Monday, February 22, 2010

On Being A Parent

Overheard: two mothers with babies, each around six months old, discussing teething.

Mother 1: "He's been waking up in the night, crying. I normally let him cry, but..." [said as if we would disapprove if she did not let him cry, that we would tell her it was her own fault that her baby was waking her up because she was not tough enough].

Mother 2: "Yeah, mine's always got her hands in her mouth".

Mother 1: "He was sick the other night. Not like baby sick, proper sausage and beans and everything."

Mother 2: "Oh yes, teething can do that."

Mother 1: "Yes, he was crying and crying and after half an hour it was totally doing my head in so I went in to him and there was all this sick everywhere."

Doesn't it make you sad? That in our therapy and psychoanalysis obsessed culture, we still think it is acceptable and even desirable to leave a baby to cry by itself for half an hour? I'm hardly going to jump down anyone's throat and tell them they're doing the wrong thing, because everyone does what they believe is right, but I happen to believe that leaving a six month old baby to cry itself to sleep in the middle of the night for half an hour is wholly unacceptable. It's a hangover from the austere Victorian era and it is high time that it stopped. What damage does it do to a child? I can't believe that it is harmless.

And while I'm on my soapbox, this weekend I read this slightly depressing article on packing your children off to "kids' clubs" when you go on holiday. The article's author even puts his five month old baby in the resort's nursery! A five month old? Poor little thing. Do you ever wonder why some people bothered having children in the first place, if all they want to do is pack them off to a nursery the minute they catch sight of a beach? Isn't the fun of being a family in doing family things, together, en famille? I guess holiday resort kids' clubs must float some people's boats, but when I was a child they would have been my worst nightmare. Strangely enough, I actually enjoyed doing things with my brother and my parents! And I shall certainly not be wasting any precious holiday time with Cave Baby by sticking her in some dodgy resort's nursery. No siree. We shall take our holidays as we take the rest of life - united as a family. I hope I can give her as many jolly holiday memories as my parents gave me.

OK, rant over for the day. I hope you weren't too enraged by my opinions but, as always, leave me a comment to tell me what your angle is.


Joxy said...

Poor little lad :-( Can't really blame the mother of course, she's probably doing what she thinks she should ad no doubt has had numerous people tell her not to go to him because it will just encourage him and he'll just manipulate her etc... sigh. Mind, with this culture of getting parents back to work as soon as it's not really suprising. :-(

And yep with you on the holidays too. Not really been on holiday with Rye as such, but I love going places with him and don't see the point of taking him somewhere if not to explore it together.

Heather said...

i don't know, i've left mine to cry and I've not left them to cry, depending on lots of different factors. sometimes they can be so overwhelming that you just can't deal with it any more and you have to leave them for half an hour for your own sanity - I've been there. PND and all that.

Same goes for kids clubs, as a stay at home mum that spends all her time with her kids i can see the attraction of a bit of free time on your holidays.

MamaEm said...

Just came across your blog, and I'm loving it!

I have joined a local play group with all new, stay-at-home moms and 4-10 month old babies, and it's been interesting to say the least. Since all we have in common is our neighborhood, our parenting styles vary drastically. Some of the moms complain about their children wanting to be held and wanting attention. It's so sad to hear. They all deal with letting their kids cry it out, and other things like lugging their car seats inside with child strapped in. As a co-sleeping, babywearing mama, I can't relate- and I'm so glad!

Jessica said...

I have a friend who uses language to describe her kids' behavior as "manipulative," "bad," "drama queen," "defiant," and "uncooperative." It breaks my heart because it's usually in relation to sleep and "following orders." I just can't wrap my head around people thinking that babies are tiny adults. Makes no sense. They are babies! They need their mamas and their papas ALL THE TIME. SUCK IT UP, PEOPLE!


A Natural Dawn said...

I OFTEN ponder the same question..."Why do some people HAVE children in the FIRST place?"

If you are only going to shuffle them away by themselves the entire night...expect them to behave as an adult...shuffle them off to daycare or preschool...and then school all day, then what is really the point. What is that child bringing you and what are you bringing him?

Sometimes I think people just have children out of some sort of obligation to societal expectation. Or, maybe they want to have someone there in their old age who will take care of them out of familial's very sad.

When I hear conversations like what you related, I go about my whole day in a MANY children are being harmed EVERYDAY...and yes, I honestly believe that Harmed is the correct verb.

Becks said...

I could join in and rant for hours....but I won't. I'll just sit here nodding in agreement with your post.

Hobo Mama said...

I love Jessica's comment. :) I'll leave that aspect of my response to your post at that.

About the kids' clubs thing: My parents want us to go with them on a cruise, and I've been appalled at how separated the kids' & adult activities reportedly are on shipboard, even on family-friendly cruises. They keep putting it off, so maybe Mikko will be old enough to enjoy a couple hours in one of the play places by himself when he's 4 or so, but as a baby? It's a whole bunch of strange kids and a couple strange adults. I can't imagine. They have clubs for (very young) kids up till MIDNIGHT. It's bizarre, isn't it? We'll see how much pressure we get to bundle him off to the kid activities rather than keep him around us if we end up going.

cartside said...

