructor, PE Teacher, etc) sporadically throughout my mothering tenure. I breast and bottle fed. Co-slept and encouraged nighttime independence. We even walked the line in education, doing some home-school and some public school. I could, at different times and under different circumstances be described as as helicopter parenting, some watered down "love and logic", and some fly by the seat of my pants, intuitive parenting. No one can hit all the dichotomies in mothering, although I think I came pretty close, and with the blessing of time, experience, and distance, I think I can put this whole "Mom Wars" thing to bed, with a your help. Generally speaking, women make decisions about mothering, from beginning to end, with conscious intent, or inherent trust. Let's begin to give each other the benefit of the doubt.
This week there will be an installment every day. I'll cover one topic commonly cited by mothers feeling judged, no matter which side of the fence they're on. Today the subject will be how we birth our babies, and why women may choose what they do. Read on, seek to understand each other, judge less, love more, support more, offer to help more, be kind to each other.
Birthing OUT of Hospital.
Common judgements: Women who birth out of the hospital are careless, unsafe, selfish, stupid. They want a "pretty experience" at the expense of safety and are unrealistic about labor and will probably change their mind.
*I will absolutely go on record here to say that I (personally and professionally) draw the line with unattended home births, if you can't find a midwife in your area to attend you out of hospital, please please please, seek out someone you can trust inside the hospital, or travel to somewhere you can have the birth you want. Our fear of medicine or intervention should never create a greater risk than the intervention itself. Disclaimer covered.
Now let's get to the bottom of the judgment. Most women birthing out of hospital are exceptionally low risk in their pregnancies. Midwives and birthing centers have a very clear limit to the kinds of risk factors they can keep in their practices, and what they have to refer to OB's. Women who have healthy, low risk pregnancies tend to have healthy, low risk births. Most pregnancy complications can be foreseen. If, in the RARE situation, a medical complication comes up that requires immediate attention, birthing centers are required to be within 5 minutes of a hospital that can handle obstetrics. Those who may judge are often under the misapprehension that if there was an emergency, that the operating room is fully staffed and standing there, scrubbed, gloved, and gowned. They're not. A hospital transport (especially from birth centers that are within close proximity) doesn't really look terribly different than a change from the birthing suites to the OR, it takes time to assemble the whole team if an abdominal birth (cesarean) becomes necessary. While a transport is in route, the team is assembling. If we are already at the hospital we just wait in a room for all the players to take their places in the surgical theatre and then move down the hall. Some of the surgical staff may not even be on site since players like anesthesiologists are required to be within a certain distance, much like birthing centers, but are not required to be on site while on call. I have witnessed these scenarios many times, so it is based on my considerable experience in the technologically advanced Pacific Northwest, not on stats or conjecture.
Reasons that I've been given regarding choosing to birth out of hospital:
Has been previously disrespected by doctors or nurses
Not being listened to by doctors or nurses/not acknowledging that the patient is an expert on their own body and what is normal
Doctor not being openminded to alternative medicine or practices
Traumatic hospital experiences
Concerned that routine obstetric practices when they are not medically necessary increase risks
Unnecessary cesarean section rate
Routine procedures performed on newborns at the doctors (biased) discretion that are unnecessary and unwanted
Hate the smell of hospitals
Previous trauma and association with hospitals, previous birth(s)
traveling during labor sounds awful
Desire more personalized care, longer prenatal appointments
Wanting older children to be present and comfortable
Wants to go home as soon as exams are done and mom and baby are deemed safe to do so (usually within 3-5 hours following birth)
Has personal or family connection to science/medicine and because of experience, is skeptical about the medical system
Desire water birth (not offered at hospital despite having installed "labor tubs" due to lack of training in safe water birth practices and having jetted tubs which are more likely to harbor blood borne pathogens
Desire to labor without unnecessary time limits/constraints
Has taken childbirth education classes that increased confidence
Is surrounded by women who have had positive experiences with midwifery
Prefer NO or at least limited vaginal exams during labor
Desire a family centered experience, including Dad/Partner catching baby, cutting cord, delayed or no cord clamping/cutting, immediate skin to skin, immediate breastfeeding, delayed examination to determine if stitches are necessary, delayed suturing, family bonding time immediately following birth, no newborn procedures like immunizations, eye ointment, vitamin K injection, examination for an agreed upon time period.
