If I Admit It’s My Fault, Will You Quit Blaming Me?

Posted on | January 31, 2012 | 15 Comments

When J was still a very small baby, maybe five months old, he was diagnosed with reactive airway disease.  After about our fourth visit to the pediatrician in four weeks, my doctor looked at me and “kindly” told me that if there were any way for me to work it so that I could stay home with my son, he would be a much healthier baby.

To say that I fell completely apart would be a gross understatement.

I believed every word that man said to me.  I believed him that I was jeopardizing my child’s health by working, by “selfishly” pursuing a career to the detriment of my son.  I never questioned why he pointed his finger at me and not my husband or our dog or maybe, just maybe, an old house with roll out windows that let in every sort of pollen under the sun.  I didn’t consider any other options; my doctor said it was my fault.  I believed it was my fault.

And when I look back on that now, it makes me lividly angry. 

Because you know what? Babies get sick, some more than others. And yeah, daycare can contribute to that.  Certainly putting young children around other young children is going to foster the transfer of germs.  It’s inevitable.  It’s inevitable, that if one parent can’t stay home with the child, daycare is the option. (Unless you have tons of money and can afford a nanny or you’re fortunate enough to have a mother or mother in law who not only lives nearby but who also wants to care for your child as her 9-5 job).

It wasn’t my fault that my son was diagnosed with reactive airway disease.  And more than that, it was infinitely wrong of J’s pediatrician to even remotely point a finger in my general direction.

It wasn’t my fault.  Not any more than it was my husband’s fault, or daycare’s fault or the fault of genetics.

But that’s what we do, isn’t it?

We point at the parents; we find reasons why some kids are sick and others are healthy.  We need to blame something or someone for when a child is overweight or not as bright as another.  We need to believe that there is a “right” way to raise a baby.  We need to believe that if we follow all the directions and color within all the lines, our child will turn out right and good.

I don’t know if it’s because for so long, women were considered to have a place in the home or if it’s because most women have a sweetly strengthened bond with their children, but for whatever reason it seems to be the norm to focus on a woman’s “choice” to work outside or inside the home as a pin-pointed factor in obesity, or illness, or hell, I don’t know… freckles.  No one seems to care if the husband is home or at work… it all boils down to whether the mother is there.

And I don’t know about you, but I’m over it.

I’m over hearing about how my “choice” to work means my child is 42.8% more likely to be overweight at age 61 or that my career means that J will have a 17.9% chance of coloring a hippo orange in first grade. 


And more importantly, who the hell is funding these ridiculous surveys?

Children are children.  They are a constant variable, a variable constant.  There are infinite ways that each of us shape and mold and scar our children.  There are infinite ways that we break and mend them on an hourly, daily and yearly basis.  And I don’t care if 9 out of 10 mothers who work outside the home like pumpernickel bread or if 3 out of 4 stay at home moms have better quilting skills.  It is all completely and totally irrelevant to my life, my choices, and my son.

Mothers are not the root of all evil.  We are not the deciding factor as to whether our children turn out good or bad or a healthy mix of both.  We are not the only influence in their lives.  And a woman who works outside the home is no more or less likely to cuddle her child at the end of the day than one who works inside the home.  A woman who spends 40 plus hours toiling away so that she can put food on the table and run lights overhead is no more or less likely to spank or hug or read or tuck in her child.

So can we just quit with all the percentages?

Can we stop with the he said/she said crap?

Can we stop pointing fingers and admit that we’re all right and we’re all wrong?

Can we just be moms, struggling, triumphing, eeking through the best we can?

Because if you’re anything like me, you don’t need someone to tell you that you’re screwing things up on occasion… I’m a mom.  And I already blame myself more than anyone else ever could anyway.


15 Responses to “If I Admit It’s My Fault, Will You Quit Blaming Me?”

  1. Oddvision
    February 1st, 2012 @ 12:09 am

    Fantastic post – and so true!! I hate that people still automatically put all responsibility and blame for anything related to children on the mother. That doctor was way out of line!
    I worry about this a little myself for our future. Right now I work full time while my husband is in school. Realistically, even after he graduates I will likely be earning a higher income for some time. Yet even during my pregnancy I worry that I am working too much. I know that I will beat myself up for not doing everything I would love to do with our son after I return to work, and it will continue as he gets older and I don’t have the time to volunteer in his classroom and other similar things. We need to try and stop beating ourselves up since we are all doing our best.