I think it depends on the situation. We had hours of nonstop crying, and yes, I did occasionally put her in her cot and left the room because I couldn't cope and that was safer than what I may have done otherwise. But I would never have let her cry alone in her room even for more than 2 minutes without checking - I can't believe someone would let their child soak in their vomit (and sausages and beans at 6 months???). If you're a full time parent, I can see the attraction of a holiday camp. Not so if you're a working mum, so I'd never consider it, family holiday is to catch up on what I miss out through the year. And if anyone says I should not have kids because I still also want to work - it's what works for me, not just for financial reasons. I think I wouldn't be happy to be a SAHM, and be a worse mum for it.

Cave Mother said...

Fair comments all round - I know everyone has their own opinions on issues like this, and there are always background details that we don't know. But I stand by what I said - leaving a small baby to cry for half an hour is not acceptable, and I still wonder why loving parents would want to get rid of their kids every day while they're on holiday. Aren't children to be enjoyed?

Mon said...

As always, enjoy your outspokeness...

I have alwys been a compassionate person, but since motherhood I have come to a heightened awareness and deeper levels of compassion. I'm constantly humbled by my home situations.

I take each person as an individual rather than umbrella them under my personal opinions of how things ought to be. And I have discovered that while I feel uncomfortable about certain parenting choices that others make, most choices I have come to at least understand the thinking behind it and feel compassion for. It seems to me that most decisions seem to be made from the only solutions the mother thinks she has.

I feel strongly that ideas such as 'why do some women even have children' is dangerous ground to tread upon. Although I understand why we think it and I have, ashamed to say, thought it myself in the past.

I believe in a woman's right to parent in how she see fits and sits right with her conscious and personality.

I have nannied for mothers who are as far from natural mothers as you can imagine. Who haven't a clue to what to do when their child cries. They are awakward and vulnerable... but still love their children. And so they do the best they know how - which might mean a kid's club on holiday (which is not 24/7 and seems better than not going anywhere together ever), or getting a full time nanny, or boarding school, etc.

These are choices that I have no connection with, but it doesn't make me superior because I choose to be home with my kid.

To have children is EVERYONE's right, not only for an elite few who do it the attachment/crunchy parent way.
There are millions of people on this earth who had less than ideal childhoods who have managed to do alright and deserve to exist.

My mother sucked at it, I'm still glad she didn't decide that as an unnatural mother she wasn't going to abort me instead.

Olivia said...

I agree with the first part of your post, not so much on the second part.

I can understand why parents would take advantage of being able to have a little time with out the children on a vacation. Personally, I wouldn't make that the central theme of the holiday, but an evening or an afternoon? Maybe.

What I really have a hard time with is the "why do some people have children" part. People often say the same thing of parents who utilize daycares because they work. (see A Natural Dawn) It's just so fundamentally judgemental and hurtful to mothers/parents who work out of the home. To say that people who cannot have one parent stay at home with children should just not have them is to ignore the reality of many people's lives now and throughout history.

Mothers have always worked. They were maids, seamstresses, teachers, etc. They worked in the family farm and sold goods at the market. Should none of them have had children?

Sorry for ranting and getting off topic.

Olivia said...

Or what Mon said.

Heh, serves me right for ranting before reading. ;)

Earthenwitch said...

Awful - makes me sad to think of someone of any age crying until they were sick, and I really hope that mother felt at least a little shifty about finding 'all this sick everywhere'; I'd be mortified, but then you and I seem to sing, if not from the same sheet, at least from the same hymnal in terms of crying, nights, and parenting whatnot, being of the attachment persuasion.

Horses for courses, or something, I suppose.

Cave Mother said...

Olivia - Indeed, an afternoon or an evening off sounds lovely, especially when on holiday. Every day though? That's what I think is weird.

I think childcare to allow a person to work, and childcare to allow that person to lie on a beach without the children bothering them, are totally different issues. We work to live. We go on holiday to have fun.

Anonymous said...

overhearing stuff like that always makes feel really sad as well - both for baby who probably feeling all abandoned and uncared for and for Mom whos missing out following her heart and caring for her baby...

Betsy B. Honest said...

I do feel sorry for a six-month old baby who is left to cry it out at night while teething. And I do think it does harm. And I also feel sorry for the mom who is following someone else's dumb advice instead of responding like she wants to.

It's interesting that it sounds like a learning experience for her though -- like she's saying how she tried to leave him crying but she couldn't shake the feeling that something was different this time, and indeed he was sick.

As for Kid's Clubs, I did follow that link you posted and found it kindof creepy. Sounded to me like dude really, really wanted some alone time with his wife and hadn't gotten laid in a looooong time. I doubt it worked out for him as hoped.

