Tuesday, September 27, 2011

Mommy Martyrs

We've all met them - the Mommy Martyrs.  Those mom's who not only sacrifice constantly for their children, and fight conventions, but make sure that everyone knows about it.

I make sacrifices for my children - most mother's do.  We give up a lot of more mundane things, like time with our friends and husbands, or our bodies.  We let our brains turn to mush because the only conversations we have all day long are about Dora, the color and shape of poop, and what flavor jelly to use.

Many of us also fight popular conventions.  We refuse to turn our car seats around at 1 year, breastfeed, delay solids until past six months.  Maybe we didn't circ, or had a natural birth.  Awesome work!  Keep it up!  Buuut...


Okay, so that's a bit of a stretch - no one actually says all that at once. But I have actually seen someone say "I read up on this topic while breast feeding my toddler.  I find it really interesting."

.... Transparent much?  Kudos to you for breast feeding your toddler.  It's good for him, and it fights conventions (I'm generally ALL FOR fighting conventions).  But asking for a pat on the back in random places is too self serving for my taste.  That's not our job as mothers.  We're supposed to do what's best for our kids, not to get attention, but because it's best for them.

Don't get me wrong.  I love attention.  And I love when someone notices that I'm still nursing, or that I have two rear facing car seats.  Similarly, I would loathe it when someone comments negatively on these things (not that anyone ever has so far).  But I see no reason to mention that I breast feed in a Facebook group about car seats, or mention that my kid is uncirc'd on a JustMommies board about breast feeding.

And (here it comes) I roll my eyes at people who do.  Not all the people that do.  Just that ones that seem to need validation for every choice they ever make regarding their children.  Stand up for them, stand up for yourself, do your research, and make informed decisions.  You don't need people to constantly notice and tell you "great job!" for doing something you should be doing anyways.

/end rant

Thursday, September 22, 2011

10 Things My Kids Don't Know About Me

There are more than 10.  There will always be more than 10, at least until I've moved on from this life.  But I think these are the ten that will actually affect them someday (some sooner than later).

1. I have a tattoo.  By the time they figure out what a tattoo is, I may have more than one.

2. I hate Dora.

3. I've "done that" with my husband more than the three times required to produce the children.

4. Going to the bathroom is actually very routine and mundane, even for me.

5. There are moms out there who make mac and cheese even better than I do.
5b. There are moms out there who never make mac and cheese.  Ever.

6. I've done things in the past that I may have to lie about when they are teenagers.

7. I wanted to name all of them something other than what they are named, and, for the most part, wanted their genders to all be opposite (of course I love them for the anatomical parts they have, but I'm just sayin).

8. I'm actually terrible at drawing Mickey Mouse and Phineas Flynn, and even more terrible at cake decorating.

9. I never changed my last name.

10. I think their boogers, however interestingly shaped they may be, are gross.

Thursday, September 8, 2011

Calm Down. Deep breaths!

I'm not trying to pick on my friend here, but I'm gonna use her an example.  Sorry, friend!

While driving down the road, she sees a truck with a rear facing carseat in the front seat, with a kid actively in it.  Carseats don't really belong in the front seat, and especially not if there's an airbag.  Everyone can easily know this, because the picture on the visor looks like this:

Even if you can't read, or don't want to, it's pretty clear just from the picture, what you shouldn't be doing here, right? Okay, we're clear on this.  But an airbag can be disabled, or sometimes simply turned off.

So my friend sees this truck with a baby in the front, and becomes outraged.  So outraged that she wants to call the police.  And this confuses me.  First of all, she doesn't know that there is an airbag.  She thinks she MIGHT know, because she knows someone with a truck that's the same make/model, so she assumes there's an airbag and it's not turned off.

It's weird for me to think of myself as an optimist, but I guess I am.  We all make assumptions, every day, based on what we see.  While my friend assumes this car has an airbag, I choose to assume it doesn't.  I choose to assume that someone who will put his kid in the car rear facing, even when the seat CAN forward face, probably realized (because of the above warning) that you shouldn't do it with the airbag active, and has taken further steps to ensure the safety of his child (beyond just rear facing her).  I almost always choose to assume the best case scenario, and it confuses me why other people don't.

Do you WANT to be upset with this person? What will that accomplish? Maybe if you knew him, or know where he lived, or even knew his name, then being upset and assuming the worst would matter.  But you will probably never know if the truck had an active airbag, and if that kid was safe or not, so why waste energy thinking she wasn't, when you can just as easily think she was?  All yous are general - I don't think this friend even reads Momland (but if you are reading, I'm not picking on you, I swear!  You're just my most recent example!)