Birthing IN the hospital:
Common judgements: Women who birth at the hospital are naive, too trusting of doctors, want ALL the interventions, are making fear based decisions, are uneducated about the risks of common interventions, want to sign up for a cesarean.
Women generally choose where they birth using relatively simple criteria: Where do they feel safest? We all have fears and concerns about a physical experience the likes of labor and delivery. Women are influenced by a variety of factors, and they must come to their own decision. First and foremost, we have to acknowledge that in-hospital delivery is simply a norm in our culture, and many, many women will make their decision simply assuming that the most common option is the safest, and others are unaware that other options exist. In fact, even having the option to deliver at an OOH (Out Of Hospital) Birthing Center is still rare here in the US. Home birth midwives are available in most states, some more than others, and in some it's still illegal. Limited options may play a huge role in many women decisions. Others are influenced by how birth is portrayed in mainstream media, either ridiculous for comedy or inordinately scary for drama. Seeing normal birth is so uncommon that the media's portrayal has become accepted by many as what labor and birth looks like. Still others choose to birth in hospital because they like the idea of "the best of both worlds", intending to try for an uncomplicated/vaginal/even natural birth, but unsure about what they will ultimately feel about it when in labor, and want to have options immediately accessible. It can also be as simple as what is covered by her insurance. Many women have longstanding relationships with Gynecologist that why have seen for yearly exams and feel a sense of loyalty. Still others know that they have complications, or a family history of possible complications and so feel that it's best to be in controlled environment.
Reasons I've been offered by women choosing hospital births:
Feel safe there
Has a long history with their obstetrician
Wants interventions available as an option
Partner/extended family may not support OOH birth
Chose midwives IN hospital for "best of both worlds"
Has had positive experiences with doctors and nurses
Has a pregnancy complication that requires hospital delivery
Had a previous negative experience OOH with prior birth(s)
Has not known anyone who had a home or birth center birth, no personal experiences to draw on, or has known someone who had a negative experience OOH
Has not had a comprehensive childbirth education class and is afraid of the unknown
Has a scientific or medical background and, because of experience, trusts the system
Likes the idea of having nursing assistance for 24-48 hours following delivery
Might pursue a birth center birth but none are available in their area
Doesn't like the idea of a home birth, worried about the mess, doesn't think the space is ideal, etc.
Has been told that she has to deliver is hospital, even if it's untrue.
What I hope I've accomplished here is answering many of the questions that (when unanswered) may lead to judgements. Usually when we understand a decision or at least give someone the benefit of the doubt, we become open to a relationship in which we can hear each others stories and love and respect each other, even if we had different experiences. When we become mothers, it is natural to seek out and find others who share some common beliefs and experiences, it is essentially validating our own choices. But be careful, first and foremost because you may not know the whole story, and have more in common than you realize. In a brief conversation about "where did you have your baby?", you don't necessarily hear the depths of anyone's experience. She may have had a hospital birth, but was transported due to a complication; she may have intended to give birth at home or in a birth center. She may have had a home birth because the baby came so fast she didn't have time to get to her hospital or birthing center. Don't let a birth story close your mind to a friendship with another mother. These validation blinders could cause you to miss out on a friendship with the one person who could be your best ally, partner in crime, GNO friend, tribal member, confidant, someone who's differences challenge you to become more than you are and vice versa. All of my best friends and I have had very different birth experiences. The "we have everything in common" friends of early motherhood have dissipated over time. Ultimately, all we really had in common was how we wanted to birth, and we can really only talk about that so much. Over time specific details about your experience in birthing will not be as important as shared ideas about parenting, lifestyle, personality, interests, love relationships, and values. Don't assume that you understand someone based on birthing choices alone, thankfully, we all have much greater depth to bring to one another lives.
