My Journey to Mindful Parenting
When I became pregnant there was one thing I knew for sure: I wanted to do everything I could to keep my child happy, healthy, and thriving. Today, that means being mindful of what goes in our children’s bodies, what goes on their bodies, what they play with, and how they develop. My generation is one of the most health-conscious and wellness-centered generations ever; with new advancements, new information, and a renewed importance in caring for our bodies and minds, I have more resources and options for being a mindful parent than any of the parents in previous generations. I was excited to find the very best organic food for him, buy him the cleanest diapers and clothes, and seek out the coolest developmentally and environmentally friendly toys I could find. I did tons of research during my pregnancy and chose his diapers, shampoo, formula, toys, and clothes with his continued health and wellbeing in mind. I was happy with the choices I made, and Matt was happy with the choices I made. I did a lot of work searching for what I thought would be best for Baby Aaron in every way, shape, and form. It made me feel good to be able to do that, and make those choices for him before he was even born. And, I felt like it was what I was supposed to do; if we aren’t giving our kids what we think is the very best for them, then what the hell are we doing?
I know how much judgement parents can face; there’s always someone who thinks you can be doing better or taking a better approach. So, I expected to be met with criticism; maybe here on my blog or social media, or maybe within my own personal life. But, I expected the criticism to be about how I could be making better choices for Baby Aaron, whether it was about feeding him a better formula or how I shouldn’t be formula feeding at all, or how I could have chosen a better crib, car seat, or toys. What I didn’t expect was to be criticized for my decision to choose the best things I could find. So, when my first time being judged as a parent occurred, I didn't expect it to come in the form of being told that my choosing the very best food, diapers, and other products for Baby Aaron was a stupid waste of money. The encounter left me surprised, confused, and a little heartbroken.
Being Judged as a Parent: Judgement Across Generations
During our the first two weeks after we brought Baby Aaron home from the hospital, things were hard. We were both exhausted beyond what we ever imagined, and I was still in pain from my c-section, so there were a lot of things that were hard for us to do on our own. One of those things was running out to the store to pick up necessities like diapers, formula, and groceries. With the baby being so little, me being in pain and not able to get around very well or drive anywhere, our options were pretty limited for leaving the house at all. Since we’d been home we’d only had my mom to help us with the baby, things around the house, and getting things from the store. So, in the middle of the second week home, when we needed another can of formula from the store, we decided to ask Matt’s parents if they could pick some up for us instead of bothering my mom again. We figured it didn’t make sense to ask her to drive 30+ minutes to bring us formula when his parents lived significantly closer to us and my mom had already been helping us a lot since we’d come home.
Matt’s Dad agreed to pick up formula for us and we sent him a picture of what formula we were using and told him where to find it on sale. He let us know that he wouldn’t have time to visit and would just be quickly dropping off the formula before heading back home to have dinner with Matt’s mom and younger sister, which was perfect, because Baby Aaron had been fussy all day and was finally napping and I was sitting around in my nightgown, feeling crappy and tired. But, when he arrived at our house, things didn’t go how we expected them to. Instead of letting Matt come out to the porch to talk with him and get the formula, he pushed through our front door once Matt opened it as Matt was holding back the dog, who was startled by the sudden loud knock on the front door and was eager to greet whomever was knocking. After pushing inside past Matt and our dog, he started yelling about how outrageously expensive the formula we were using was. Now, I have to clarify that our formula is more expensive than a lot of other brands, but like I said before: I chose this formula because it’s higher quality and it agreed with Baby Aaron’s stomach when so many of the others we tried over the first few weeks of his life hadn’t. However, it isn’t the most expensive formula on the market by a long shot.
His Dad went on to exclaim that the formula was the most expensive in the store and that it was stupid and wasteful for us to be giving him such an expensive formula. “We never gave you organic formula and you’re fine. You’re wasting money on trendy organic formula and it’s stupid. There are plenty of generic brands you could give him.” We didn’t really know what to say, and Matt was more concerned about the baby, who was sleeping on my lap at the time, than he was about the logistics of our formula and it’s cost compared to generic brands. He asked his Dad if they could go outside and talk or if they could discuss the issue at another time, but his Dad ignored him and continued. “We never used organic diapers on you either! You’re being stupid and wasteful so you can buy trendy organic crap!” Matt explained that the diapers we chose were free from bleaches, dyes, and other things that would irritate the baby’s seriously sensitive skin, but his Dad simply retorted that there were plenty of cheap and generic diapers he could buy that could hold pee and poop just as well.
At this point all of the yelling had started to disturb the baby and he was starting to fuss and wriggle in my lap. Matt asked once again if they could continue the conversation outside or at a later time, but was ignored again. In the end, his Dad told us how stupid and wasteful we were a few more times and then let us know that, if we ever asked him to pick up formula again, that he would be bringing us the cheapest one he could find regardless of ingredients, brand, or how it affected the baby’s digestive system before leaving our house and slamming the front door behind him. I didn’t even realize until later that, with all the fuss and commotion, I’d forgotten to even give him the money for the formula.
