I’ll never forget the first time I gave my now 10-year-old son a bottle.
He was nearly four months old and had been placed in our care by the Department of Human Services. Since his home environment had been so chaotic, the social worker who placed him had no idea what his feeding schedule was or how much he ate at each feeding.
When the time came for me to feed him, I took a guess and made six ounces of formula.
Those six ounces were gone in under 30 seconds.
I wasn’t able to pause the feeding session and burp him; when I tried to initiate a break, his tiny mouth would clamp down on the bottle. His face was frozen with determination and fear. This was the case with the next several bottles I gave him.
The social worker wasn’t surprised when I reported this.
“He doesn’t know if he’s going to be fed again.”
A Different Perspective
Because of my experience as a foster/adoptive parent, I have zero tolerance for the “mommy fights” that break out via the Internet.
Breast vs. bottle. Working moms vs. stay-at-home-moms. Attachment parenting vs. non-attachment parenting. Home birth vs. hospital. And so on and so forth.
The rhythm and cadence of the discourse is all too familiar. We divide into our separate camps. We vent our outrage and fight our battles from behind keyboards and computer screens.
After each side has pleaded their case, the issue du jour usually ends with a plea for more understanding. Motherhood is hard, we collectively cry. Let’s stop fighting and start understanding. Let’s support each other instead of tearing one another down! A truce is called. After all, we say, every one of us loves our kids and wants what’s best for them.
The Real Issue
The problem with these “mommy fights” isn’t that parents aren’t supporting each other. In fact, most of the time we’re able to see past our differences. The discourse is problematic because it shifts focus and attention from the real issues that should be examined.
These arguments are a waste of energy because they’re usually a debate about parenting style points. However, when we’re arguing about breast vs. bottle and which is best (for example) we’re losing sight of a bigger problem: there are far too many kids in this world who aren’t being fed at all.
Why aren’t we, as parents, more upset about that?
My son was one of those kids before he came into our care. Breast vs. bottle did not matter in his situation. The real problem was that at just four months old, he didn’t know when or where his next meal was coming from.
A Different Kind of Resolution
The start of the new year is often viewed as a clean slate. We make goals and resolutions. We think and reflect on the life changes and improvements we’d like to make in the coming year. This year is no different for me; however, my resolution for 2016 is a bit more challenging.
I want all families to truly be healthy and happy in this new year. I want 2016 to be the year that the tide started to turn, and that the systemic issues that plague women and their families began to dissolve. I want to work to ensure every family has the resources they need to survive.
But as determined and as passionate as I am, I can’t do this alone. I’m going to need help—a LOT of help.
Here’s my challenge to all of us moms in the coming year:
Let’s stop debating breast vs. bottle and start fighting for the babies who aren’t being fed.
Let’s stop arguing about home birth vs. hospital and shine light on the factors that prevent women from accessing adequate prenatal care.
Let’s stop squabbling about attachment parenting vs. non-attachment parenting. Instead, let’s work to eliminate the barriers that keep families in multi-generational cycles of poverty and chaos.
Instead of wringing our hands about the choices of stay at home moms vs. working moms, let’s take on the economic factors that prevent women from making choices that are right for them.
I know this sounds like a tall order, but there’s one thing I know for sure: if anyone can make progress on these issues, it’s us moms. We are a passionate, dedicated group of people. We have more love in our hearts than we know what to do with. We know better than anyone how to get things done. This year, let’s harness our power to effect positive change and work to really make a difference where it matters.
There’s no doubt that these are huge issues to take on, but even just a tiny bit of advocacy can cause a ripple effect in the right direction.
Who’s with me?