Thursday, September 03, 2009

Follow-up post to Why do I not leave my babies

Well, I got this thing from Pampers in the mail today. I get junk from Gerber and the formula companies who, for some unknown reason, think I have a six month old currently. Basically, these things are marketing propaganda somewhat disguised as a parenting newsletter, containing tips and info on developmental stages. Of course, it is done in a very "mainstream" way.

So, in light of my last Why Do I post about not separating from my babies, I will share a bit of what I found in this Pampers ad (I don't even buy Pampers - how do they get us onto these mailing lists??? Oh yeah, thanks Motherhood Maternity and the hospital).

There was a section on "me time." For those who are unfamiliar with this term, it apparently means time away from the baby used to pursue one's own needs or interests while alone. For me in the early months/first year with a baby, that means a shower, ha ha. Maybe I am out of touch or something, but the comments in this "me time" section seem pretty out of touch themselves - petty, immature, and selfish come to mind.

Before I begin with the direct quotes, i want to briefly touch on the Catholic concept of "dying to self." We are called to "die to self," which means we are to put the needs of others ahead of our own needs. In a vocation to the religious life, a priest or nun is giving his or her life to God completely. Priests are on-call to their "flocks" all the time. In the vocation of parenthood, one is on-call to one's children. Especially in the early years, putting one's self-interest aside for the good of the children is a way of dying to self. To clarify, this does not mean becoming a "martyr" in the modern sense of the word - ie, a person who puts herself through struggles in order to show how holy she is or so she can complain about how she does so much for everyone else and gets no thanks - it does mean that dying to ourselves through putting the needs of our families ahead of ourselves is a way we become sanctified.

So, on to the quotes...

A mother submitted a question about feeling guilty about leaving her five month old with a babysitter because she wanted to start working out at the gym. Some of the responses included:

"I actually choose to work because I don't want to lose my professional skills, and because I like to keep all parts of my brain working - not only the "mommy" part. If it means that sometimes I cannot go for a walk with my children and have to send them with daddy or grandma/grandpa, then so be it. I love them to pieces, but I have my own interests, too!"

[My note: So, people who choose not to work "professionally" are functioning at a lower level brain-wise. Let's not forget what GK Chesterton said about mothers teaching their children, the rule of three, yadda yadda... oh, here it is for you, I can't resist sharing - I love this part of the book!!
"How can it be a large career to tell other people's children about the Rule of Three, and a small career to tell one's own children about the universe? How can it be broad to be the same thing to everyone, and narrow to be everything to someone? No; a woman's function is laborious, but because it is gigantic, not because it is minute. I will pity Mrs. Jones for the hugeness of her task; I will never pity her for its smallness."]

Another response:
"I think it's also important for your children to know that mommy cannot always be available to them and that she needs some time off. Otherwise they will think that mommy is there to satisfy their every need and that her needs are inferior."

[My note: Whoa. So, if a mother can be available to her baby (let's remember that this is regarding a five month old) all the time, then why does the baby need to "know" that she cannot? It is just like the people who say, "Well, you're going to have to let her cry it out eventually." Have to? Why is that? And this person seems to think that "needs" are the same as "wants," as she uses the word "needs" in the context where "wants" would be more accurate. She implies that it is a bad thing for a baby to think that its mother will meet all its needs. And just because a rational, mature adult can postpone or adjust her own needs and wants so that the baby's needs (real needs) from its mother are met, how does that mean that she shows her needs as inferior? A mother who shows her needs as being inferior would have to be doing something along these lines: not bathing regularly, sitting awake staring at her baby while it slept, watching and assisting her baby eat to the point that she is unable to eat a meal herself, never going out for a walk as exercise with her baby because she doesn't want to impose on his desire to play with stimulating infant toys with his mother.... you get the point!]

A random one:
"If you are breastfeeding, your baby may pick up on your stress and negative emotions and become upset."

[My note: So, would a bottle-fed baby not pick up on stress and negative emotions? maybe if we had a more realistic expectation about babies, and more of a dying-to-self attitute portrayed in our culture, this would be less of a problem. Notice this woman assumes that there will be negative emotions for moms who don't get enough "me time." How much of this mentality could be overcome if it weren't portrayed as such? How much are we "trained" in this culture to see that lack of "me time" results in stress? Maybe if we had more help and close-knit communities rather than isolation in our culture, the stress and negativity wouldn't be an issue as we had the support of other women in our families and communities.]