And the same thing goes for so much.
I choose to assume that a kid turned forward facing on his birthday was turned that way for the same reason I turned Luke around - the parents were concerned their child would aspirate the vomit that accompanied every rear facing car ride, and die.

I choose to believe that the majority of people don't know, rather than don't care.

I choose to assume that someone selling a car seat that expires in three months legitimately believes that someone will buy it only intending to use it for three months.  There are plenty of reasons to buy a car seat for only three months - vacation, spontaneous visit from family, a family emergency - and I also choose to assume that anyone who buys a seat that expires in three months will only use it for three, maybe four months (because let's face it, they don't spontaneously combust on their expiration date, but I wouldn't push it too far).

I've seen this quoted at 80%, 90%, and 95%, so I'm gonna go with 80% (again, assuming the best).  80% of car seats are used incorrectly, in one way or another.  Some misuses are more dangerous than others, but still 80%.  That means that whenever I see an occupied car seat on the road or in pictures, there's an 80% chance I'm gonna have a reason to be steaming mad.  And that's not counting the "misuse" that occurs when kids aren't even IN car seats.  It seems like a huge waste of energy on my part to get mad every single time.

Maybe I'll carry around little notecard print outs to stick on windshields in parking lots, or put a bumper sticker on my car, but I can't possibly get upset at every single case.  I have three kids, I haven't slept "enough" in over four years, and I have several other health issues that sap all my energy from me before I even get out of bed in the morning.

Maybe I'm too apathetic, maybe I'm not dedicated enough to my cause, or maybe I'm just too freakin tired to care, but I can't fathom getting violently ill every time I see a car seat misused, or a child in Publix who's parent isn't staring directly at them at all times.  Either way, I choose to get upset at the worst cases:

Assuming they drive like this (I choose to assume they don't), THIS would make me ill.

When there is obvious, without a doubt misuse that could legitimately risk a child's life in even the basic of colisions, I will get Mommy Bear Killing Spree Raging Mad.  Otherwise, I will silently throw up a prayer for the child in question, and then try to put it from my mind.  I guess I just realize that you can't save them all, you can't help people who don't want to be helped, and when there's nothing you can do about it, it's best to not think about it.

I have been known to go out of my to create a scenario in which something would make sense, just so that I don't have to get upset about it.  Daddy has baby rear facing in the front seat of a two-seater truck.  Well, that's obvious - it's the only car he has because the car with an available (safer) back seat is in the shop, or was just stolen, or wrecked.  He has no choice where to put his kid, and is doing the best he can.  I have other examples, but this is just long enough already.

I have a hard time understanding why people don't always agree with me on everything, ;) but especially on this.  To me, energy is precious - it is not something to be squandered fretting about things outside my control.  I wish I had the energy to fight with Craigslist over expired seats, but I will e-mail first, THEN flag.  I will always give people a chance to correct their own mistakes before doing it for them.  But that's a whole other blog post for a whole other day.

I've used car seats as an example this whole time, because it's the cause I choose to champion (seriously, you have to have noticed that by now, yes?), but really it applies to everything.  I pick my battles with my husband, I pick my battles with my children, and I pick my battles with the world.  There are stupid parents everywhere, and even the best parents sometimes make errors in judgement.  Sometimes choices are limited because of finances or other factors.

If someone's baby falls in a pool, I choose to think it was a freak accident until proven wrong.  I will not automatically assume this mother never supervised her child ever, and was a terrible, neglectful mother.

Someone's dog gets run over by a car, and rather than I assume this dog was always allowed to run loose, I choose to believe it was a one-time "oops, the kids left the door open" incident, until someone proves me wrong.

I don't get upset over parents who use leashes for their kids, or over parents who feed their kids solids at four months (I used to, but not so much anymore).  I don't get upset over parents who use walkers (I choose to assume they've taken precautions), and I don't get upset over someone getting an epidural, or even a repeat C-section as opposed to a VBAC.

There is so much REAL abuse and REAL neglect in the world, that these don't even register on my radar.  I hardly notice them, and make it a point to not get annoyed or upset by them.  I feel this keeps me sane.

