The most important gift a mother can give her children is loving them for who they are, not how they make her feel about herself

first steps

I’ve speculated before on the unique challenges facing contemporary advocates of natural parenting. When your identity revolves around parenting choices for babies and small children, what happens when those children grow up, and, inevitably, away from their mothers?

Choices like unassisted birth aren’t parenting choices; they’re parental identity choices. Unassisted birth doesn’t benefit babies. Indeed this video of an unassisted homebirth inadvertently demonstrates how and why homebirth increases the risk of neonatal death. They are forms of performance art and babies are just bit players in the mothers’ starring performances.

For unassisted birth advocate and lactivist Rixa Freeze, her extended series of performance art pieces is coming to an end.

So tell me I have something to look forward to. Because I thinking of growing older and aging and getting wrinkles and health problems (okay, maybe some of this is a long way off!) and my kids getting bigger and none of it seems interesting. What I’m trying to say is: having newborns and babies has been, for me, the Best Thing Ever and I don’t know if anything else can make up for the loss of that part of my life.

I understand “baby lust.” My husband originally wanted two children and I wanted four … so we compromised on four.

Despite all the physical work and the lack of sleep, infancy is a magical time. With each of my four children it was simultaneously the same and different. The same because it’s always like watching a flower bloom, unfolding and acquiring greater beauty every day; but different because each child is unique and although they start off looking very similar, their emerging personalities prefigure the fact that they are very different individuals.

What I learned, however, is that each stage has its own magic. There’s nothing else like watching a toddler acquire language, learning to say, “I love you!” as well as “You’re not the boss of me!” There’s nothing else like the primary school years when you are your child’s hero and teacher, introducing new ideas and skills, and watching your children run with them. There’s no joy like the joy of watching your child embrace the family traditions you loved as a child; no joy like your child hitting a Little League home run, dancing at a ballet recital, winning a formal debate; no joy like a child opening a longed for holiday gift that you were able to provide. Of course, there’s no worry like the worry that your child is being teased at school, no disappointment like a child who isn’t chosen for the travel team, no fear like the fear when they drive independently for the first time.

They are people, separate individuals with skills, talents, hope, fears, and dreams, not walking, talking validations of your own parental choices.

In my view, the most important gift a mother can give her children is loving them for who they are, not how they make her feel about herself.

The role of a mother is not use her children as a form of identity, a validation of her personal choices, a piece of performance art redounding to the greater glory of the mother herself. When you decide to have children, you are no longer the star; you are a supporting character, an important one to be sure, but not the main character. One of the greatest problems with the current incarnations of natural childbirth, lactivism and attachment parenting is that the children aren’t even characters; they’re just props. And when they can no longer serve as props, the mother cannot see any joy or purpose in them.

Mothering, when done right, is a series of losses. First you lose the “inside baby” when the baby is born. You lose the incredible physical closeness when they learn to crawl, then walk, then run on their own. When they head off to school, you lose the comfort that you know everything that ever happens to them. As they grow older, you lose the ability to make everything better, to solve any problems, meet any need. Eventually you lose being needed itself; they become independent adults. A good mother always works herself out of a job.

Unfortunately for Rixa, her identity appears to be bound up with unassisted homebirth and breastfeeding. She is apparently having trouble figuring out who she is if she can no longer define herself by them.

One of the hardest parts of being a mother is recognizing that your child is a separate person and does not exist to validate you or your choices. Ideally, a mother should acknowledge that from the very beginning, but Rixa should know that it is never too late to start.

  • MOM! is a great relation among all relations we have. We are not in this world without her. No matter what the situation we are in, never forget her who showed us to the world and the world to us..

    • Heidi_storage

      Usually I find it odd when someone comments on a really old post, but I’m glad you did because I hadn’t read this entry and think it is a very lovely one.

  • lizzy benjamin

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  • itry2brational

    “My husband originally wanted two children and I wanted four … so we compromised on four.”
    Which admits that you suffer from the same narcissism and self-centeredness as NCB advocates. You’re uncompromising and stubborn even with your life partner and “equal”, your husband. His feelings regarding his reproductive life are secondary to yours. Because its all about you.

