Lately it seems that I am in charge of multiple people’s lives. I must be because I seem to have the power to change their feelings and emotions. I dictate their happiness. This is of course a ridiculous idea. I cannot cause, force, mandate, or otherwise control other people’s feelings. The same is true in reverse. I am responsible for feeling happy, sad, angry, or guilty. What I may feel guilty about may be silly to someone else and likewise what another feels guilty about could be no big deal to me. It is all internal. It is a choice. now before I get to deep into this I want to put a side note on my above statement. I do not believe that people with true depression or other mental illness can simply “feel happy” and they will be happy. There are always exceptions but for the purpose of this post, the focus is on guilt and I do believe that you can control that within your self.
Many of my fellow bloggers, writers, or just outspoken advocates for natural parenting, pregnancy, and birth etc. have been faced with someone saying “you are judging me” or “you made me feel bad about my choices.” That is not what we are here to do. I have said (and I know others have as well) countless times that mothers from past generations are exempt from feeling bad about what they did in the past. The reason for this is that it is most likely that they made the decisions they did with the best knowledge available at the time. They may have even been following the advice of a doctor. On top of that, there were simply not as many options or support. I have to say also that even today there is obviously exceptions for medical reasons. To me that goes without saying but recently I had to explain that to someone.
So, if you circumcised, formula fed, had an elective c-section, chose to be induced, or practiced “detachment parenting” principles let it go and move on. When I post or discuss a scientific study on any of these topics or I encourage and educate new parents not to practice these principles, I am not saying you are a bad parent. I am not saying that you are an awful person and that your children should hate you. I am saying that there is now scientific evidence showing that these past practices should not be continued. I am saying that today there are many more options and therefore fewer excuses or barriers. I am saying that the ideas of the past have been proven to be damaging and dangerous and now that we know that we should do better in this and future generations. Now there is tons of research showing that circumcision should never be preformed on infants. Every workplace must allow pumping breaks for working mothers. Mothers can pump, use milk donation, and even a wet nurse instead of formula. Every study conducted shows that early inductions and elective c-sections are damaging and dangerous. They simply should not be done except in medical emergencies. There is much evidence showing that parents should never let their babies cry alone and that practicing Attachment Parenting principles where possible is truly best. These are not opinions, they are facts.
I am not telling you to feel guilty. I am not judging you. I am asking you to do one thing. Now that you have been made aware that those past practices are very damaging and that science backs up that idea, do not continue to encourage them. Do not say “I’m fine” or “my kids turned out fine” or any other justification for continuing out dated parenting styles or practices. If you feel guilty about your choices, deal with that internally. No one can MAKE you feel guilty and no one else can lift that guilt off of you. You have to do it. Maybe, one of the best ways to make amends would be to help new parents not make the same mistakes. Help promote science based parenting principles.
“I did my best with what I knew then. Now that I know better, I do better.” Maya Angelou
I am not perfect. I am not super mom. I have made and I am sure I will continue to make mistakes. I have done things that I will never do again and I have done things with my oldest child that I have not done with my second child. I am sure that if I have a third there are more things that I will do differently. You learn as you go. I want to share a bit of my story so that people can understand where I am coming from. Here are a few things that I have done, how I changed them, or I what I would change.
1. I allowed Pitocin to be used to speed up labor with my first child. I regretted this so I stayed at home most of my labor with my second and achieved a fully natural birth.
2. I encouraged my daughter to wean at 15mo. because I was about to deliver my son and I was told that I had to wean her 3 months before the birth to avoid any problems. I will nurse my son until he self weans regardless of his age or if I have another baby.
3. When my daughter was 18mo I tried a “gentler” controlled crying program to get her to sleep alone in her room all night. I didn’t do very well with it because if she cried I picked her up but I still made her sleep away from me and go to bed alone as long as she wasn’t crying. I now room and bed share with both of my children. My son is always in my bed and my daughter moves back and forth between her bed in my room and my bed.
4. I had always planned to circumcise my son. I just thought it was supposed to be done and i was actually irritated when I first heard of people trying to outlaw it. Thankfully I found all of the information I needed to make the decision before my son was born and he remained whole.
As parents we all make mistakes. We simply have to do better next time. So stop feeling guilty and especially stop blaming that guilt on others. It is no one elses fault or responsibility. Let it go and move on. Make amends by not continuing to promote these outdated ideas. Encourage new mothers to follow science and trust their maternal instincts. That is all you can do now.