Ok, so a longitudinal study about the benefits of breastfeeding were disseminated and it nearly broke the internet. Some pro-breastfeeders used (and probably will continue to use) it as a Nelson-style “HA! HA!” It also brought out to super offended and defensive formula feeders.
I could go on and on about the reasons why American moms are weaning completely or supplementing before their babies turn 1 year old. I could also go on and on about how our entire culture claims ownership of a woman’s body when, quite frankly, it’s none of our business how each individual woman decides to handle her own sexuality, reproduction, and the like.
The truth is that our culture has always been obsessed with perfection, but that obsession has officially filtered down to parenting.
Our culture wants to see parents do everything they can to grow the perfect child. From eating only kale while pregnant to prep classes for preschool, we’ve lost our fucking way. And do you know who the biggest losers are? Our kids.
There are a full 18 years before a child starts voting. 12-14 of those years include formal schooling (unless you decide to opt your kids out.) Adulthood carries on for another 60 or so years.
So answer me this… why:
- do we expect women to obsess over every little thing that passes her lips during the entirety of her pregnancy?
- do we expect women to exclusively breastfeed for any length of time?
- do we expect families to enforce “no screen time before 2” in households where getting dinner on the table in the evening is an insurmountable challenge?
- do we expect children to do academic work in kindergarten?
- do we expect children to be proficient in reading by the end of the first grade?
- do we expect our teenagers to overschedule themselves to the point of illness to “get into a good college?”
- do we expect our 18-year-olds, or anyone, to even go to college?
Before you answer, bear in mind:
Women in food insecure areas still manage to give birth to healthy babies. Our grandmothers gave birth to healthy babies during the overprocessed “Wonder Bread” fifties and sixties.
We have several generations of mostly formula fed babies, and yet people still managed to graduate from Ivy League schools.
There is at least one, and almost two generations where living room couches surround TVs. Even though we didn’t have Netflix in the 80’s, our parents had no problem sitting us in front of Saturday morning cartoons.
Kids didn’t regularly start attending kindergarten until the 70’s, and then it was all playing. In fact, there are many states where kindergarten isn’t even compulsory. (The starting age of compulsory education in Massachusetts is 6 years old.)
To start the first grade in the 70’s and 80’s, children needed to know their address and phone number and be able to be away from their parents during the school day.
Early academics have not shown any really gains by the age of 11. In countries like Finland, children don’t even begin formal education until they are 7.
There are some trades that bring in good money and don’t require a college education (like car repair and HVAC.) We’re currently experiencing degree-inflation, which means you will soon need a doctorate to be eligible for entry-level work in certain professions (without an increase in entry-level salary.) We now have a whole generation saddled with hundreds of thousands of dollars in debt for what is the equivalent of a high school diploma.
Let’s give our kids a break. Let them grow on their own timetable, have their own dreams, and live their own lives. Most importantly: let’s stop obsessing over every single little thing we do.