Mommy Wars: Chapter 2
Breast or Bottle Feeding Breastmilk or Bottle Feeding Formula
This one will be in essay format. No one makes this decision lightly. Any woman feeding her baby is making some kind of sacrifice. Breastfeeding is a sacrifice of time, body, energy, sometimes careers/jobs and she does this because she believes that it is in her babies' best interest. Support her. If she is bottle feeding breastmilk to her baby, she is possibly working and pumping her milk because she feels that both are important to the well being of her family, she may also be fostering or adopting and is purchasing breastmilk and/or supplementing while actively working on creating her own breastmilk supply, you don't have to give birth to make some milk, although it's a considerable amount of effort and expense. She could also be a Nanny or Babysitter. No matter which, support her. If she is bottle feeding formula, she is probably working, and in doing so is sacrificing time with her family, and she is making a financial sacrifice too, formula is very expensive. There could be extremely personal reasons why she can not or chooses to not breastfeed. It's not impossible that it may have been a superficial decision, but it is equally (probably far more) more) likely that she may have tried like hell to breastfeed and external judgement may be very painful. She may also be told that breastfeeding isn't an option due to some medications, some surgeries, some developemental anomalies, etc. I know I have not hit on all the various possible reasons why a woman may choose the way she feeds her baby, there are too many to list them all. My goal is simply to shift the way we think when we see someone feeding her baby, and move toward understanding and compassion first, WAY before judgement. Remember that just because you believe something, doesn't make it true. Certainly not for another person, with a whole other set of life circumstances than you. It may be true for you, that doesn't make it universally true.
No woman who is feeding a child should be put in a position where she has to defend herself AT ALL. She's feeding her child. That is absolutely good enough 99.999999% of the time. People need to calm down about this. Breasts are meant to feed babies, and bottles take care of the job when the breast is not available for whatever reason. LET IT GO. Why do people act like they get a vote about how someone feeds their baby? Look the other way if it bothers you. Carry on. But really, we should be standing in support of one another, mothering is hard enough; this idea that there is one right way to do it is absurd. If a woman wants information about how she chooses to feed her baby, she will seek it out. We live in the information age, we have: doctors, midwives, birth educators, doula's, lactation consultants, La Leche League, parenting classes, support groups, our own mothers, aunts, grandmothers, friends, nurse hotlines, websites, blogs, etc. Offering someone your opinion/judgement under the guise of "education" is not often received well anyway, so even if you are well meaning, you may very well be having the opposite effect. If someone told me not to breastfeed in public, for example, I would have been much more likely to be LESS discreet than to accommodate the a-hole that tried to shame me. I'm scrappy like that. Conversely, if someone judged me for bottle feeding, I would tell that person to shove it up their ass, you don't know me or why I'm making the decision I'm making. Can we PLEASE...in the year 2016...accept that breasts are pretty, and sexual at times, AND MADE TO FEED BABIES, and in the absence of breasts that have milk, SO ARE BOTTLES, AND CUPS, AND SPOONS. If you are friendly and open to conversation, who knows...another mother may ask you about how you choose to feed your baby, and then feel free to share without being self righteous or climbing up on a soap box. Answer questions sincerely and succinctly, and see if there is more interest. Otherwise, lets all agree to offer a loving and knowing smile to a mother trying to take care of her baby the best way she can, believe me, she really needs it.
Please take a moment and watch this short vimeo: Sistering
Mommy Wars: Chapter 3
Co-Sleeping vs. Independent Sleep
Some topics I can not figure out why we still talk about...this is one of them.
For many people, it is the most natural thing in the world to sleep with/near your baby. It is pure unadulterated instinct. It is healthy and it is convenient. If you don't want to do it, it has an affect on everyone else of exactly 0.00%, but please don't try to make people who choose to, feel like they're reckless for doing something that human beings have done up until the crib was invented in the 19th century, and since then, because not all peoples adopted the practice of cribbing. When making "safety choices" as a parent, I have always employed the "lighting strike rule", meaning if whatever I'm worried about happens less than being struck by lightening, I'll put it on the list of things I'm not going to worry about. Co-sleeping is definitely on that list. 60 fatalities/year are "attributed to co-sleeping/sids", but most or at least many can be attributed to factors other than intentional, safe, co-sleeping. Do not sleep on a squishy couch with your newborn after having a few drinks, for example. That's not co-sleeping. Lightening strike fatalities are roughly 51/year. Fun fact: The lifetime chances of dying in a car accident are about 1 in 470 compared with 1 in 164,968 for fatal injuries caused by lightning. Most of us still get in our cars and drive around every day, despite the decided risk to ourselves and our children. Additionally, we have to consider the abundant potential benefits of sleeping with or near your children, and there are many. They include: a reduced risk of SIDS, more sleep due to close proximity and ability to meet the needs of your baby/child without having to get up and out of bed several times per night, closeness, comfort, warmth, waking up to big googly eyes gazing at you, etc.
