Thursday, May 24, 2012

Guilt: Are You Alive Enough?

When I first saw the cover of Time magazine's issue with the nursing 3 year-old on the cover, I had really mixed feelings. I believe that a nursing relationship is a private matter and that mother and baby/child need to negotiate this relationship according to what works best for their family. Breastfeeding can be a wonderful way to nurture a relationship that goes well beyond nutrition, but this photograph felt like something else.

The American Academy of Pediatrics suggests babies nurse "for at least the first year of life and beyond for as long as mutually desired by mother and child."*  That last part is critically important. As long as is mutually desired. I nursed my kids well into toddlerhood and that worked for us, but it doesn't work for everyone. What anyone else does or doesn't do with their kids should have little to do with what you feel you "should" or "shouldn't" do with your kids. Get information. Make informed decisions. But don't do something because you feel like you should. If it isn't coming from your heart, it isn't going to create connection. And just because something isn't right for you doesn't mean that it doesn't work very well for another parent.

When I moved beyond the picture on the cover of Time, I was struck by the title. Are You Mom Enough?

What does that mean? Are you mom enough for what? I see parents every week who are struggling with the things that have happened since they became a parent. Whether it is a mom who doesn't want to breastfeed anymore but doesn't know how to transition away from it, or parents who are struggling with what happened with their birth because it didn't go the way they planned, I see parents who are all doing the best they can do. And they all have something in common: guilt. They wish they felt differently. They wish something happened differently. They wished they'd known something they didn't. They wish they had been braver, smarter, faster, had a better doctor, or known how hard becoming a parent was really going to be.

Feeling like they're "enough" is not part of their stories. I don't often see parents who say, "I'm so glad that I ended up with the c-section." I hear parents who didn't want it to go a certain way and who don't know how to deal with it when it happened differently than they'd planned.

Instead of it being yet another competition to see who is "mom enough," why don't we see if we can be connected more deeply to our own aliveness, embrace our unique circumstances and decisions, and become compassionate enough to support parents even if we don't understand their decisions and choices. What if we all embrace our humanity, knowing that we're all doing the best we can do with what we've been given? It is in our aliveness, in our consciousness, our awakeness, that we can wise up to the fact that some publications thrive on feeding the guilt mothers are already feeling. When we realize that if we are simply ALIVE, compassionate, and empathic as parents, we can remind each other that we're ALL doing the best we can do until we all feel it within our own bones.

Let's feed a movement of love, compassion and support for each other, instead of the mommy wars. We're all raising this next generation in the best way we know how given our own personal life experiences and challenges. What can YOU do today to encourage another parent? To build up instead of judge? To lift up another parent who is struggling? Tell me about it. Let's make this world a better place- together.

* Pediatrics Vol. 115 No. 2 February 1, 2005
   pp. 496 -506
   (doi: 10.1542/peds.2004-2491)

1 comment:

Sofia said...

Wow, Rebecca, this was a lovely piece and so to the heart of the matter. It makes me think of that statement we have all heard at some point: "Can't we all just get along?" But you've taken it one step, one very important step further, can't we be Compassionate Empathic and Loving towards one another. I love it, thank you. I have sent this to a dear friend of mine who struggles daily with the nursing of her child: to wean or not to wean that is her Q?
Sofia