  2. Alecia
    February 1st, 2012 @ 9:46 am

    Amen sister! As a working Mom, I am my own worst critic. I know I should be there with my son, but in reality, I have to work to make a living. Just like my Mom did when I was little…and I turned out alright. I turned out alright didn’t I??

    Seriously, as long as I stay in the present when I am with him, I’m cutting myself some slack. I’m doing OK, my son is happy, we have food on the table and everyone is healthy. All is good.

  3. Maija @ Maija's Mommy Moments
    February 1st, 2012 @ 10:27 am

    I was told the exact same thing – then blogged about it. When the post was picked up by BlogHer and then the Today Show lots of moms agreed that Doctors should never say things like that to moms but then there were many comments that actually agreed – some from other moms. This debate will continue, but I promise, my child was not diagnosed with asthma nor chronic ear infections because I work. Ugh it still frustrates me to think that people actually believe these things…

  4. Anonymous
    February 2nd, 2012 @ 2:51 pm

    My daughter is just over 2, and we have a surgery scheduled for her 3rd set of tubes. Being in day-care 3 days a week may contribute to her being exposed to more of the germs that GET into her ears and fester into infections, but that is not the cause of the ear problems to start with, give me a break!!

    Correlation != Causation, and a doctor should know better than that.

  5. lawmhcgirl
    February 1st, 2012 @ 10:30 am

    I was reading something recently that talked about the fact that the child centered model in which a stay at home moms devotes their focus to childrearing (enteraining and educating their young children in the home) is really a pretty recent phenomenon. Our generation thinks of it as the traditional model, but really, most moms prior to the 1920’s, while they may have stayed at home, were too busy sewing clothes, washing clothes, tending to the house, livestock, food gathering, making food (from scratch). Heck pioneer women – while many may have been stay at home moms – probably had very little time to devote to childrearing in the way we think of it today.

    Sorry if this is just another example you were trying to dispell, but it may me feel better to know that generations of children before my own thrived without the constant attention of their mother. We all are doing our best – working moms, stay at home moms, work at home moms. And our “choices” (in quote because the decision to work or stay at home is not always our “choice” but dictated by factors outside our control) are made based on what works for our own family. Wish we didn’t all have to struggle with all the doubt all the time! Like motherhood isn’t hard enough!

  6. Jennifer Williams
    February 1st, 2012 @ 11:35 am

    Both of my kids got sick ALL the time up until they were about 3 and a half (both were/are in daycare), and then it just got better. Their little immune systems got heartier and they stopped getting sick all the time. The bonus is that my school age child hardly ever gets sick now. I’m glad it happened while she was in daycare and not now that she is in school.

  7. MaconMom
    February 1st, 2012 @ 1:33 pm

    AMEN and thank you, thank you, thank you!

    I have felt this guilt since Monkey was born. Just this weekend the MIL looked in horror at me when I told her that Monkey brushes his own teeth. Ummm… why did you not ask your son why he doesn’t brush them? Monkey does an okay job; his tongue is super clean. Trying to pull that brush from him is a bloody nightmare (not bloody in the body fluid sense..ha)!

    The guilt from working can be overwhelming. A pregnant coworker (who had no clue I was pregnant at the time) said that she was going to stay home because she was the baby’s mom and she was going to raise her not a daycare worker. My heart sank and I cried for an hour. The guilt began then, when I was only 10 weeks pregnant, and it has not let up at all.

    That first year when we were at the doctor’s office every other week with some infection brought many comments from coworkers and family members. I am truly thankful the doctor said nothing offensive. I probably would have quit my job. We would have lost the house and had no money for formula (had to go soy route) or diapers. Yes, that would have been much better for my baby.

    My shoulders are already heavy with the guilt and he isn’t even two years old yet. What will I look like when he’s six..hahaha?!