In contrast, some families choose not to co-sleep...some babies/kids do not sleep well in bed with others, sideways sleepers and very active sleepers are difficult to sleep with. Some babies/children may get too warm, wake from contact, they may excessively interrupt the sleep of or Moms or Dads who really need a healthy night of rest, they may wake more than necessary to nurse because they have easy access and can smell the milk. Sometimes parents have fears about hurting the baby, and even if they know if is very unlikely, they sleep better knowing baby is in a secure space. Some people use sleep aids, prescription medications, recreational (even if legal) drugs or they may drink some alcohol, these circumstances make co-sleeping unsafe. Some have super soft beds, or water beds that are not safe. Some families have one parent who really wants to co-sleep, but another who DOES NOT. Some believe that the bedroom should be kept private/intimate. We all have dynamics in our relationships and situations that require respect and compromise. Co-sleeping isn't for every family.
There are so many ways a family can work together to make sure everyone's needs are being met at night time. It changes as the family grows, it changes as individual family members' needs change over time. Some may co-sleep or sleep with the baby nearby for the first few months, until baby is sleeping for longer stretches of time. Some may even put a bed in baby's room and Mom may sleep in there until baby is down, or until after the first night time feeding, or even all night for awhile. Some have a co-sleeper or crib in the parents bedroom for quite some time, but as baby grows and sleeps longer the whole bed can be moved into another bedroom, maintaining the familiarity of the same bed...just changing the geography. It's practically limitless, and there is really no wrong way. As long as everyone's needs and desires are being considered, I would recommend that you do what works for your family. So before we jump on the "I love my kids more because we co-sleep" OR the "I love my kids more because I don't want to suffocate them" bandwagons, can we just agree that MOST parents out there are making their decisions based on 1. The DESPERATE need for sleep, I think we can all get on board with that. 2. Their own comfort/convenience 3. What they've learned from others 4. Things they've read or seen
5. A constantly evolving set of circumstances and needs of a family
Unless you see neglect (on either side of this issue) that makes a baby/child unsafe, other peoples sleeping arrangements can go into the category of:
"Not my circus, not my monkeys".
And now, for a laugh: Jim Gaffigan - "Kids" from "Mr. Universe"
Mommy Wars: Chapter 4
Next up...Work or Stay-at-Home
Sweet and simple. If you must work, work. If it fills your cup to work and you feel like you are a better mother for your children because of it, then work. If you worked hard to build a career and feel like it's risky to walk away for 5-7 years until your kids might be in school, that's totally valid. If you want to stay home and you can do so and still provide basic needs, stay home. If you have to make sacrifices to stay home but feel they are worth it to your family based on your values. Stay home. If you want to be at home sometimes and work sometimes, out of need or for personal gratification, then work sometimes. Be your best self, and teach that to your child. He or she may grow up and tell you that they wish you had set a different example, that can happen no matter which one you choose. Working full time, working part time or not working. You have to live your life according to the lifestyle you have chosen (which can be malleable if need be), modeling true authenticity, and making yourself happy so that the time you spend with your children is a reflection of that happiness. Of course Mom's happiness can't come at the unnecessary expense of others, but if your cup is empty, you truly have nothing to give.
As for judging other women. Just don't waste your time or energy on that. Trust her to make the necessary and/or personal choices for herself and for her family and allow the natural consequences of that choice to unfold. I do wish for a world where all women have the opportunity to choose work they are passionate about, choice about how they balance the role of motherhood with other work, and a love relationship that allows for her strength and her vulnerability. I want that. A fulfilling life for all mothers in whatever combination that means for her, freedom to choose. That is not true for most women right now. Please, please, don't waste time with judgement. We aren't elevating each other with pettiness and self-righteousness. Maybe you are doing it "right". We'll see, and even if it turns out that you aren't, and something happens that you later realize was caused by a choice you made, how could you possibly know that now? I will hold your hand if that happens. I will understand. Would your version of "right" work for someone else? There is literally no way to know that. Some of the best mothers (both working and at home) that I know, have had to face some of the hardest challenges, so don't let yourself get too comfortable believing that because you raise your family in a way that you think is "correct", that you will somehow be protected from the challenges that lie ahead. We need each other. Put petty differences aside. Whether or not someone works outside the home is a petty difference.