    • It’s not necessarily a bad thing to be a narcissist, per se, as not all narcissists are malignant. (No one can help the family dynamic they came out of that shaped their personality.) The important thing is to learn to use those powers for good and not harm.

      I am inclined to say that the father of Dr. Amy’s children probably is glad that he has four children and that his wife knew what she wanted. And went for it.

  • itry2brational

    If loving your son as he is is the most important gift then you should leave him as he is, intact. Stop carving your preferences into his body.

  • Andrew Lisa

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  • Andrew Lisa

    I am mrs Andrew Lisa from USA, i want to share a testimony of my life to every one. i was married to my husband george vega, i love him so much we have been married for 5 years now with two kids. when he went for a vacation to france he meant a lady called Maryś, he told me that he is no longer interested in the marriage any more. i was so confuse and seeking for help, i don’t know what to do until I met my friend miss kasha and told her about my problem. she told me not to worry about it that she had a similar problem before and introduce me to a man called Dr Ogala love spell who cast a spell on his ex and bring him back to her after 2days. Miss kasha ask me to contact Dr ogala love spell for help. I contacted him to help me bring back my husband and he ask me not to worry about it that the gods of his fore-fathers will fight for me. He told me by two days he will re-unite me and my husband together. After two day my husband called and told me he is coming back to sought out things with me, I was surprise when I saw him and he started crying for forgiveness. Right now I am the happiest woman on earth for what this great spell caster did for me and my husband, you can contact Dr ogala email Ogalalovespell@yahoo.com.He is the best spell caster who is very capable to help you. tel.+2348163395533 website http://ogalalovespell.webs.com

  • AmyH

    OT, but I thought some people might enjoy it – This morning, my 2yo son and I were sitting on my bed when he found a loose thread a few inches long and became quite engrossed in it. After several minutes, he stuck it up against my ribs and said, “hurt ouchy.” I was confused and said, “No, it doesn’t hurt.” But he repeated it, and then looks at me and says “Trax.”

    Then it hit me – he’s been getting into the baby center app and watching an epidural video on there. He thought he was inserting a catheter to give me an epidural! (“Trax” were “contractions.”) I guess I’m indoctrinating him early. He insisted on giving me epidurals all over my body for several minutes.

    • Andrew Lisa

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    • Andrew Lisa

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  • JennG

    I think this is a really important essay about how the best thing we can do for our kids’ future identities is to let them have theirs, while we don’t confuse our own with theirs. Nicely done

  • Bombshellrisa

    My husband commented on how much he is looking forward to our son turning three, so he can “buy all the fun toys”. Since my son is 10 months old, we have a little while to go. I was just thinking how special it was to have a newborn, then how cute he was when he was able to smile, then coo and now babble to his stuffed animals when he wakes up in the morning. My daughter and I are going to spend next weekend making crafts for my Downton Abbey party, she had ideas for things and at 8 years old is quite a little stylist. I like seeing my kids growing up and learning and becoming who they will be. Their births and tiny babyhood will always be special, but the awesome thing about being a parent is that there is always something special to look forward to.

    • wookie130

      This is great, really. I’m an “older” mother to two very young children, a 21 month old daughter, and an almost-4 month-old son. Time is passing us by very quickly, and while I felt a sense of dread early on that my children were growing and that I’d miss my babies…now that I see my daughter come into her own, and do things that a “big girl” could be doing, I’m much more excited for the years to come. There will always be the next stage to look forward to, and I want to enjoy every moment of the children I have been blessed with, rather than yearn for another baby just for the sake of taking care of a baby.

      • Bombshellrisa

        I still miss that “new baby smell” and always will but enjoy having a baby who can hold his head up and sit up on his own. I too want to enjoy every moment I have with my kids. I kept reminding myself (when we would have a rough day or night) that my baby would never be as little as they were on that day, just to enjoy the good I could find.

  • The Bofa on the Sofa

    So this morning I was baking Christmas cookies with the kids. I rolled out the dough and both guys could use the cookie cutters. Depending on the cutter, I might need to help them get the cookie out, but mostly not. Then when they were done baking, my 6 yo could take the off the cookie sheet with the flipper. We had a great time, because we were all participating, and Mom took pictures of us.

