Just so you know

All right. I have ideas. I think about stuff. So here is the spot for stuff I'm thinking about and want to be able to share more broadly and possibly promote. Like I have time for this.

Everything is provisional at this point and subject to change in the future - as far as the blog is concerned. In real life some things will remain unchanged.

Also, our children are not really named Lenny and Linus. We are not that cool.

Feel free to share, rant, disagree, but please remember that I'm an actual person who tries to be respectful. I'd love it if you are and do to.

Sunday, May 11, 2014

Being a Mom Means Keeping them Safe. Or At Least Knowing All the Risks. Right?

 It's Mother's Day.  I think about being a mother quite often.  I do it all the time.  But what can I say about it?  It's possible that everything that can be said about motherhood has been said somewhere on the internet. It's tiring, overwhelming, fulfilling, joyful, meaningful, identity changing, fun, boring, hard. These days it's over-thought, over-discussed, over-done and just generally over-the-top.

And yet we are still somehow always lacking in the support, connections, sleep and downtime that we need. Talking to other moms and reading scads of "mommy blogs" makes me think that the one word that universally describes motherhood is "intense."

My granny says that "Moms these days have it so easy." Between our convenience foods and our electric dryers and portable DVD players we sure do have some advantages over moms 50 (or so) years ago. But we've replaced the physical labor with a kind of fevered anxiety about how to keep our children safe and get them to adulthood in the best shape possible that leaves us weary before we even start.

Lots of people blame "mompetition" but I blame the hospital. Well, at least I think it starts at the hospital. I remember pretty well how it went with Linus since he was just born ten months ago. Before we even managed to get him home we had been informed of a bevy of ways we could kill or harm our child - really. DON'T let him sleep on his tummy (and never ever sleep in the same bed with your baby). That could kill him. DON'T shake him. That could kill him. Make sure he's getting enough breast milk so that he doesn't get dehydrated - and die. Put him in a car seat when you leave or when you have a wreck on the way home he will die. Make an appointment with his pediatrician because if he doesn't get weighed at least every thirty minutes he could waste away and... die.

And then all the little stuff that for some reason stuck in my head. You know those little blue snot sucker things they give you? Be careful with those you could irritate the lining of his nose. Put something over his hands, he's scratching himself. Use the right kind of ointment on those sore tender nipples so you don't make the baby sick (sorry, nobody said or even implied he would die this time.) Congratulations - he can hear and is not abnormally jaundiced. You can go home now - have fun!

From there on out it's easier to dodge spit up than information about ways babies and children can be harmed. Jammies too loose? Dangerous in case of fire. Pesticides in their foods? Just sounds bad. Do you have an older home? Could there be lead in your paint? Did you know that baby gates, slides at playgrounds and shopping carts can all lead to injuries? Hotdogs are so dangerous that it has been suggested that they be redesigned to prevent choking. Letting babies sleep in car seats (when not actually driving) can make it hard for them to breath. Too much time in swings and seats in general can keep them from developing their neck and shoulder muscles properly. Disposable diapers could be keeping their reproductive organs too warm and making our boys less likely to be fertile as adults.  Noise machines might help babies sleep better, but they could also be harming baby's hearing.   Screen time is a handy way to keep them from getting electrocuted by power outlets or drinking cleaning fluid but never let them have it until they're at least two years old and then only very occasionally because it will hurt their brains.

I'd provide links for all this information but chances are that your browser has a handy little search bar at the top. This information is harder NOT to find than to find. (The links I do have?  All from Pinterest boards of mine.  Yeah, I collect this information just in case I ever start to relax)  And it's all true. Or at least has some anchor in reality. For every one of the above pieces of information a heartbroken or at least wiser and more careful parent has a story about how the actual danger was visited on them and their child.

 So if the term "helicopter parent" is used with derision and we are told that letting our children take more risks would help them be more confident and responsible you'll just have to bear with us.  Because really I've just scratched the surface here in terms of potential dangers we need to protect our children from.  I mean I haven't even mentioned UV rays and trying to find a sunscreen that won't fill their bodies with toxic chemicals.  And what about finding a baby carrier that won't cause hip problems?  See, there's LOTS more.  And we haven't even gotten to the preschool years yet.

In the shade, wearing a hat and a shirt.  I skipped sun screen this time.

So do modern mothers have it easy?  Well.... sort of.  I'm currently letting my baby chew on a plastic (gasp!) kid's meal (gasp!) toy that was definitely not intended for children under three years old (gasp!) because it's the one thing that caught his interest so that I could ruminate for a few minutes on the over-the-top pressure we've created by sharing all this information about ways we can avoid risks and keep our children safe. 

I know that I can never keep them completely safe.  It makes sense to me to be informed about simple changes I can make to increase the chances that they will be safe and healthy(er).  But sometimes I wouldn't mind if we could go back to the days when the youngest child stood on the center front seat in the car and parents threw their arms out protectively when they had to suddenly apply the brakes!  I wish I knew how to turn down the volume on all the constant information about how are children are at risk and what we should do to protect them.

What's your take?  How do you find peace in the midst of all the precautions?


  1. Thanks for this perspective Rachel! I laughed pretty hard during the 4th paragraph hospital blaming. "Don't do that . . . your baby will DIE." So true. For people like me, with tendencies to hypochondria, this excess of information only feeds the obsessions. I've become less afraid as my children have grown, but I don't know whether that's because they are older now and more responsible, and seemingly less likely to get into dangerous situations, or if it's because I've had to battle the fears and trust in God. Or maybe the things I fear now are things I absolutely can't control, like their mental and emotional health, rather than their physical well-being, and so that sort of releases some of the nagging fears.

    1. That's a good point - the risks change as they get older and I do think it gets less intense. I remember my grandma (not granny mentioned in the post) saying that she was relieved when her oldest lived through his first year - and he wasn't particularly sick. Babies just seam so vulnerable.

    2. Yes they do! And when they get sick and cough and have fevers, that's just scary. Part of why I'm glad we came to a third world country AFTER childbearing was over. Not sure I could have handled birthing and nursing on the field.

    3. Yeah, my parents found that one baby in a "developing country" was enough. Even as an elementary school kid I was aware of some scary moments.