I had a divine experience a few years ago...I'll share it to make my point, between you and me, I haven't told ANYONE, outside my family, this story. My daughter had a rather tumultuous few years between the ages of 16 and 19, you'd be surprised at how hard (for me at least) even the common teenage issues really are. Looking back I can clearly see that because we spent so much time together in her childhood, and likely because we had (still do) a close relationship, she had to pull harder to define her self and build her own independence. It was painful for me. One night she left on foot after an argument during which I took her car keys. I was frantic. It was a cold dark night and my baby was out there, really hating me.
I should mention here that I'm a scorpio, not a great recipe.
I called around to her friends nearby, and they said they had not seen her. One of them was lying, protecting her, but I couldn't know that at the time. I was a wreck, standing outside my house, pacing up and down my street, tears streaming down my face. I was so sad, so scared, and so mad, all at once. To be honest, tears are streaming down my face right now, just recalling it. Nothing prepared me for the "letting go" part of parenting. I was not ready. As I stood outside in the night crying and wandering, two of my neighbors happened by, I live in a nice little neighborhood but I've felt less than acceptance over the years, largely due to religious differences, but that extends into parenting choices etc. It's all good, just a related point. These two women, one a stay-at home mom of 3, one a hard working nurse and mother of 4, stopped and asked me what was wrong and I told them that my girl had run off. They could have judged me, easily, I was seriously a hot mess. One could have been thinking that I was home too much and too involved, the other could have been thinking I was not there enough, since I work at times. They could have passively said, "I'll keep an eye out" and gone on their ways. They could have offered me superficial support of the "I'm sure she's ok, she'll come back, don't worry", variety. Not what happened. In my most vulnerable moment, this was it so far, they stopped, they got out of their cars, they hugged me in the street and let me cry. They asked for my permission to pray for me, respectfully acknowledging that it was not my faith, and they made a circle with me and prayed for my little girl to be safe and to come home, they prayed for my peace and comfort. And I was comforted, in that moment at least. I later found out that my daughters' friend who lived in the house we were standing in front of in our little circle, was harboring my girl. She came home, it wasn't over but the storm had passed. I will be grateful for that moment and for those women as long as I live. It was beautiful, unexpected, and very heartfelt kindness in my moment of weakness from women who I thought didn't really accept me because of petty differences. We can be there for each other, even if we don't run our households in the same way. Be strong for yourself, your family, and for each other.
Mommy Wars: Chapter 5
Onward! Parenting Styles
This one is super easy.
If the child is yours and in your custody, you get to have a say in parenting within the constraints of the law and the perceived well being of the child by your community. We must all know that people are watching, all the time. People have cameras and video on their phones, and they are watching, all the time. People can hear you, see you, and report you, all the time. I would advise you to choose a parenting style that will not be in conflict with the law, even if it differs from what you were raised with. Aside from the general well being of the child, we all need to cool it about other peoples parenting styles. If someone else's child is: being abused, harming you or your child in some actual way, or in clear danger, OBVIOUSLY it is our responsibility as members of that child's community to engage. For today, I'm really just talking about those moments in which you just don't agree philosophically with a persons parenting style. It's not your place to A. Approach them and tell them about it. B. Smear them over social media C. Gossip about them D. Assume that you know what's best for them or their children. If the child appears to be healthy, loved, and safe, which will be true a VAST majority of the time, that's is where the conversation ends unless someone has asked you for your opinion or advice. Unless there is something GLARINGLY wrong, we need to give each other the benefit of the doubt more often. Self righteousness is such an ugly way to be. None of us is perfect and we all make mistakes. I can think of a number of times I could easily have been accused of bad parenting while raising my kids, especially if judgements are made just by a snapshot of my parenting. One giant meltdown at Target comes to mind. I was just doing my best and was pushed beyond my ability to cope that day, that instant. I have never hit or harmed my children, but at a glance, my parenting in that moment might have made a few bystanders jump to the wrong conclusion about me. I could blame it on any number of things, Post-Partum Mood Disorder being at the top of that list, but looking back I'm really glad I didn't live in the age of such swift and public judgement. Instead of camera's and video recorders, I was met by the tender, knowing, slightly amused, looks from some elder women. It made me feel better about the situation and helped me to get myself together. Let's get back to that. Make no mistake about it, if you have an older child than the one your are concerning yourself with, even if only by a few days/weeks/months, you are an elder. Be tender. Your kind eyes will reassure and support her, helping her to better deal with the situation at hand.