    Now, I’ve been doing this with the kids since my oldest was born. Each year it gets better and better as the kids contribute more and more. it wasn’t near as much fun when they were too little to do anything.

    At some point it will get to the point where they lose interest, of course, but by then they will move on to other activities that we can do together, and those will be fun, too.

    As kids grow, they can do even more fun things.

  • SarahSD

    I recently talked with my cousin who has a newborn about how having a child is such an ambivalent experience. Of course you want them to grow and change, but at the same time it feels like a gradual distancing, with that baby that was literally once a part of you getting carried further and further away. By doing nothing except becoming more and more herself. I remember shortly after I gave birth, holding my tiny baby, and feeling connected with my own mother in a way I never had before, realizing: this is how she once felt about me. At that moment the weight, privilege, and ambivalence of raising a human came down on me.

  • Dr Kitty

    Here is where I tell you stuff about my parenting, and you tell me I’m doing ok.
    Just so we’re clear.

    Anyway.
    Today, my five year old daughter and I see a hearse with a coffin in it.
    We talk about burials, cremation, sitting shiva, Hindu cremations on the Ganges, burials at sea and Parsee towers of Silence, (she’s a child who REALLY wants answers to questions like “what do people do with dead bodies”).
    Then we talk about weddings.
    Chuppahs and breaking glasses, tying hands and circling each other, wearing white in Europe and Red in Asia, all that.

    Then, we segue to the cat (who is black and fluffy), and life gets tougher…
    “So, we wear black for funerals. Cat is black… He had an operation so he can’t plant seeds to make babies. Where did he keep the seeds? Tell me about the special cuddle mummies and daddies have to make babies. Why haven’t you made me a baby brother or sister yet?”

    Oh boy…

    Any how.
    Now my child knows somewhat more about the mechanics of sex than I was planning to tell her just yet, and more about funeral and wedding customs than any five-year old needs to know.

    On the plus side, her teachers are choosing to call her “engaged and curious”. So we’re going with that.

    • Aussiedoc

      If it makes you feel any better my mum used to review labour and birth videos for her antenatal, classes at home when I was about that age. They called me talkative and engaged ;). I corrected all the stork talk in school quite graphically.

      (I also freaked out another five year old telling her about how the sun would one day go extinct but that’s another story!).

      Whether or not I grew up ok is debatable I suppose but I make a good living catching babies and my family seem to like me 🙂

      • D/

        Years ago I made a newborn mannequin for umbilical line placement and med administration practice in NRP classes from a baby doll. I was very careful to not traumatize the grand kid by seeing me “operate” on its head and back with a scalpel to hollow things out for the bottle of red food coloring under the umbilicus and the plastic “lung” in its head under the ET tube, but when interest was expressed I showed how it was used in training, as well as, how to give breaths and do chest compressions.

        After an incident of careless handling in my trunk, med-baby exsanguinated inside his super sized plastic bag and was found by a completely unfazed five year old who later shares with the mother of a first-time play date, “Yeah, my Ma keeps a really bloody baby in a Ziploc bag in her trunk.”

        Silence … Awkward smiles … Silence

        Incidentally, at five, the kid knew more basic newborn resuscitation skills than some of the HB professionals I’ve interacted with recently.

    • AlisonCummins

      Yes, you are doing parenting beautifully.

      So is Julia Sweeney, with her curious and engaged daughter. You’ll get a kick out of it.
      https://m.youtube.com/watch?v=Ry-LwxR746s

      • Felicitasz

        I cried with laughter, thank you SO MUCH for this. 😀 Thanks to the merciful Providence, my son was about 4 when he asked about how a man and a woman make a baby, and he was perfectly fine with a short explanation of details, and he was not old enough to think about more details just yet. Afterwards, it is no longer such a big deal, one question at a time. Oh my, this was beyond hilarious. 🙂

      • GuessT

        Oh. My. That was hilarious. Thank you.

    • sdsures

      What a precocious kid! Sounds like you’re doing great.

