A Peek into the Past: Flowing with your baby

Breasts are a great metaphor for motherhood. Both have a clear biological purpose that was hijacked by a social agenda. The roles, expectations and definition of a mother morph over time. Since we’ve allowed a chorus of voices to influence our self-perception, now is the time to cast off others’ opinions and let our ideas rule the roost. This is our moment to consciously reclaim mothering.

Colonial American mothers epitomized the Renaissance woman. They were spinners, seamstresses, brewers, chefs, teachers, businesswomen, staff supervisors, nurses, and super-mothers who raised an average of ten children! But men were right by their side, working together to make sure life ran smoothly.

When the industrial revolution led men to work outside the house, the home became the women’s world. As household chores were handed off to machines, marketers had a field day telling mamas which products would make their lives easier.

Science entered our homes in the late 1800s. As developmental stages became the new “it” thing, moms came under increased pressure to stimulate babies’ growing minds at each phase. Sound familiar?

About a hundred years later, our great-grandmothers jumped the gun by following the untested “scientific” theories of John Watson’s arm’s length mothering.  But, as families sought emotional healing after the Great Depression, John Bowlby’s research on attachment gained ground, and experts like Spock and Brazelton followed suit with slightly more baby-centered parenting advice. Motherhood was redefined, again, and many started to see light at the end of the tunnel of infant tears.

Today, women are delaying motherhood to pursue careers – the average age of a first time mom is at an all time high of 25 – and we’re starting the journey with more life experience. Once a baby’s born, women are expected to do it all: career, marriage and motherhood – effortlessly, and often without help. A full 55% of baby mamas work full time out of the home today. Mommy wars are being fueled by media eager to sell papers, with stay-at-home-moms on one side, and working moms on the other. Balance has become a catch phrase, with all moms asking the same question – how do I do it all?

We believe that the concept of balance is misleading. The idea that a mom can effectively juggle a successful career and a healthy marriage while physically, emotionally, and intellectually nurturing her children, and still tend to her own needs, is a guilt-inducing myth.

We’d like to move beyond the ideal of balance, to flow. Flow involves riding the waves of motherhood, with its peaks of baby neediness and valleys when mom can tend to her own boat. With balance, there’s a risk of tipping over. With flow, we’re fully wherever we are in the moment, in sync with the needs of whatever wave we’re riding right now.

Where ever you are, whatever you are doing, dive right in and embrace it. Ideals and other people’s standards are of no use to you. Know your own heart, tune into your baby’s needs, and live each moment as it asks to be lived.

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This content was trimmed from the vast archive of environmental and child-friendly parenting practices detailed in The Other Baby Book: A Natural Approach to Baby’s First Year by Megan McGrory Massaro and Miriam J. Katz.

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