There are about a billion books and beliefs out there about how to raise a child. None of these books was written specifically about any individual child, and beliefs are just thoughts that we think over and over again, that doesn't necessarily make them true. No particular style is likely to be a perfect fit for any family or for every child in a family. Many people latch onto a particular philosophy or doctrine because it gives them some peace of mind or a sense of security. Sometimes it's an integral part of their social group, religious community, or family/cultural history. Some are drawn to the simplicity of a checklist to follow. Many people begin with a clear philosophy, and then realize over time that while it may be all well and good, it just doesn't have the intended impact. Some may reject parenting philosophies outright, because they just love their kid and trust their instincts and intuitions, they may pick up a book or two if they realize that they don't always know what their children need, certain circumstances may require more structure. The reality is that while we all may falter here and there, most of the parents you will encounter out there are doing the very best with what they were given, generally well-meaning and loving, they want to be good parents for their child. They are drawing from their own experiences and from those around them, they are not perfect and have moments of weakness. When considering someone else's parenting successes or failures, keep in mind the story of living in a glass house and throwing stones, also remember that Karma is a bitch, and that bitch has a wicked sense of humor!
By being more openminded, and allowing ourselves to learn from each other, we are all more likely to learn from one another, while simultaneously gaining acceptance for those who have different stories than we do. I think we would be hard pressed to NOT learn something of value from virtually every parent out there. We all have some trick or tool or idea that someone else may benefit from.
Here's a link to my new favorite parenting style...it takes work and I'm still trying to perfect it, but the concept could be applied many of life's challenges, including how we all react to other parents out there who's style may be different than ours. http://www.thedaddycomplex.com/post/55268573331/latest-parenting-trend-the-ctfd-method
Mommy Wars: Chapter 6
Vaxer's, Anti-Vaxer's, Delayed Vaxers,
I am not going to pretend to be able to understand all the science behind this issue. That is exactly why it is SO hard to make a decision about this. This is probably the most contentious issue parents face in regards to the depth and contempt in judgement.
I'm going to list why I have been told families have chosen to vaccinate, and why they have chosen to not vaccinate. Then I'll summarize what I think needs to happen in day to day interactions with other parents. Whether or not you know it, both sides of this issue are operating from a position of "beliefs", and we have no choice really but to trust what we think and how we feel about the current data. There have been countless scientific "facts" that have later been disproven, so even if something has been accepted as fact, that doesn't necessarily make it true, on either side, of any scientifically proven fact. Science evolves as new data, new studies, new experiments, new criteria, new scientists, etc. come into being.
Believes in herd immunity and feels it is the socially responsible thing to do
Wants to travel with children
Was immunized and "is fine"
Immunized other children who appear to be unaffected
Trusts Pediaticians opinion
Believes it is a requirement to attend school
Trusts the medical community/pharmaceutical companies to make vaccine's safe
Believes that the risk/reward ratio favors immunizations
Does not know anyone personally who's child had an adverse reaction to vaccines
Exposure to media, we all seek to validate what we already suspect or believe
Does not trust pharmaceutical companies to place the well-being of children ahead of profits, believes privatized medicine values bottom line over health, and relies on sickness to make $
Trusts Holistic Practitioner's ideology
Disagrees with the sheer amount of toxins if following the standardized immunization schedule
Doesn't want to make that choice on behalf of their child, leave the choice up to them when they are old enough to decide
Knows personally someone who had a child who suffered from an adverse reaction following a vaccine
Has a child who suffered a reaction from a vaccine
Believe that even if one vaccine or another is disproven as being the primary cause of autism, that there is still probable cause for concern simply due to science's inability to prove what DOES cause it
Has a child with other health concerns or has an allergy to ingredients in vaccine
Believes that the diseases vaccines' protect us from are essentially eliminated and the risk of having the vaccine is greater than the risk of catching the disease.