    • Bugsy

      Lol. If you find yourself struggling with additional explanations, you can always try our approach. We went through IVF for our two-year-old son and just went through an IVF cycle that failed. This time around, our little guy came with us to the ultrasounds and to the embryo transfer, and also watched as daddy gave me the daily injectable hormones. We explained it to him simply by saying “this is how mommy and daddy make a baby!” 😉

      Not looking forward to the bigger baby-making talk at a later date…

  • MLE

    OT: Does anyone know anything about homebirth midwife (CNM) Barri Malek, in NYC? I have found one birth story where it appears she’s against checking dilation, but no horror stories thankfully. http://www.reewrite.com/2013/10/my-daughters-birth-story/

  • MaineJen

    I can see the appeal, for people who become addicted to having babies, like Rixa or like Mrs. Duggar. There is a special status conferred upon a pregnant woman or a new mom…you are treated (for the most part) deferentially and respectfully. Special exceptions are made for you. A fuss is made over you. For someone with little inherent self-worth, or someone who feels they are not going to get this kind of attention anywhere else in their lives, I can see mourning that loss of center-of-attention-ness.

    But you’re right, Dr. Amy, that when you become a mom you CEASE to be the focus. It’s no longer just about you, it’s about you and someone else and what’s good for both of you. It’s a supporting role, and a supportive role.

    There’s a difference between feeling a bit sad about giving away all of the baby gear for good (although personally, I will celebrate when both of mine are finally out of diapers!), and feeling that you NEED to keep getting pregnant and giving birth because you don’t want to give up that “special” status of being pregnant or a new mom. From Rixa’s statements I’m getting a definite vibe of the latter, and it’s pretty disturbing.

    • The Bofa on the Sofa

      There is a special status conferred upon a pregnant woman or a new mom…you are treated (for the most part) deferentially and respectfully.

      Including the parent with small children parking spaces at the grocery store and church…

      • Bombshellrisa

        There is only one of those in front of the grocery store here. For the longest time I thought it was a spot for the disabled. The “family parking” is better at Ikea. But places like Target really need “family parking” and more family bathrooms. Squeezing my pregnant self out of the car was much easier than disembarking two children, a stroller (or hopefully having enough space to put on the Ergo, then putting my wiggly son in it) and our stuff (I don’t even carry a diaper bag).

        • There’s a supermarket chain in Israel which caters to the haredi trade, and they have large families. It’s the only place I’ve seen with shopping carts that seat TWO toddlers. [The carts themselves are extra large]

          • The Bofa on the Sofa

            Our local grocery has shopping cars with race cars in the front that can seat two toddlers, in addition to the usual kid seat in the back.

          • Bombshellrisa

            Those things are super hard to steer!

          • MaineJen

            They are, but they’re a lifesaver some days. I want in on those “family” parking spaces. The only place I’ve seen anything like that is at Babies R Overpriced (OOPS I mean Babies R Us)

          • Box of Salt

            Costco carts seat two kids, too (also extra large).

            Like Bofa (next comment), our grocery stores have the special carts with toddler seats in front.

  • Theoneandonly

    OT but I had my baby today

    • FormerPhysicist

      Congratulations! Maybe she be happy and healthy. And you too.

    • Bugsy

      Congratulations and best wishes!

    • Amazed

      Congratulations! I wish you a very happy Christmas with your new bundle of joy. Is the going to be a dwarf placed under the Christmas tree?

    • fiftyfifty1

      Thrilled for you!

    • moto_librarian

      Congrats! Hope her NICU stay is brief and that you rècover quickly!

    • Theoneandonly

      Thanks everyone. She’s on CPAP so hopefully it does the trick and she can come out tomorrow.
      Amazed, I’m not sure I understand the dwarf under the Christmas tree thing?

      • Amazed

        Dress her like one of Santa Claus’ elves and pose with her next to the tree? And pretend to leave her there, so she could be someone’s present?

        Of course, it’s elf and not dwarf. It’s just that in my language, Santa Claus has dwarves and not elves. Add that to the fact that these days, I write very hastily, and you’ve got a confusing post.

        • Theoneandonly

          Ah I see – it makes sense now. And yes that would be very cute

          • Try dressing your children as giant hamantaschen* using brown paper bags…worked a treat one year when I was desperate.

            *Traditionally, fancy dress is part of the Purim celebration and hamantaschen [or oznei Haman, if you’re Israeli] are triangular pastries filled with either prune or poppy seed paste.