If you're the type to get upset about these things whenever you see them, you should try it my way and see if you like it. ;)

Tuesday, September 6, 2011

Cars and Projectiles

Upon deciding that Thoughts from Momland needed a theme and some consistency, I decided to keep all my "advocacy and informed consent" babblings to another blog, which I've already created: Eclectic Advocacy.  The goal of Eclectic Advocacy is merely to inform and provide information on various parenting subjects, rather than advocating for a particular decision in most cases.  Topics already discussed there are Circumcision and Birth choices.  I'm advocating for informed consent on the part of parents.  Whichever action you choose, make sure it is an informed decision, and that's really all I care about.  If you want an epidural or if you think they're evil, that's cool.  Just make sure you know what an epidural is, the potential risks and side effects, so that you can weight those against the benefits and decide for yourself what chances you are willing to take.

All that said, I'm still a car seat Nazi, so I think car seat stuff will end up being posted on both blogs.  This isn't a carseat post, but it IS about car safety.  Car seats are all about keeping our kids safe from harm and death, and so is this blog post on unsecured projectiles.  So here goes.

I read this article today, and my desire to make sure there is nothing potentially harmful in my car was renewed. 
http://www.used-car.com.au/for_sale/car-safety.html  I spend hours ensuring my children are properly restrained in car seats that are properly installed, and it makes little sense to not finish the job.  After all, they are safe in their seats this way, until something hits them in the face.

The gist of the article (which is Australian, by the way, so the numbers pertain only to Australia) is that unsecured items in the car can become lethal, and everything cargo related should be in the trunk or under a well-secured net.  I know it's considered a freak accident to be killed by a projectile rather than the crash forces, but it's a not a freak occurrence to be injured by one. I looked up Mythbusters to see if they've ever tried to bust a projectile myth (that have, for the record, with a box of tissues), and according to them 13,000 people were injured by unsecured projectiles in 2001.  They don't list a source, so I don't know for sure how accurate that is.  Either way, I can't help but think, "why risk it?"

The article I linked already details a few incidents of people being killed by their stuff: a tyre, holiday (vacation) luggage, and in a bizarre incident, 936 bricks (Yeah "WTF?" is what I thought, too).  But they also talk about pets.

We go through enormous effort to make sure our 50 pounds children are secured in the car.  We don't want them to become a projectile for their safety as well as our own.  But the family pet is often neglected in this aspect.  People somehow fail to realize that, just like your child needs to be restrained, so does your dog.  a 40 pound dog IS a deadly projectile, both for the dog and for a person that may be in it's path.

They make car restraints for pets, and they are cheaper than car seats.  If you wouldn't put your kid in the car without a car seat or a safety belt, you shouldn't do it to your pets either!

And finally, the very end of that article details the story of a Ford Laser, two small kids, and 26 kilos (57 pounds) of computer parts.
This is a Ford laser:

This is 57 pounds (give or take)

In the story, the computer parts actually forced the folding seat to unlatch, sending the items into the passenger area of the car (I'm not sure how this works with the kids in the seat.. maybe it makes more sense to someone else).  So even if your cargo is secured in the trunk, or behind the second or third row of seats, it may be best to invest in a net just the same.

What happened to these children?

One afternoon in April 1993, South Australian couple Paul and Michelle Wood buckled their three-year-old daughter, Sheena, into her booster seat and  five-year-old son, Tristan, into the car seat alongside in the rear of their Ford Laser hatchback. Second-hand computer equipment weighing 26 kilos was in the luggage compartment.
Just east of Millicent on the Princes Highway, they ran into the back of a tip-truck. Paul sustained a broken nose, Michelle a fractured hip. But the children, correctly seated and appropriately restrained, fared much worse. The computer equipment shot through the latched split back seat, knocking Sheena’s booster seat from under her, causing whiplash that fractured her spine and made her a mild quadriplegic.
Tristan cannoned forward against his seatbelt, causing abdominal injuries so severe that he died seven weeks later.
This is incredibly tragic, and probably a freak accident, but still on the realm of possibility.  Honestly, I'm not convinced the computer parts in the hatchback really had anything to do with the kids' injuries (maybe a little, but not the root cause of them).  I hate to take a scenario like this and apply what ifs, especially when it involves tragedy and grieving parents who are probably still beating themselves up with the what-ifs all on their own.

However, I would argue that if the children were PROPERLY restrained, they may have survived/had less severe injuries.  I know they were legally restrained, and restrained as per Australian recommendations, but the 3-year-old was in a low back booster, and the five year old was in nothing at all, when they both should have been harnessed (while I would harness my five year old if I could, I know it's okay to put some of them in booster seats.  This child was in neither).

