Motherhood: THEN & NOW

Has anyone else noticed that there are a lot of judgments flying around towards moms these days? There is so much information, and therefore so much pressure to follow certain rules.

Internal mom guilt is real enough so having all this external pressure to follow certain standards can feel overwhelming for a new mom. Noticing this trend got me thinking- What was it like for our mothers? And, how about their mothers? Did they feel this pressure too?

I decided to ask my mom, mom-in-law and my husband’s grandmother (I’ll call her grandma because she is mine now too!) about their experience as mothers. It was fascinating to hear what they had to say.

2016 Rule: BREAST IS BEST.

My humble opinion? Fed is best.

Breastfeeding isn’t for everyone. Some women love breastfeeding. Some women hate it. Some women cannot physically produce enough milk for their baby so they have to supplement with formula. Some women don’t want to breastfeed. Some women have to go back to work within 6 weeks and cannot pump every few hours during their workday so they have to stop breastfeeding. Some women exclusively pump. Some women find breastfeeding to be painful. Some find it to be blissful. Some women breastfeed for two weeks. Some breastfeed for two years.

NONE OF THESE WOMEN ARE BETTER MOMS THAN THE OTHERS.

How lucky we are to live in a modern world with so many amazing options of formula so our babies can be nourished no matter what our circumstances.

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Emily and my Mom, “Mema”

What about back then? 

It was interesting to learn that for both my mom and mom-in-law (who had their babies in the 80’s) breastfeeding vs. formula wasn’t really discussed. You made a choice and then you got help at the hospital with whatever option you chose.

My grandma said when she had her baby in 1955 doctors told her Similac formula was actually better than breast milk. She said, “In hindsight I concluded doctors were probably arm twisted by baby formula business to discourage breast feeding & I suppose that enhanced baby formula business bottom line. I still remember the excruciating pain of having breast milk & no where to feed it.”

To think- she was pressured to not breastfeed, while today we are pressured to breastfeed. Oh how times change.

2016 Rule: ORGANIC FOOD = GOOD MOM

I’m not sure if this is the case everywhere, but in New York City it seems you must feed your child ONLY organic. I’ve also noticed a demand for only organic clothing, and only organic toys.

My humble opinion? Let’s all do our best!

If the carrots you give your child are certified organic and grown on a farm where all animals roam free, you are a good mom. If your child is fed non-organic carrots because they are less expensive and still nutritional, you are a good mom. If you use jarred baby food, you are a good mom. If you make your own baby food, you are a good mom. If your child refuses to eat anything but goldfish crackers, you are a good mom. Basically, if you are doing your very best to feed your child the very best you can, you’re a good mom.

What about back then?

There was not a trend for making your own baby food in the 80’s. The options were Gerber and Beechnut. It’s funny, I actually remember as a five or six year old feeding my little brother jars of Gerber banana baby food and eating some because it was delicious!

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Emily and my Mom-in-law, “Nonna”

And along this theme, I just loved a little tidbit my mother-in-law shared concerning food. (As a side note you should know she raised four amazing boys who were each about two years apart.) She said, “I vividly remember, when they would want ice cream or pizza or pasta in the morning.  My initial thought was no, it’s breakfast time and so breakfast items were on the menu.  Then I thought, what the hell!  Who’s to say pasta, pizza and, yes, even ice cream can’t be for breakfast. You know what, sometimes if you say yes that’s all they want to hear.  Ice cream was never an issue in the morning.  I would say okay for today but don’t ask me tomorrow.  I still say pasta and pizza are good any time of any day.”

Okay. First, I have to agree that pasta and pizza are good any time of day. Second, I agree with saying “yes” sometimes and not always resisting because you think about how things “should” be. Lastly, I’m going to put the phrase “Okay for today but don’t ask me tomorrow” in my back pocket to use when Emily gets older!

2016 Rule: SCREEN TIME IS EVIL

The general attitude I have found towards screen time is to NEVER allow your child under the age of two to watch TV, play on an iPad or look at a smart phone.