Aren't sending kids to school and don't feel the risk of exposure warrants the exposure to toxins
Exposure to media, we all seek to validate what we already suspect or believe
Believes in herd immunity, but chooses to space out vaccines and have children immunized more slowly over time or when there is an increased risk of exposure to specific disease
Believes that neurotoxins in immunizations, when following the medical establishments vaccination schedule, are too risky
Aren't sending kids to school and don't feel the risk of exposure warrants early exposure to toxins in quick succession
Has a child with other health concerns and plan to vaccinate when health improves
Exposure to media, we all seek to validate what we already suspect or believe
The reality is that there are SO FEW people out there who are flat out refusing to vaccinate, that herd immunity is working. The media loves to create controversy out of nothing at all. It simply doesn't have to be the big judgy issue that it has become. Most vaccinate, some space them out, and a precious few choose to opt out. The few who choose not to are not going to have a significant impact on our communal health, and even though you might resent their choice to not participate in the herd, they are the reason FOR the herd immunity concept and they are an important part of the herd. Those who feel safe enough about immunizations, do it to protect A. Themselves and B. Members of the community who don't, can't, or won't. That's is the WHOLE point. People have a right to be skeptical of the drug companies, they have a right to question and wait for an answer that makes them feel good about ANY medical procedure, especially those chosen on behalf of someone else. Those who choose not to immunize, or delay immunizations are serving the herd in important ways too. If everyone jumped on board, and we all just blindly followed the drug companies instruction without question or skepticism, they wouldn't continue to work to prove the safety of the 49 doses of vaccinations that are currently on the schedule from birth to age 6. So you vaxxers who trust the system of herd immunity are keeping our families safe in the short term...either following the schedule as given or delaying them for your peace of mind...and you anti-vaxxers are pushing science, medicine and big pharma to continue to prove that we are not blindly following the herd. If we want to use the analogy of the herd, let's really look at herd behavior. There are those members that forge ahead blindly, accepting risks, both known and unknown, knowingly and intentionally, there are some who try to stay safely enveloped by the rest of the herd, and those who stray out away from the herd or fall behind, sometimes drawing out the predators and maybe finding themselves at risk. There are pro's and con's to being any part of a herd, and the drug companies aren't necessarily shepherds we can trust, they have a lot to gain by misleading us...therefore the anti-vax community has emerged to provide some checks and balances, making sure the shepherds aren't actually wolves in disguise. Trust each other more, we don't need to fear or have disdain for those who make different choices than we do. We are all a part of something much larger than we can possibly imagine and trying to make everyone conform to the same ideology about anything is not the answer.
Mommy Wars: Chapter 7
I'm just going to tell my story here, and you can use it however you see fit.
When my daughter was 2.5 and son was born, my honey and I decided that I would stay home. Our reasoning went like this:
We will be paying almost as much for childcare as I am making
If I can teach Childbirth classes and compensate for the difference, it's a wash
I cried every day that I left my daughter with her wonderful Auntie at her small, private, in home day care, playing with her cousins for two years. I wanted to be at home
Shortly after I gave birth to my son, and my daughter was nearly 3 years old, I started getting pressured to put her into pre-school. The decision was 100% selfish at that time. A visceral NO. I had just worked for two years to be at home with her, and her brother. No way was I putting her into a pre-school. What is pre-school but teaching her to like learning, and a few basic skills for Kindergarten readiness. Letters, numbers, patterns, attention span, drawing, reading, painting, eating graham crackers and napping. I can do that, I told myself. And I did. We had the best time. We went to gym classes, swimming lessons, and story times to offer the "social skills" everyone was always so concerned about. We went for walks and to parks and she learned everything she needed. Two years later when it was theoretically time to put her into Kindergarten, again my mind/heart/body really resisted the idea. I mean, if I can do pre-school, how hard can Kindergarten be? We then stumbled upon a school in my district that partnered with homeschoolers to try to offer the best of both worlds. I could homeschool her, with he support of certificated teachers who would guide me and hold me accountable to making sure she was reaching the appropriate milestones. I was able to attend classes, and my little guy was even included at his own level. Class sizes were a tiny 3-5:1 student to teacher ratio. It was a dream. We took classes at the school that were more engaging with other kids: Science, Drama, and Ceramics, and did all the core at home, with guidance and support. My kids bloomed. We read by the fire, or in trees, they read to each other in the backyard on a blanket in the spring. We did math, read The Story of The World, learned fractions while we cooked together, went to parks and beaches and the school even provided weekly swim lessons. We