Had either or both of them been in harnessed car seats, the little girl's restraint would not have been pushed out from under her, and the plastic shell of the seat would have absorbed a lot of the force from the cargo.

The little boy would have either been in a safety belt that fit across his hips or thighs, rather than his stomach, and the seatbelt would have hit his bones rather than his delicate belly.  He may have broken his hips or pelvis, but that's a whole lot better than what actually happened.  And had he been in a harness, the force of the crash / the weight hitting the back of his seat would have been distributed better.

Would either of these children have walked away unharmed? It's unlikely.  Would they have been LESS harmed? Would the little boy have lived? *I* think so, but of course I can't prove it.  It just goes to show how important it is to make sure our children are restrained in a way that fits their height, weight, and development.

What it really boils down to is, once again, probability.  I like to weigh the probability of something happening against the convenience of avoiding it.  Is it THAT inconvenient to stick stuff under a nylon net, JUST IN CASE you get in an accident where it matters? Guess that's up to you.

Monday, September 5, 2011

Sunshine, Rainbows, Perspective, and New Buttons!

I'm taking some time out of my normal rambling awesomeness to give myself a bit of a plug.  I have a fan page on Facebook now, so you should click that nifty "like" button on the right.  And while you're at it, do me a favor and rate my blog for The Mom Blogs (but only if you like it - skip rating it if you hate it, obviously).

That said, let's move on.

I love my children, and they are my world.  When I suffered from depression for three years, they were the ONLY reason I dragged myself out of bed in the morning, and interacted with the world.  They kept me going when no one and nothing else was able to.  Obviously I love them.  Obviously I want what's best for them.  But even given all that.. my life is not sunshine and rainbows, and that's okay sometimes.  It's okay that sometimes my facebook status is "I want to crawl back into bed until tomorrow."  And when I post this, I don't need to be reminded of how 90% of the world is so much worse off than I am.

It really upsets me when people, especially women, suggest to other women that their feelings aren't valid because someone else is worse off somewhere.  Here are some example scenarios:

"Ugh, my kids are so frustrating today.  Is it nap time yet?"
"You know, there are alot of women in the world who would give anything to have frustrating children, if only they could have children at all."

"My baby was up all night crying for *insert reason here*.  I'm so exhausted I can barely think."
"You should be glad your baby CAN cry.  Lots of babies in the NICU have tubes in their throats and noses, and they can't cry."

"My son is being so annoying today, I just don't know what to do with him!"
"At least you have a son.  I lost my baby at 13 weeks."

Uhhh.. thanks? You're right, I guess, but was making her feel like crap for being frustrated really necessary?  I'll tell you: no, it wasn't.  If you know a parent that does nothing but complain about their children all day every day, then by all means - throw some perspective in their face.  But when a normally cheerful and happy mother complains once that she's frustrated with life or whatever, just let her have her freakin moment.

The concept that mothers must be perfect, that we must always be enjoying our children every moment, that we can never think about anything negative because it's just not proper.. this bugs me.  Life isn't perfect, and I hate the way we make each other feel inferior by suggesting it should be.  I hate the way we shove mothers into hiding their feelings, because of how "improper" it is to think negatively about your children.

I was once told that I must not love my children enough because I would pay someone to change all the blow out poopy diapers.  Instead of thinking about how gross the poop is as it seeps over the edge of the diaper and onto your fingers, you should just be thankful that you have a baby that can make such diapers, as opposed to having suffered a loss.  Uhhh.... no.  I mean, yeah - I'm thankful I have a baby that can poop, but the fact that I would pay someone to live in my basement and emerge only to change all these diapers in no way means that I don't love my children, or have compassion for people who don't have pooping babies in their lives.

We really need to stop attaching this "Sunshine and Rainbows" stigma to parenting.  All we're doing is hurting ourselves and each other in the process. Sure, there are some mothers who could use some perspective; that's obvious.  But I think the majority of us fully understand that our lives could be worse, but that doesn't mean we have to enjoy every second of them, just the same.

Friday, September 2, 2011

I Don't Like It Either!

