I try to be a conscientious mom. Before my son was born I read the entire Internet, educating myself on such mysterious topics as breastfeeding and newborn sleep patterns and what kind of detergent I should use to wash all the tiny clothes I received at my baby shower. My husband and I diligently researched cribs and carseats and bottles. I spent hours reading about baby carriers, polled my friends about bedtime routines, worried over whether I should put a bumper in the crib.
Sometimes "conscientious" rubs up against "neurotic". Not long after reading a series of articles about how plastic baby bottles are producing all these two-headed swampmonsters, I marched myself over to the hippie grocery store and bought a collection of BPA-free bottles. I read another article about how much flouride is in tap water and the forty-seven plagues it will rain down upon the earth, and instantly went out to buy a jug of spring water for mixing formula. I don't know how many times over the last eight months I've teetered on the edge of Krazy because my kid is not at all interested in sleeping through the night, no matter what experts' advice we follow.
I am all about making sure I know what's best and doing what's best. Then this morning I hauled my kid downstairs, plopped him in the Exersaucer and turned on Sesame Street, whereupon I collapsed onto the couch and willed myself ten extra minutes of sleep. (Which I didn't get because the boy has discovered, along with adorable clapping, kissing and high-fiving, the annoying screaming and shrieking at eardrum-shattering volume.)
While I shot him the MOMMY IS EXHAUSTED brand of stinkeye, I thought about the woman in my moms group who'd asked about TV watching just the day before. "Do you let your babies watch television?" she asked nervously. "Sometimes I'll turn on the news and I catch her looking at it, so I hurry and turn her around. But!", she added, just in case we were thinking she was the Worst Mommy Ever, "we hardly ever have the TV on, and when we do it's usually not until she goes to bed!"
The other mothers nicely assured her that a little bit of TV here and there wasn't a huge problem and their babies get small doses of TV by mistake as well.
I averted my eyes because In my house? The television is ALWAYS ON. I know this is bad. I know this is very bad. But I can't stand a quiet house and if the baby's spitting out his applesauce and the kitchen is a disaster and it's too ugly outside to go for a walk, switching on the TV jolts me back to the world that does not revolve around the nap schedule. So I said, "Well, MY kid is just going to know way more about pop culture than YOUR kids."
And I hardly felt guilty this morning when Big Bird was teaching my baby what you eat for breakfast. Do you have spaghetti and meatballs for breakfast? No! But you have OATMEAL for breakfast! Mmm!
(Note to the striking writers: My baby goes to bed right after dinner. I can't leave the house. What are you expecting me to do with my evenings? YOU ARE KILLING ME.)
I guess we pick and choose, huh? I'm in the process of ridding my house of toxic cleaners and anything with that scary plastic chemical, but my kid saw copious amounts of the New Hampshire presidential primary coverage while I was using vinegar to wipe down the countertops. And a lot of times I just do whatever's easiest. Sometimes he needs a pacifier to keep him quiet in church. Sometimes it's faster to give in and rock him to sleep rather than sticking to the Put Down Drowsy But Awake rule. Sometimes I ignore the laundry and read a magazine. Sometimes he refuses to nap, but I stash him in the crib anyway so I can finally take a shower. A perfect mother would sit on the floor and patiently show her baby how to put the shapes in the shape sorter instead of flinging them about the living room, but
sometimes all the time I'd rather read blogs instead.
The latest thing I am ashamed to admit in my moms group is that my baby hasn't a clue what it means when you bang your fingertips together or squeeze your hand open and shut. Like dinnertime isn't long enough without adding SIGN LANGUAGE.
Today the boy and I are going to drive to his grandparents' house and spend the day, even though it will totally screw up the nap schedule and the bedtime routine and everything that makes a day easy and normal. Why? Because HELLO, ALL DAY BABYSITTING. Us conscientious neurotic mothers need a break!