          • sdsures

            I’ve seen a raisin costume made out of a black garbage bag for Purim.

          • Theoneandonly

            I’m not sure people would get the significance here in New Zealand – we don’t have a huge Israeli population, at least around where I live. Sounds cute though

          • Bombshellrisa

            I love it!

    • Samantha06

      Congratulations!

    • Mazal tov!

    • Mishimoo

      Ooh congratulations! Hope she’s able to come home soon, and that you recover quickly.

    • sdsures

      Mazel tov!

  • Anna T

    “… and my kids getting bigger and none of it seems interesting…”

    Excuse me??

    I sincerely hope her children don’t get to read this when they are older.

    I’m a Mom of two girls, ages 6 and 4 (and due with another baby in a month), and so far, the older they get, the MORE interesting and exciting things are. Of course they are very cute and precious as newborns, but the conversations I now have with my 6-year-old are stimulating, exciting and intelligent, and I feel there’s SO much to look forward to, especially with older children when your relationship becomes more equal and you’re no longer the authority figure, but their friend – hopefully, a lifelong friend.

    • fiftyfifty1

      “I sincerely hope her children don’t get to read this when they are older.”

      I disagree. I think that a mother expressing maternal ambivalence can be a good thing for children if done right. As long as it isn’t personal and doesn’t pit the child against other children or blame the child.
      Examples of bad: “I loved being mommy to my daughter, but didn’t enjoy being mommy to my son”. “I resent my children for holding me back”.
      Examples of good: “I always found the early baby months very challenging and was pretty miserable”. “The conflict between my career and motherhood was something I never got completely comfortable with”. “A lot of parenting is rewarding, but it’s also really stressful”.

      My own mom was very open about her ambivalence, as was my paternal grandmother. For me this was helpful because it countered the myth that motherhood is supposed to be supremely fulfilling and wonderful or you are “doing it wrong”.

      • Oh, I definitely have favorite periods. Birth to 9 months is one. During the “why? Because!” phase I could cheerfully lock the child in a dark closet, however.

        There are two truisms: one, they grow too fast, and two, eventually they become adults that generally you like as friends.

      • RKD314

        In general I agree with you, but in this specific case the person said that she sees NOTHING interesting about her children getting older. I think that’s a bit different than the examples you gave. It’s more along the lines of, “Now that they aren’t just dolls I can dress up and play with however I want, now that they have OPINIONS and FREE WILL, oh, I just don’t find that very interesting.” If she had said something like, “I’m really dreading certain aspects of them growing up, like teenage angst, having ‘the talk’, etc.”, that’s more in line with your examples.

      • sdsures

        Do you remember a post in another blog made by the mom who said she loved her vaginally-birthed baby more than her CS baby? There was a lot of talk around the SOB water cooler here about what effect that might have on the children when they grew up, if they happened to come across their mom’s blog. Her name was Kate Tjetje. (I might be wrong on the surname spelling.)

  • Kay

    “Mothering, when done right…they become independent adults.”

    “A good mother always works herself out of a job.”

    I used to believe this. Then my child was diagnosed with multiple developmental delays and, ultimately, autism. And I started to become aware of all the platitudes that treat disabilities like they don’t exist.

    I may never work myself out of a job. My son may never be independent. That will not mean that I have not been a good mother. I understand what you’re getting at, but there has to be a way of saying it that doesn’t ignore good parents who can never have that, even if they want it more than anything in the world.

    • demodocus’ spouse

      Sigh. Generalizations are like that, like the one about shopping around the edges of the grocery store…where the ice cream is kept. Some of my parents’ coworkers were shocked to learn DH couldn’t see but still had a decent job and an apartment he pays for. Because he’s, you know, disabled.
      I’m sure you’re a wonderful mother and that your son is a wonderful person.

    • AlisonCummins

      One of the reasons I decided I was too old to have children once I hit thirty is that if I had a disabled child I wanted to be fit enough to pitch in for most of their life. So I get what you’re saying,

      On the other hand, unless your son predeceases you, you are going to need to find a way to work yourself out of a job.

      Hugs to the both of you.

