Survivalist Mom Mode
This is the story of how I became a survivalist mom within months of giving birth. I feel this is an important topic to address now because some pregnant women are preparing for parenting perfection while other women are still struggling and hoping to achieve parenting perfection. Spoiler alert: it does not exist. You will feel like an Olympian as a survivalist mom!
Like many of you, from the moment my pregnancy was confirmed, I sought to be the best mom possible. I read pregnancy books cover to cover, obsessed over naming my children by reading too many baby books, and of course read more than my fair share of child psychology books. Soon the information began to be conflicting.
So, is there a best answer? The short answer to that question is: NO! Let me just tell you now…ultimately, it is simply up to you. Read things. Digest them. Then make your own hybrid solution. That’s our story.
We started on the straight and narrow path of parenting perfection and then this thing called “life” kept tossing us curve balls. Soon the curve balls were coming faster and faster, and eventually instead of hitting them away, we found ourselves ducking and covering. In the trenches under fire, we made urgent decisions because there was no time for analysis. Later, we would look back and either high five each other for a job well done or cringe and shake our heads saying… but we survived.
Per my extensive reading, I did countless things that I am not sure made any difference. I have NO idea how I chose which activities to participate in. I assume it was a gut decision combined with the answer to the most basic question: Could I find the time to do this routinely or not?
MA Tip #1: I would suggest that you feel free to do things intermittently and not pressure yourself to be fully committed. It does not have to be an all or none proposition. You will find equal numbers of moms who do something as you find that do not. You can be a hybrid.
One of my early noteworthy super mom activities included playing taped (yes..the vintage old school hand held voice recorders) classical music to my pregnant belly. It was supposed to calm my developing babies. One child seemed to like it while it revved up the other one. I did it anyway. For the entire 9 months. Twice.
After birth, I practiced nightly infant massages for relaxing and improved digestion. Of course, I did them religiously; however, we are a family plagued with digestive tract nightmares. Consequently, genetics will trump your actions. But I love structure and order and having a nightly routine sounded good to me, so I kept at it for over 2 years.
So far, these little vignettes about harmless MA activities highlight me in a proactive position. And then life happened, and somewhere along the way, I switched to survivalist mom mode. Let me tell you now, despite your best laid plans, things are not going to be as smooth as you would like. And you will shock yourself with spontaneous decision making that will simply allow you to move forward the best way that you can.
My slippery survivalist slope began after a few months of motherhood when I read table food was bad for budding digestive tracts. I immediately insisted that my baby could only eat the best, high quality baby food. Then the fateful day happened when I walked in to see my mother, precious Nana, chewing food and placing it in my baby’s mouth.
Stunned silence. What to do?
I wanted to simply pass out and hope to awaken and find it was all a nightmare. But no such luck. As I continued to stare, Nana sheepishly grinned and shrugged. Her words were more matter of fact and not so much apology:
I did it to you and you are fine.
True. But that is old school. The world is smarter now, and we have better ideas. These thoughts I said to myself because that is not something you say out loud to your own mother.
But once I saw my baby was not poisoned, I chose to move forward and leave that battle alone. My child now could eat any quality of baby food as well as table food. It was less stressful.
There must be some gene in my family where defiance runs deep. Although I could now justify eating healthy table food, I could see no reason for my child to eat sugary treats until age 1. Why? I read it somewhere, and it made sense to me, so I owned it like it was the law.
I even watered down the apple juice until it was more or less the flavoring you can now buy at grocery stores. Imagine my shock when I found my sister, who has no children, secretly gave my precious sugar-free baby some chocolate ice cream! Of course she did not tell me. In fact, she tried to hide it, but the brown stain on the baby bib was kind of a give away.
Next came that familiar family shrug with a casual explanation: But she liked it.
Once again, I was faced with two choices: Lose my mind over an arbitrary rule I made or fight to the death over my choices not being respected. I chose to move forward in survivalist mode because I was now convinced that many people in the future are going to make decisions that I would not make. I was choosing to reserve my gladiator fighting skills for things that have potential harm.
MA Tip #2: I suggest that you lessen your own burden and resist fighting over things that are not actually carved in stone. Save some of your anxiety for the things to the come that really do matter.
Then one day, a final moment of truth will come and you will have to acknowledge that you have completely entered survival mode. Ours occurred when we were out with our sweet bundle of joy. The pacifier fell to the ground, out in public. Sadly at this point in our lives, we were new parents and had not yet learned that you need 8 million pacifier backups.
We were immediately faced with a wailing, sweaty infant, demanding her pacifier. We looked at each other and saw panic in each other’s eyes. I remained paralyzed trying to analyze options, but in the throes of chaos, my husband took charge. He grabbed the pacifier off the ground, licked it clean, looked me dead in the eyes and popped it into our baby’s mouth!
I was speechless. But so was our baby. Everything was right in the world! We quickly looked to the left and right to make sure no one saw us. No one to judge us.
I have a new favorite saying that I wish I had known when my kids were young. I learned it a few years ago from a close friend’s daughter, who is an elementary school teacher. She learned these tough love words to help her students who decompensated over daily drama and had frequent inconsolable meltdowns. Having tried many methods to resolve the behaviors, she learned to listen to the child through their tears and then she would calmly ask:
But did you die though?
Sounds harsh but I loved it! I can absolutely appreciate the displeasure many parents would have with this approach, but it is real life. You can choose to decompensate when things do not happen the way you want it to, or you can embrace the fact that the outcome is not the end of the world. Accepting this mantra may alleviate many parenting stresses! You are not and never will be perfect. You will fall off that coveted perfect path and blaze new trails through the jungle of child rearing. You must embrace situations you never knew could exist.
As I unveil my triumphs and failures, perhaps subjecting myself to unprecedented judgement, my goal is to share stories that did not derail a very a happy outcome for my adult children. The rest is still unwritten, but that is on them!
There are numerous things that I could have (should have?) done better. But I didn’t. I hope my stories bring moms (new and old) some peace. I hope my stories serve as a guide for some of the quests yet to come. It is also my way to get out of the game, the MA game. I have been a warrior in this Momma Addict video game and have achieved a respectably high score. Not the highest score, but one that makes me proud. I now need to wean out of survival mode and redirect the focus onto my own life. Thank you for joining my journey. Your support and feedback are immensely helpful in my self-evaluation process.