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Mommy blogs make me anxious. Especially the crunchy, granola, happy, hippie, healthy Mama blogs. You know, the ones tagged antivax, homebirthing/waterbirthing, GAPS diet, elimination communication, EBF, baby-wearing, co-sleeping, baby-led weaning or unschooling. The ones with eight or nine beautiful, artsy photographs of their trendy kids frolicking in fields of blissful childhood.
What’s wrong with me? I’m a naturopathic physician. A naturopath. I love all things natural. I do a lot of those things. Then why do I get a strange, slightly sick feeling when I read those blogs?
I decided that Mommy blogs make me anxious…and guilty. There is an element of parental superiority in Mommy blogs: Look at the pictures of my beautiful, painless natural waterbirth! Look at my diaperless children running in my three-acre backyard! Look at how I can be a stay-at-home mom, stay gorgeous, and feed my whole family of eight on less than $150 a month!
Parenting is hard enough. Early on in Annika’s life, during the height of her “colic” weeks I decided I needed to get to the bottom of what was making her so unhappy. Surely it must be something in my milk! (This is the advice fellow moms and Doctor Google told me.) After trial and error for weeks, I finally decided to do a complete elimination diet. It was on the fourth day of eating only chicken, rice, pears and avocado and waking up to Annika’s inconsolable crying that I totally lost it. That day my husband Jason told me the best piece of parenting and pediatric advice:
We’ve got to stop blaming the Mom. Annika’s unhappiness was never from me. It’s just her. It helped a lot once I accepted that, because then we could move on from treating everything in my life to treating her (and she’s much happier now).
Mom-guilt is a huge reason why mothering magazines and Mommy-blogs are so popular. I had no idea that becoming a mother would completely change my identity. That my self-worth would be wrapped up in the achievements, temperament and general cuteness of my child. It drives Jason crazy. He is convinced that the only reason parenting magazines sell is that they are so effective at convincing you that you are doing something wrong. (Otherwise, why would you need to read them?)
It makes me incredibly sad. We women have a hard enough time without being judged on our exact parenting style. (Is your baby Attached enough? Too much? Oh, you’re vaccinating? What!? You refuse to vaccinate!? Oh, you co-sleep…)
Recently my sister discontinued her subscription to a national Mom-magazine. She said she felt alienated because she didn’t and couldn’t have a homebirth like magazine so vehemently advocated for. (She had emergency C-sections.) That, and because of the very anti-vaccine stance of the magazine. (Is that really the job of a magazine? Shouldn’t that be a discussion between individual families and their doctors?) I know of another woman who was heartbroken because of her failed attempt at nursing. She stayed up late every night, losing precious sleep to diligently pump, getting multiple rounds of mastitis because of it. To top it off, she was out in public one day feeding her baby pumped milk (which apparently looked like formula) when a stranger came up to her and pronounced: “Don’t you know that Breast is Best?” She burst into tears.
We’ve got to stop. I don’t think it’s intentional, and I really don’t blame the bloggers, writers and magazine editors. I still love to read stories and see pictures of cute kids and get ideas for how to make homemade toothpaste and bake a gluten-free cake. But we’ve got to stop — I’ve got to stop — judging my self worth by my “success” as a mother. I guess I am learning to accept that I am not perfect.