I don't like screaming.  I don't like doing it myself, unless I'm on a roller coaster, and I certainly don't like it when my kids scream.  In fact, I probably like it a lot less than most parents.  To me, even my own children screaming is like nails on a chalkboard, and I will jump through hoops of fire just to silence the ear splitting shrieks emanating from their sweet, cherubic little faces.  So you can imagine that if my children are screaming someplace public, not only am I completely mortified and wishing I could disappear, I'm also thinking that if I shove this Q-tip far enough into my ear, I will never have to hear this sound again.  As if this isn't punishment enough, I'm also getting glares and rude looks from complete strangers who think I need to be schooled in parenting 101 - and some of them even try to school me themselves.

Of course, I am not everyone.  There are some people who are so numb to the horrific sounds of their own children (probably from hearing it all day every day for the last couple of years) that they fail to realize other people are NOT used to hearing their toddler freak out because he dropped a potato chip and still wants to eat it.  I firmly believe that these parents are merely sleep-deprived to the point of deafness or insanity, or so desperate for some peace and adult interaction that they are pretending their child is a product of June Cleaver rather than the subject of an Edvard Munch painting.      

There are certain things you can't go back and change even if you regret them.  If you are overwhelmed by the number of children you birthed, or regretting that you didn't space them all 18 years apart, it's a bit late to fix that, and you just have to make do.  And since you DO have to feed your children (at least according to DCF and law enforcement), this means that sometimes you will have to "make do" in public places, like the grocery store.  Here I've compiled a list of problems and suggestions for people who are adamant about never wanting to hear screaming children, ever.

Problem: Kids cry in the grocery store
Solution: Order your groceries on line, pay the store to deliver them, or hire the local neighbor kid to do it for you, and let HIM listen to the screaming.

Problem: Kids cry in restaurants
Solution: Take Out

Problem: kids cry in movie theaters
Solution: Wait for the DVD

I know, I know.  Other people have bratty children, and that doesn't mean you should skip out on things you would otherwise enjoy, or go out of your way to accommodate these children.  Well, I can assure you, the child doesn't care one bit if you're at the restaurant or movie theatre, so you don't have to worry about trying to accommodate them.

And there are lots of things in this world that you shouldn't HAVE to do.  You shouldn't have to die eventually, you shouldn't have to lock your doors at night, you shouldn't have to teach your children not to talk to strangers, and you shouldn't have to research every food on the market before you decide if it's edible.  But we adapt to these things easily enough, so why are screaming children any different?

Obviously, I have children.  Like I said before, I don't like hearing them scream.  If my children are crying at a restaurant, or crying in a movie theatre, or crying period, you can bet your rear end I'm not enjoying the experience any more than you are.  And I agree there are some places children shouldn't generally go.   
  • If you're staring at a $50 plate with four egg noddles, two tablespoons of sauce, and three peas, you shouldn't have to listen to a crying child.
  • If you sitting in a hotel room that you're paying $6000 a night for, you shouldn't have to hear a crying child.
  • If you're in a store that expressly says "no children" for one reason or another, you shouldn't have to hear a crying child.
  • If you're flying first class or business class, you shouldn't have to hear a crying child.
  • That's about it
Airplanes, grocery stores, and even regular, middle class restaurants mean you're going to encounter regular, middle-class people, and they will sometimes have children.  Suck it up.  You don't want to listen to a screaming baby, and I don't want to listen to racial slurs, profanity, and vulgarity, especially when my children are around.  I'm gonna call it a fair trade, okay?

I'm not arguing that parents should force other people to listen to their child scream.  I think parents should be doing what they can to make sure their children are well-behaved in a given situation, but still, as a parent, there's only so much you can do.  I'm not going to make excuses for my children when they misbehave, but I know they WILL misbehave, and I will deal with it in the way that works best for them, not for strangers.

I've seen it over and over, from parents and non parents alike: "and they were just standing there not doing ANYTHING to quiet their child that was screaming for a cookie."  What exactly would you like them to do? You can't REALLY force a child to stop crying.  You can try to soothe them, you can threaten punishment, you can actually punish them, you can try to bribe them, but short of smothering them with a pillow you CANNOT actually make them stop.  Oddly enough, this is true even in the grocery store.

So, in short:

Parents of screaming children: Do what you can to make sure your children aren't disrupting the people around them
Parents of other children: Try to have some sympathy, because chances are you have been or will be there at some point
Non-Parents: Stop being a cry baby yourself, and realize that most parents are doing what they can, and aren't trying to make your life miserable.

Everyone: Remember that the only Cry Baby that anyone likes is this one: