Monday, July 13, 2009

Critical Thinking and Motherhood

I will start by making it clear that I am an avid supporter of science and of the medical community. I am also a skeptic, particularly of some forms of alternative medicine, but other things too. I have several related topics rumbling around waiting for a blog post when I work up enough courage and energy, but today I want to discuss mothering.

I've placed several links in throughout this post of skeptic websites explaining why so many parenting trends are based on questionable research, even some of which I practice. Like all things, there is a continuum and I fall somewhere in the middle. I believe the best way to parent is to be a critical thinker and look at research from both sides of any issue prior to passing judgment.

In this odd social bubble (of which I am admittedly a part), it seems that there is an unspoken competition of mothering amongst mid to upper class white women. All kinds of labels and actions come to mind -
home birthing, natural birthing,
cloth diapering,
natural family living, attachment parenting, Dr. Sears,
organic only,
baby wearing,
alternative or no vaccinations,
home schooling,
no high fructose corn syrup, unpasturized, vegetarian / vegan, soy-free, gluten-free, sugar-free, dye-free,
no video games, no tv,
holistic and alternative medicine,
allergy fears,
no pacifiers or bottles,
everything BPA free,
chemical free,
and so on...

It's like some crazy checklist that no one could realistically or easily follow. So, so much of this is rooted in fear, guilt, competition, and biased or incomplete research. At the same time, I "practice" or buy into some of it myself.

Remember - we're thrifty - very much so. And for that, we love cloth diapering. I love carrying Ben around in my baby carrier. I'm a passionate about breastfeeding obviously and I try to respond to Ben's natural cues for when he wants to eat, sleep and so on. I also agree our children are far too commercialized, but I'm not entirely sure what we can do about it.

I am so terribly skeptical of so much, however. We are living in such a time of fear and worry. Ben has his precious pacifier, plenty of plastic toys, a swing, a stroller, we will watch TV and movies as a family, I'm sure he'll play video games, he's receiving all of his vaccines, and we probably have several hundred chemicals around our house. We do not take vitamins or supplements, or eat organic necessarily. We eat meat, pasteurized dairy, and even fast food.

And don't even get me started on birthing choices - that's a whole other post about which I have a lot of mixed feelings.

I have taken several courses at the undergraduate and graduate level on statistics and I understand how easily data can be manipulated to invoke fear or passion. The bottom line is that Josh and I honestly believe we know what's best for Ben (and not anyone else's kid). We are not too worried about it. And how freeing is that?

Here's Ben in his "baby cage," as I've heard it called.


  1. nice push up Ben! I always like to compliment moms on what I like about what they are doing if I see them online. I ignore things I find odd or not for me and typically dont say anything to people I actually come in contact with. I saw a baby in church, had to be a preemie, no 2 ways about it, and there was a bottle of oily nasty looking formula in the diaper bag. I did not feel contempt for the baby or mom, I felt sorry for them both, they don't get to experience nursing in all of its terror and wonder, but the baby is missing out on the nutrients as well, and considering the baby's apparent status, I kind of wanted to volunteer to give the baby some of my own, as I know it has done wonders for my baby. I think too many people worry too much about what it 'looks like', and even though, yes, I momentarily felt sorry for them, I was glad to see the mom and grandparents cuddle the newborn baby so that it did not make a peep through the service. A lot of this 'conflict' is also manufactured. The more people that write articles criticizing one way or the other, the more chances for people with time on their hands to battle back or say how wrong something is, for someone else's baby. Is what I am doing wrong? maybe. both internally and externally. You should see the looks I get for using cloth diapers and nursing. But I do get some compliments too, so it all evens out in the end. As long as we all get there to a healthy individual, that's all that really matters anyway.

  2. Lara - Seems like you've learned a lesson that it takes a while for some of us to get. God gave Ben to you - nobody else, and you know what's best for him. You know more about him than the research, the bloggers, or even your own friends and family. I've learned over the years that my own intuition and "gut feeling" is the thing I need to go with. That said, there are sometimes important people in my life who don't always agree with my decisions. In the end, though, my priority is to my own kiddos and nobody else. You're doing a great job with Ben. You've faced some pretty heavy situations already and have handled them wonderfully. Not every day has been a good one, I know, but that is just part of the magnificent experience of being a mom. It's the best and the worst thing ever. The best for obvious reasons and the worst because you love the so much it hurts more than anything in the world to see them hurting or in precarious circumstances. Keep up the good work, Ben is in great hands - whether he eats out of plastic bowls or not!

  3. I have taught you well...Mom :)

  4. Is it totally bizarre that even though I do many of the things mentioned in this post, I don't consider myself to be "one of them" because I'm a) non-competitive to the point of total apathy and b) dirt poor and couldn't be considered middle class by any stretch LOL

  5. I really enjoyed this post, Lara. You're a great writer.