How I let Judgement Make me Doubt Myself
After he left we talked with each other while I tried to calm down the now awake and unhappy Baby Aaron, and went over all the reasons we’d chosen the products we had to use for the baby. We wanted, and needed, a good quality food that wasn’t made with fake ingredients and full of preservatives, and that also agreed with the baby’s digestive system. We wanted diapers that were free from bleach, dyes, and anything else that would irritate the outrageously sensitive skin Baby Aaron had inherited from me. We wanted to give our child the best we could, so that he could be as healthy and happy as possible while he grew. Isn’t that what you’re supposed to do as a parent?
Later, once the baby had calmed down again, I thought about what had happened more. I had never expected that being judged as a parent would include something like this. I thought of the contempt in Matt’s dad’s voice when he told us how stupid we were for caring about the better formula and cleaner diapers, how we were wasting money on “trendy organic products.” I thought about all of the hard work I’d done trying to find the best formula and diapers, and how I’d agonized over our budget to make sure we could afford to buy him these better things. I’d re-done our entire budget, cut out a lot of our “fun” spending, and even completely changed our own grocery list to make sure we wouldn’t be losing money by adding in good quality products for the baby. I thought that’s what I was supposed to do, and more importantly, it’s what I wanted to do for my child. It was important to me, and everything I had learned throughout my life told me it was important in general. Of course, that didn’t stop me from feeling terrible about it.
I felt like I was doing something wrong, and no matter how many times Matt and I talked it over that night, I still felt that way. I felt like I was disappointing Matt’s parents and doing something I shouldn’t be doing. That feeling mixed with my insanely out-of-control hormones led to me crying on and off for the rest of the day and even into the following day. Every time I would think about the encounter I’d upset myself all over again. Why had I put in all of the hard work that I had? Why had I done so much research and planning just to be told I was being stupid and wasteful and to have everything I’d felt so good about turned into something that made my heart hurt?
Learning to be Okay With my Parenting Choices
Eventually, I got over feeling so bad about the whole thing, and decided that I had made the right decisions. I had done everything I could to find the very best products for my child, and that was important. What we feed our kids, what we put on their skin, what we give them to play with-all of it does matter, and it’s all important. Being a mindful parent and paying attention to those things that maybe our parents’ generation didn’t know to pay attention makes a difference.
Our parents’ generation was one that grew up during a time when convenience was more important than quality. Their generation grew up on the introduction of fast food, genetically modified veggies, and long-lasting, preservative-full meals and other products. But, their generation has paid for that dearly. Just in the last six months, three people my mom knew who were right around her age died from health related problems or illnesses. Things like heart attacks, heart disease, clogged arteries, and blood clots seem to plague them. And, that is the reason our generation started taking better care of ourselves and started to stop and say, “Wait a minute. Why are we eating this crappy food that’s full of toxins and makes our bodies break down earlier than they need to? Why are we putting stuff on our skin that gets into our bodies and does bad stuff to it? Why are we doing all of these things that are bad for us when there are other options?” Of course, that also led to the idea of being more mindful about the products we buy, consume, and use. And, sure, it is a trend that, in some cases, can be over-the-top, but it doesn’t mean that the base idea is wrong or bad or stupid. If we dismissed every trend as simply “a stupid trend that means nothing” then we’d miss out on a lot of great, important, and legitimate things.
There were a few times we tried to explain and defend ourselves to Matt’s Dad. We sent text messages listing prices for different formulas compared to ours, citing the ingredients in the ones that had crap stuff in them and explaining the problem others had caused with Baby Aaron’s digestion. We told him about the baby’s sensitive skin and how so many things irritated it, and how we decided that his diapers should be whatever kind was least likely to cause irritation. None of it mattered or convinced him that we were making the right choices. Some of it he ignored entirely, and some of it he responded to by suggesting a different, equally bad alternative. He continuously insisted that we were simply being wasteful, despite our explanation of Baby Aaron's sensitive skin and our journey through multiple formulas before finally finding the one that agreed with him.
In the end, I decided to let this judgement go. I can be okay with being judged for wanting to provide my child with better things, whether that’s better food and diapers or better toys and books. Plus, since I started being able to drive and get around not long after this happened and we started to fall into some kind of routine, we haven’t needed to ask anyone to pick up formula for us. I’m able to pick up formula when we need it, and I can make my own decisions about whether or not what I’m buying it the right option. I know that, as time goes on, I'll end up being judged as a parent for a lot of other things, but this experience has taught me that not every criticism is valid, and I don't have to let every judgement get me down. Because, in the end, other people’s opinions only hold as much weight as you let them. We do our best for our kids, we want the best for them, and none of us should let other people make us feel guilty for that.