My humble opinion? It’s all about moderation.

Am I plopping Emily in front of a TV for hours on end without interacting with her? No. Do I let her occasionally notice and look at the TV? Yes.

I’ll give you an example. The other night we were watching the Olympic women’s gymnastics finals. For whatever reason Emily was NOT going to sleep at her normal bedtime. It was 9pm and we were all exhausted. My husband and I sat down with her and watched gymnastics.

I noticed that allowing her to watch gave her the freedom to sometimes glance at the screen in awe of Simone Biles flipping through the air (how amazing is Simone Biles??), but usually she just looked to her daddy or me and chatted away. I saw absolutely no harm in this. Actually, it was a beautiful and fun family moment I think we’ll always treasure.

My thought is this- the more I make screens something she should NEVER look at, the more she will want to look at them as she grows. It’s like candy. If we NEVER give her candy, when she’s older she will most likely consume every last piece of candy at a friend’s house (I had a friend growing up who did this!)

When parenting, I like to keep in mind the idea of “what you resist persists”. The more I make every effort to have her NOT do something, the more she will probably want to do it. So for my own sanity and for the sake of living and not worrying, Emmy can watch TV sometimes.

What about back then?

There was no stigma or negativity regarding watching TV in my mom and mother-in-law’s experience. My mom said we would watch PBS and the Disney Channel. (I remember some of those shows well and I LOVED them. I bet watching some of those shows led me to the path of film school and making films today.)

My mother-in-law said, “Watching TV was never an issue for me, and I think most.  Sesame Street, Mister Rodgers and numerous other shows were very popular and extremely educational and entertaining.”

Other Fun Stuff I Learned

From what I was told, it sounds like dads tended to be less involved in labor and childbirth. There was also no such thing as paternity leave.

In terms of sleeping, all of us parents today know very well, “Back is best.” However, back in the day, parents were told to have their babies sleep ONLY on their bellies. The rationale was if baby spit up, they wouldn’t choke if sleeping on their belly.

Something else fun to note- moms today have a lot of choice when it comes to maternity clothes. We like to celebrate the bump and wear things that accentuate our growing baby. Back then my mom and mother-in-law agreed that maternity clothes were expensive and “God awful.” Picture balloon tops and stretchy pants. Yikes!

Trailblazing Grandmas

Before I wrap this up, I had to include a tidbit from grandma. She said, “Motherhood, while always the most important job for females, in my day the criticisms were rampant because the motherhood role was viewed as the ‘only job for females.’ I was a trailblazer in a sense because we wanted to buy a house when too many were quite content being renters. My Mom encouraged me to return to work & save for a house, which I did.”

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Emily and Grandma, “GG”

My Nanna also challenged the day’s standards of motherhood by owning and running her own construction business. How cool is that? I come from a line of strong women!

My Conclusion

No matter what year it is, no matter where you live, there are two themes that span the test of time. They are UNCONDITIONAL LOVE and INSTINCT.

My mom said, ”The love between the mom and the baby is the same as years ago! After a mom has a baby, she is never the same. Her life is so much better! No one knows how much love you can have for another human being until you have a child! And now you know!!! There’s nothing in this world like it!”

Mom-in-law said, “For me and my day(s) it worked.  I wouldn’t change a thing.  I raised 4 beautiful boys.  Not always easy but it was fun.  I surrounded myself with all great family and friends and literally everyday was a special day.  I believe that if each boy was asked they would all agree that we did so much every year and had lots of good times.  That’s all I can ask and that’s exactly how I would love them to remember it.”

And I’d like to end by quoting grandma who said, “The more things change, the more they stay the same” is probably a good description of how motherhood has “evolved” over the years. No question in my mind but I think “instinct” is the operative word to go forward.”

To my mom, mom-in-law and grandma- thanks for sharing your wisdom here. I will continue reveling in the unconditional love I have for Emily, and will continue to follow my instincts. Thanks for showing me that I’m not alone.

Love,

Jessica

 

 

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