    I think I digressed there…oops

  8. Anonymous
    February 2nd, 2012 @ 2:53 pm

    I feel like I’m missing something — what’s wrong with your kid brushing his own teeth? SAHM or Working Mom, wouldn’t we encourage our children to learn these kinds of skills?

    P.S. Your monkey is ahead of my daughter… she mostly sucks on the toothbrush, but we’re headed in the right direction. It’s part of her bedtime routine, as is sitting on the potty [No pressure — she’s 2, but we are just getting her used to the idea so that when it comes time to train, she isn’t freaked out by it]

  9. MaconMom
    February 3rd, 2012 @ 11:56 am

    Thank you!
    She had me completely doubting what we’re doing with the brushing of teeth.
    We do the same with the potty.
    It’s good to hear!

  10. beachmum
    February 1st, 2012 @ 7:21 pm

    So did Dr. Genius tell the single moms that visit him the same thing? That they should just biff the job and stay home with their kids- home now being a tent or cardboard box because they can’t afford a house due to not having a job? Sure, wouldn’t we all love to be home with our kids, but it’s not always a)practical b)affordable or c) a choice all women want. This guy needs a degree in compassion and a masters in women studies

  11. Wiz
    February 1st, 2012 @ 10:42 pm

    Oh my gosh!! I LOVED my son’s pediatrician because he seemed to care just as much about the mom as he did the baby! He felt that a happy mom equaled a happy baby! I worked the first 2.5 years of my son’s life. Shame on that pediatrician. I hope you found a new one!

  12. Angie Wenzel
    February 2nd, 2012 @ 10:44 am

    I’ve never understood why some moms feel the need to compete with other moms. We are all in this together, wouldn’t it be easier to know that we can count on other moms to listen and be a shoulder to lean on? You are a wonderful mother, it is very apparent in all of you posts. I think all moms second-guess themselves whether they choose to work or stay at home or whether that is less of a choice and more of a necessity. That doctor needs to learn to keep his mouth shut about some things. I wonder how vocal he would be about it in a room full of working moms…

  13. Anonymous
    February 2nd, 2012 @ 2:47 pm

    I noticed that you often write (as I also see a lot of working moms write) that you wish you could stay home with J all the time. I hear this a lot from working moms, how if they could stay home with their child all the time they would.

    So, I’ll take it one step further — I’m a part-time working mom who WANTS to keep working. I don’t think I have the right mindset and mentality to be a stay-at-home mom. Financially: It would require changes to our budget, but we could make it work. But you know what? I think I am a much better mom to my daughter when I am not with her 24/7. When I’m home the whole day with her, I find myself less patient. We play and go to the park and such, but we also spend a lot of time shopping & running errands… But at day-care, she is engaged in age-appropriate activities the entire day, and socializing and developing relationships with other kids AND other adults. She attends an accredited franchise, and her particular location is family owned, and has practically ZERO turn-over for its main teaching staff. She is well loved, well taken care of, and is thriving in nearly every possible way.

    SAHM’s can call this selfish, but we have an amazing arrangement that works for EVERYONE, including my daughter. So when people say those mean-spirited things like “Oh, I’d never let someone ELSE raise my kids”, I choose to see it that my daughter’s teachers and friends are part of her extended family. Unless your kid lives in a bubble, don’t we all “raise” each other to a degree?

    Here’s to happy, healthy, and well-adjusted children who grow into happy, healthy, and well-adjusted adults: No matter how many people helped accomplish it!

  14. Anonymous
    February 2nd, 2012 @ 2:50 pm

    Yup, I agree. In fact, I wrote a whole post about how I’m a MUCH better mother because I work. I would love to spend more time with J, but at the same time, I know it would lack the quality of the time I spend with him now.

  15. Madparknomom
    February 6th, 2012 @ 8:24 pm

    It really is true that kids in day care are sick less often when they get to school. Which is a good thing in my book… (3 kids, ages 9, 7 and 3 who have all been in day care at one point or another).

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    Spilled Milk (and Other Atrocities) by Law Momma is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution-NoDerivs 3.0 Unported License.
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