That said, I have partaked of the marvelous thing that is a Kid's Club at a resort -- my hubby and I left our 2.5 year old in one for an afternoon while we snorkled over the Great Mayan Reef. It was something unforgettable that we absolutely couldn't do with a toddler in tow, unless we took turns in the ocean. But we'd been taking turns doing things while the other one held our little girl for years and it was amazing to connect that way just with each other. We held hands floating over the fishies and the beautiful coral. It was surreal to realize how much we missed eachother, despite the fact that we spent all of our time together, if that makes any sense.

Our daughter had a splendid time in Kid's Club, by the by. Though it is where she was first introduced to hot dogs and lollipops... a slippery slope.

It is surprising to me how terrifyingly judgy some moms can be (I don't mean you Cave Mama). It's like moms are the one group we all agree should be constantly scrutinized and judged. I do it to. Though I know that that's exactly the kind of stuff that will come back and bite you in the arse...

Pretty much everything I've ever judged another mom harshly for, I have now done.

Lisa C said...

I love a good rant!

The dialogue about the baby crying and vomiting made me feel sick. That's just wrong.

As for holidays--some of my most favorite memories with my family are from our vacations together! I did appreciate Besty's sentiment on this, though.

Sometimes I am a little puzzled about why some people choose to be parents (like one I know who wants loads of children but is always frustrated by the ones she has and saying things like 'I don't want you right now!'). But I'm not judging them...just don't 'get' them.

carol b said...

I'm with you completely on this...and get quite depressed by parents using language such as Jessica describes - all about getting the baby/child to conform & fit into a parent's agenda.

I firmly believe we should all be able to make our own parenting choices, but so much of the 'advice' in our society - from books, tv, the government, seems to be a million miles away from the thoughtful, caring, loving relationships we should be giving our's from these early experiences that they will learn how to be warm, loving, caring adults..

Boy am I fed up with it!

Thanks for ranting, I feel better just reading it!

Laura McIntyre said...

I have no read the rest of the comments but in my view i could never leave a 6 month old to cry . Pre my son i was very against cio at any age and im still mostly but now and then i do leave him to cry (he is 17m now , and it more in a i cannot take this any more type way so put him down and take a few minutes to myself then try again ) .

I think kids clubs on holiday could be great for the child , i know growing up my sister loved them and would spend every minute she could at them . I was not the same though and never went , my parents let us choose. I could not see us putting our children in them on holiday though unless they asked. Last year we went on holiday to Butlins and the nursery offered a few hours free to each child and we kept saying we would use it but never got around to it, were having to much fun together to be apart from the kids

Cave Mother said...

Lisa - I know what you mean about people complaining about their kids but wanting loads more at the same time. I catch myself moaning about Cave Baby, and at the same time thinking how much I'd like to have another baby. Each time I think to myself that it's daft - if it's this hard to look after one, what would it be like to have two? That biological urge to reproduce is just so strong though! I rationalise my silliness by reasoning that I enjoy being a mother the majority of the time.

Maman A Droit said...

I think most women who have children legitimately want them, but then parent them the way they are "supposed" to and are frustrated by the results, like the women you overheard. My 7 month old never cries more than a few minutes because he is so used to his needs being attended to. If he cried for 5 minutes I would be extremely worried because it would be so unusual. But those women have been taught that the way I parent "spoils" babies and are afraid to do the same to their babies, despite their maternal instincts telling them to go pick that baby up.

As far as kids clubs, I think they are okay only for older kids, for short periods of time(not more than a few hours per day), and preferably with a sibling. The only time I've been in one is when my parents visisted the Caen memorial in Normandy and felt my 5 year old brother and 6 year old self were too young for possibly graphic Holocaust photos. We happily made crafts together and later rejoined them to walk the grounds where bombs had been. For a baby I think the idea is absurd.

Echo said...

Stories like that drive me crazy because she WANTED to go to her baby and he WANTED her to come to him, why is a book that is -not- witness to the situation a more credible source than what is right in front of you screaming, 'PLEASE get me!'?

My son is almost five months and he rarely cries because when he is upset he needs something. He wants to be held, or fed, or changed, or rocked and we missed it, so we fix it. Some babies have harder times with reflux and such, but I believe crying is a sign that something is wrong, not a manipulation. I hope that if I raise my son to feel loved, safe and secure that he will not feel the need to manipulate me when he is old enough. It is not a guarantee, but it is my hope.

Recently when he was crying and I scooped him up the whole 'You're spoiling him' thing came up- I simply explained this- he is not yet able to sit up, play well with his toys etc. When he is old enough to sit himself up, crawl over and pick up a toy, has more fluid movement to put things in his mouth etc (he can but sometimes hits himself in the nose instead) then he will not cry so much for being set down. Right now? His only real option is to stare at the ceiling/walls. He enjoys life, he enjoys watching me wash dishes, cook meals, take care of the animals. He can't do all of those things, but he is learning just by seeing me do them while he is with me.

I think that these things benefit him far more than sitting in his crib while I do them.

However, I can't wait until he's big enough for his dad and I to get some mini-vacations : P I definitely, definitely believe in alone time as a couple. I don't expect that to happen until he is probably four (can't count on anyone else not to make him cry it out), and it will only be a night away once or twice a year, but ... *daydreams*.