      • Kay

        I fully intend to find a way for him to be cared for when we die. But my job ending because I die is very, very different from my job ending because it’s done.

        • AlisonCummins

          Agreed.

    • SF Mom & Psychologist

      Thank you for speaking up and sharing this perspective. You are right that we often ignore/forget disabilities.

  • Ob in OZ

    Very enjoyable read. As a parent of a 2 and 4 year old (and done), it really hits home. Thank you.

  • Sue

    YESSSSS!

    Takes some maturity and insight to realise that, though. Thanks, Amy.

  • Mishimoo

    This is a rather timely piece as I’m reaching the end of an era: My second ‘baby’ (little sister) is graduating today and getting married tomorrow, while my eldest ‘baby’ (little brother) has recently landed a good full-time position in his field.

    At her hens night, all of her friends were asking why I wasn’t crying over her being all grown-up “Because she’s your baby!!” and couldn’t quite grasp that all I wanted for my siblings was for them to be happy and independent. I’m happy because they’re happy. I am so proud of them as well as humbled by how well they have done despite me muddling along and parenting them as best as I could.

    • fiftyfifty1

      congrats!

      • Mishimoo

        Thanks! It was a lovely ceremony. Climbed a mountain in the dark and lined up along the ridge as the aisle; they were so happy.

  • Amy Tuteur, MD
  • Mom2Many

    I loved all of this, but laughed out loud at your sentence about compromising with your husband! I love it! Hope you’re able to insert parts of this article into your upcoming book, because the appeal in hearing this sort of message would be huge I’m guessing. Great article, Dr. Amy!
    In terms of which age I love the most…I am raising a 21, 18, 14 and 12 year old, in addition to many infants over the years, and I have yet to find an age that I don’t love! Kids are awesome!

    • Well, I would have been quite willing to fast-forward through adolescence, as I had three teenagers in the house at the same time and I believe, with perfect faith, that when I die I will go STRAIGHT to heaven, having atoned for any sin I might have done, or will do, or even contemplate doing. I wouldn’t wish a 16 year old, a 14 year old, and a 13 year old on my worst enemy. Now that the youngest will be 31 this month, and I have survived, I think I’m entitled to get the Nobel Peace Prize.

      • stenvenywrites

        I agree. (My husband’s aunt at one time had 4 teenagers plus a tween daughter and twin boy 5 year-olds. She is referred to within the family as “Saint Bea.”)

  • Carolina

    This made me tear up a bit. I’m blaming the pregnancy hormones.

  • Smoochagator

    This is by far my favorite sentence from this piece: “When you decide to have children, you are no longer the star; you are a supporting character, an important one to be sure, but not the main character.” And this is why it is important for mothers to have interests outside of their child, to remember that it is okay to be themselves, and not just “mommy.” Because in the same way that your life needs people besides your child to interest you and interact with, your child will increasingly need and want OTHER people in his/her life. That’s not just okay, it’s wonderful.

    • Mishimoo

      Exactly! I’m so tired of the mummy-guilt for having my own interests outside parenting. I’m a much happier person and a better mother when I do kid-free things that I enjoy. I love that they have things they enjoy, I have things I enjoy, and we have things that we like doing together. It seems healthy to me.

    • Sometimes I am sure that the greatest gift my parents gave me was the ability to be independent. Mother had me when she was 40, and I’m an only child. The constant mantra of my childhood was “we’re here now, but we won’t be here forever, and you have to be able to stand on your own two feet”. Sounds a bit cruel, but it was realistic, and it certainly was one of the reasons my parents wholeheartedly supported my decision to go to nursing school rather than embark on a prolonged university course that would end in a degree of dubious economic value.

  • Liz Leyden

    I’m a first-time Mom and a nurse who has spent time working with adults with developmental delays. A lot of my clients are cognitive infants. My peds rotation was in a home for children with brain injuries- all had a mental age of less than 12 months with a median mental age of 3 months. I love having actual babies, but I also know what happens when babies don’t grow up. Babyhood is special because it’s not permanent.

    If Rixa Freeze really can’t imagine life without babies, maybe she could consider volunteering to work with babies.

