Owen's school sent home another issue of Parent & Child, which I'm reading solely for the rage it induces. Makes me realize how much I've got right as a parent. I think about things. I have a brain and I'm not afraid to use it! It horrifies me how many parents just accept the messages they're given by the advertising industry without examining their own values first. Every other ad in this magazine is for foods, but not any foods I would buy or eat. They're crap-in-a-box. They're McFood for your McSoul.
The two most outrageous inventions I've come across recently are these: a robotic teddy bear that reads to your children so you don't have to (for the busy parent who can't make the time to actually interact with her child) and Nestle's instant formula machine, which works in the manner of a Keurig coffeemaker, I think--you press a button and presto! A bottle is ready for your baby. The ultimate in convenience! This machine will save you the hours of effort it takes to mix powder with water and shake it! ...Except of course, you still have to buy the bottles and formula, wash them, hold them for your baby (or are they going to invent a machine to do that, too?), and clean the machine. Formula companies don't want you to think about how much better off you might be if you breastfed, if maybe you didn't have to spend all your time working to make money to buy the formula, the bottles, and the fancy-pants machine. If maybe your kids would be happier with a mom who takes the time to actually raise them instead of chucking them off to the babysitter with a bottle of artificial milk.
Okay, what I just said was pretty inflammatory! Before you read any further I just have to say that staying home with the kids isn't the right choice for every mom, nor is breastfeeding. I don't mean to say that anyone is wrong for making those choices, just that they should be conscious, informed choices, not automatic assumptions.
It makes me sad that women don't have the support they need to make breastfeeding successful, and that it's so unusual to see a nursing baby (let alone toddler) in our country that a lot of moms don't even consider breastfeeding. And it scares me how many parents don't even take the time to question why they devote so much energy to making and spending money. They're like robots receiving instructions from advertisements: you need this new car. You're a bad parent if you don't buy your kid this educational DVD. Our frozen, processed, unsustainably-harvested McFood is now healthier because we've added FIBER! Our flash card set is the only thing that will make your kid smart enough to grow up and become a big, strong employee for Corporate America. New moms are happier when their family eats off discs of plastic instead of bothering with washable plates! Buy this special medicine bottle that allows you to see exactly how much your baby has taken, so you don't even have to waste your time doing math! Pregnant women are dirty unless they use pantiliners. You're a good American if you buy ice cream. All moms should be worried about losing the baby weight. Now we put vitamins in our fruit-flavored sugar water so you don't have to feed your kids real food! Formula has nutrients that milk lacks! You have to take your kids on expensive vacations or they'll be sad forever!
Argh. What the actual fuck?
I don't know how to protect my children from all of the badness America spews at us. It's taken me 27 years to kill the buying-things reflex and figure out what's really important. I didn't learn what real food tasted like until I started my own family and taught myself how to cook. I didn't think about where my products came from or what sort of environmental impact their production has, or why I "needed" new clothes every season when my old ones were perfectly good. It didn't occur to me that money doesn't have anything at all to do with overall happiness, or that I was capable of disconnecting myself from our broken economic system. It's sad that I seem to be one of the only parents around who's thinking about any of these things.
I also seem to be one of the only women around who's aware of the skewed messages the media gives us about our bodies, but that's a whole other post.