And the winner is:
"You need more things in your life than diapers and bottles. If you don't take time off, don't take care of yourself, or don't engage your mind in "adult" things, you will become uninteresting to yourself, and possibly less interesting to people around you (including your spouse). The same applies to your appearance, by the way: it's better for your self-confidence, and it's better for your relationship with your spouse if you look and feel great."

[My note: So, if you're ugly to start with, then don't even bother, ha ha. One surely cannot apply makeup or put on nice-looking clothing while caring for a baby. "Uninteresting" - again, how can it be drudgery to be everything to someone?]

So... the "it's all about me" culture prevails once again. A baby is little for such a short time, relatively speaking... the personal dying-to-self will not last forever, even if you have babies continually for a twenty year period. Giving to others is what life is all about, and this total self-giving during infancy will gradually change and shift as the child grows older, so that the mother is still self-giving, but in a different and more emotional way, and less physically so. Christ shows us the example of self-donative love. We were made to serve Him, and through serving others He places here with us, we glorify Him. Which does He care more about - people or things? We don't need more "things" in our lives... we need more time serving the people we love.

And the missing response to this lady's question about going to the gym... one that doesn't brush off the mom's issue of feeling badly about leaving her baby and also doesn't say, "Too bad for you - you can never exercise now that you have a baby!":
It sounds like taking care of your health through exercise is a priority for you - good for you! Your health is important! It also sounds like your baby's sense of security is high on your list as well. You feel guilty separating from your baby when she is still so dependent on you, especially if you are nursing. Many moms have found ways to balance both these needs. Some gyms have on-site quality child care so that you can exercise on your own, but your baby is close by enough that the caregivers can find you if your baby really needs you, and you can minimize your separation this way. If on-site care is not an option, perhaps you would feel more comfortable if a sitter could come with you and play with the baby outside the gym in warmer weather. You could also alternate trips to the gym with brisk walks around your neighborhood with your baby in a stroller or baby carrier... the extra weight can help you burn more calories! :) Good luck with finding a solution for yourself and your baby, and your concern shows you are doing a great job in meeting the needs of everyone! God bless!


That Married Couple said...

Yes - your final comment wins! I wish there was a way you could actually get that response in there!
And the concept of dying to self really is foreign to our society. Individualism reigns, unfortunately.

mel said...

Our gym lets you push a baby or toddler in a stroller on the walking track. :)

A while back I was in the strange position of being stuck in a waiting room for an extended period of time without children. I had nothing to do but read the stacks of mainstream parenting magazines in there. I was horrified! lol...I haven't read those since I was pregnant with my oldest!

Carrie said...

Incredible! Completely incredible! I may have to steal that quote for my facebook status! lol!

Erin said...

Which quote do you want to steal, the Chesterton one?

Carrie said...

Sorry, I didn't sign up for email notification so I didn't see your response till I came back to see if anyone else had responded. Yes, it was going to be the Chesterton one. But on the other hand, I think my facebook friends are probably annoyed to death with my posting of homemade laundry detergent and anti-vaccination statuses! ha ha!

Eileen said...

This reminds me of a wedding-related article I read in the newspaper just before my husband and I were married. The point of the article was the importance of not "losing yourself" in the other person. They recommended that, while on your honeymoon, you make sure that your husband has time alone doing his stuff (such as golfing, they suggested) and you do stuff on your own that you enjoy (like shopping).

On your honeymoon.

Gosh, if you don't like being together on your *honeymoon,* when *will* you??

Sometimes you can only shake your head in wonder, you know?

The thing is, I actually like being with my family. I ache for the loss of my children's babyhood, and am overwhelmed sometimes at how quickly the time is flying -- in the blink of an eye, they'll be gone. I wouldn't miss this time with them for the world. And I love that the man of my dreams is the one with whom I share this treasure. This *is* where I want most to be. I really wouldn't rather be shopping. (or working. or golfing. or ... well, exercising, for that matter; but that's another issue altogether ...) And I haven't "lost myself". I like to think we've all gained each other, actually.

At the end of your life, all you really want is to have those you love most around you. All the "me" time in the world will never get you that.