continued with story time and gymnastics. I loved (almost) every minute of it. I never had to wake them before they were rested, so honestly my life was charmed. There were certainly sacrifices. There were no extravagant family vacations, going camping was our big getaway each year. We ate simply at home, rarely went out and when we did, Ruby's Diner (where they served Kraft Mac-n-Cheese) was our $30 treat. We worried about money, quite a bit. We made that sacrifice knowingly and intentionally. We shopped at second hand stores, but damn it, my children had a beautiful childhood. As they grew, and my "some college" level of education started to show its limitations, we started taking more core classes at the school and doing more of the elective classes at home. We did PE, Art, History, and Health at home, and left the core classes to those with greater expertise. Here is where some of my regrets enter the scene. Logically I know that I could have regrets no matter which style of education I had chosen, no program or style of learning is right for everyone...pretty much the point of this LONG story, but read on if you'd like...so I don't judge myself either. Nearing the end of my daughters junior high career, I started noticing dynamics that were not great. Because we were so invested in the community, and because she had a safe/familiar social group, I kept her there despite my intuition. That decision led to some hardships for her. I don't, nor can I ever, know that if I had made another choice, if she would have had an easier time. Perhaps she needed to grapple with something and would have found something to grapple with in any environment. Eventually we ended up moving around to a few different high school programs, none were a particularly awesome fit, but she got it all done. My son chose to transition into traditional high school for his junior year, part time, and then full time for his senior year. He's now preparing to graduate this spring. There are definitely benefits to public high school; the specific benefits that are in contrast of homeschooling that leap out at me so far are, A. Deadlines B. Unbiased grades/feedback C. Necessity of better organization/time management/study skills/planning. On the other hand, I've spent the past week the most afraid I've ever been due to threats made against the student body at his school. A highly unlikely scenario in a small homeschool community. Two very different kids, the same childhood, the same options, struggles with different aspects of education, her interest and willfulness, his organization and issues with distractions. Where we landed (so far) is with two people who have a wonderful shared history, a long childhood of happy memories, academic successes and failures, and then more successes. Aside from private school, we have done it all, and you know what? These two people are who they are, and short of a catastrophic experience, likely would have become themselves no matter where they went to school. I have seen bad outcomes in the homeschooling world, largely relating to kids having too much control over their education (or lack thereof as the case sometimes becomes), too much flexibility, etc. I have also seen bad outcomes in public education, falling through the cracks, not having enough parental involvement, exposure to alcohol and drugs, bullying etc., and private education is just as fallible. Schools that are not held to state standards can write their own tickets and can abuse that to create phantom successes. They are also known for elitism, favoring students whose families make generous donations that the school relies upon. Paying a lot for your child's education does not guarantee a positive outcome either.
The moral of the story is: LOVE YOUR CHILD. PLAY. DEMONSTRATE INTEGRITY. BE AUTHENTIC. ENCOURAGE CURIOSITY. TEACH COMPASSION. SHARE WHAT YOU HAVE LEARNED THROUGH "FAILURES". SHOW INTEREST IN THEIR INTERESTS. MODEL LIFELONG LEARNING. BE PRESENT.
Listen to your intuition and seek counsel from unbiased resources if you meet challenges. There is no way to know for sure that your child will be successful in any given educational environment, no matter how much money you may spend, or how little. Ultimately the choice belongs to your child, and they alone will live with the consequences of their decisions, positive or negative.
To wrap up this topic specific to "The Mommy Wars", I just want you to think about how many times a day we all judge ourselves...usually more harshly than necessary...and know that that is a trait that we all share. If I have made a decision about my child's education that you believe is not in his/her best interest, please, utilize the acronym T.H.I.N.K. before you decide to share.
T - Is it TRUE?
H - Is it HELPFUL?
I - Is it INSPIRING?
N - Is it NECESSARY?
K - Is it KIND?
In addition, I would add, are you a person that I trust? A random stranger making a snap judgement, even if all of the above is relatively true, is unlikely to be received well. I don't know you, you don't know me, or my reasoning, or my child's needs, challenges, gifts. etc.
If you are someone I can trust, AND the answer to all of these are truly "YES", then really consider the INTENT vs. IMPACT. If you truly want me to consider what you are saying, find a way to offer it to me in a way that is loving; say what you mean in the kindest possible way. If I feel judged or like you are being condescending, I am unlikely to consider anything you have to say. It's a natural response. It's much easier to deflect my own pain, in anger at you. If I feel, on the other hand, that you are seeing me struggle and I feel like you are climbing into my sinking boat with me and picking up a bucket to bail, I will more likely be able to hear you.