Confessions of an Unnatural Parent
Babies vomit all over your plans like it's their job.
“Do you have the stuff?” I asked in a hushed voice.
My friend nodded and handed me a bag. I cast a furtive glance around the parking lot to make sure no one saw, then stuffed the bag in my trunk. The bag was heavy and it clanked when I set it down. Inside was my deep dark secret: store-bought baby food.
My friend was my supplier, giving me her stash of leftover food from her baby, who was just nine months older. (That stuff lasts forever). We made our exchange in the church parking lot. Like a drug deal except a whole lot less cool.
I had sworn I would make my own baby food. But between working and trying to figure out life with a baby, I was exhausted. Sure, I mashed up some sweet potatoes and gave her some banana. And her first food was an avocado. What’s more foodie baby than that? But I got tired. Cleaning a blender is work. It devolved from there.
It’s not a big deal, really. Everyone who has kids who are in their 20s or older laughs when they read this sort of thing. “Who cares?” But the truth is, when you are a parent, a new parent, and your life is all about the small things—the poop, the tiny fingernails, the baby vomit lost in the fat folds on their neck—everything seems to matter. All these small things stand out in stark, terrible relief. So, parents naturally lose their ever-loving minds. They become obsessed with doing everything the right way and when that way breaks down as it inevitably does with children. Well, so do the parents.
On CNN, Krista Infante writes about her struggle to give up her vision of “natural” parenthood. Meaning birthing without an epidural, making your own baby food, co-sleeping, cloth diapering, and probably sewing your own clothes out of tree bark. I don’t know. I had the epidural.
I don’t know how the “natural mom” phenomena took over common sense and our hard-fought feminism to do things our own way without the stigma of society’s expectations clouding our precious moments with our babies. It’s time to put away the labels and realize that as women and as mothers there is no one way to love. Our motherhood should not be defined by the way we brought our children into this world or the decisions we made on how to nurture during those early months of baby’s life.
Infante is right, of course. What we do or not do shouldn’t define us as parents. And I think we know that, too. Or we do, until that moment when we don’t. When our expectations break down and we become what we never wanted to be—THAT parent. That baby-food-buying parent. Or the one who feeds their 1-year-old Fruit Loops for a snack. Or the one who lets their kid lick the sand in the sandbox, because at least they are being quiet. Am I right?
I personally think the phrase “natural” should be banned from describing anything to do with parenting. Because what is natural, really? Historically, it’s “natural” for there to be high infant mortality rates and for upper-class women to hire wet nurses. It was “natural” for babies to drink beer because the water used to be so bad. Natural is just a term we’ve used to glorify a set of arbitrary standards. You can’t make your family a perfect Pinterest board of Tea Collection outfits, organic teethers and locally-sourced, gluten-free afternoon snacks. More so than any other thing in life, parenting brings you face to face with the gritty reality that life isn’t perfect. People aren’t perfect. And sometimes your baby will eat really cheap macaroni and cheese with all the chemicals—and like it.
And as Infante points out, when we hold fast to these standards without allowing for reality then we wind up disappointed and frustrated in ourselves. Who needs that? Of course it’s nice to set out on this parenting journey with a plan in mind and that plan is going to be largely determined by the person you are. But just know, it’s the job of babies to take plans and vomit all over them. It’s almost like it’s what they are born to do.
The true lesson of parenting is to give yourself grace and room to not live up to your own expectations.
YOU MIGHT BE INTERESTED IN