    • demodocus’ spouse

      People keep telling me this with my baby, but its just silly. Mom worked with folks whose mental age was about my son’s current chronological one. No one really wants that for anyone they love, they just miss the snuggly baby stage and forget the negatives.

      • EmbraceYourInnerCrone

        YUp, my daughter just turned 20 and she lives 5 hours away at college. Do I miss her, YES but I am so happy that she was able to get into college and that she was able to find a job. SHE worked really hard to accomplish those goals, I helped a little but they are her accomplishments. I was lucky enough to be able to give her the tools to make it happen(her Dad did too).
        Do I miss the cuddly baby stage and looking into her eyes as she took her bottle. And watching her learn to crawl and walk, yes of course.
        I DO NOT miss projectile vomiting, the time she climbed out of her crib and did a face plant onto the floor. The night-terrors at 2, the tanturms at 3(when their favorite words are NO and MINE) or the diaper blowouts. I don’t miss having a sick baby who can’t tell me where it hurts. It’s kind of nice to have a young woman to talk to who even occassionally thinks I have something helpful to offer(still get the occassional eye-roll though). The hardest thing to do is sometimes keeping my mouth shut and letting her make her own mistakes or enjoy her own triumphs.
        The hysterical phone call a few minths ago when she got her first speeding ticket was not fun. When they are crying so hard they can’t breathe and you can’t make out what they are saying…not fun. Guess I am still Mommy when she’s scared…

        • Rita Rippetoe

          People used to say to me, “Don’t you wish they could stay like that forever?” My reply was, “No I want them to talk, potty train and get a job–in that order.” I had a grandmother who was fixated on the infant–she had 10 children in all (9 survived to adulthood), and I know my father, who was one of the older brothers, felt shortchanged by her repeated focus on the current baby.

          Obviously a handicapped child, as discussed by other posters, is a completely different situation and my heart goes out to parents who must meet that challenge.

        • Do I miss the cuddly baby stage and looking into her eyes as she took
          her bottle. And watching her learn to crawl and walk, yes of course.

          Hold fast: eventually there are grandchildren All the cliches about the joys of grandchildren are true.

          • D/

            Isn’t that the truth …

            Although I realized should quit commenting (at least to my daughter) about how much better that next generation is after she asked “You did have at least some fun with me, right?”

            And yes, I did have fun first time around, but grandkids? OMG, for me it’s all the perks with none of the downside. They. Are. Grand!!

    • If Rixa Freeze really can’t imagine life without babies, maybe she could consider volunteering to work with babies.

      That wouldn’t work, because what she is really saying is “I am a uterus and a pair of breasts and unless I’m using them, I have no worth”. She defines herself by her reproductive function.

      In a sense, I think it is the female equivalent of a man’s fear of impotence.

      • Samantha06

        Agreed! Working as a volunteer with babies wouldn’t meet her need to perform as a mother. She wouldn’t be the center of attention. I think her self esteem is rooted in her “performance” and others’ perceptions of her as the perfect parent. How sad for her children

  • Bugsy

    This is a beautiful post. On a personal note, it’s quite timely as I prepare to send my son to preschool for the first time come January. He’s ready, and we both need this next step. However, I have to keep reminding myself of his readiness in order to break away from the “You’re a stay-at-home mom and shouldn’t NEED to be sending your child away from you” trap that keeps echoing in my brain.

    • Amy M

      It will be fine! He will make friends, you will have a little time to yourself, win-win. Yeah, he’ll have a cold from January through June, but only for the first year or so. 😉

      • Bugsy

        Thanks, Amy!

        Lol, that’ll be no different than him normally, then…my kid manages to pick up colds from inanimate objects, never mind other preschoolers. I’m getting more and more excited about the mommy time coming my way. Yoga, here I come!!

    • Kq

      You will both do great, and it will feel normal so quick

    • Allie

      Good lord, as a “stay at home mom,” you NEED to be sending your child to preschool more than anyone. Enjoy your LO and enjoy your time to yourself as well. They are both precious.

  • Sara Lucy

    This post helps illustrate exactly how oppressive this mindset can be. Women’s lives no longer matter if they aren’t birthing babies. Whether that attitude comes from within, or is imposed on her from the outside, she might as well be in patriarchal cult.

    • Amy M

      I think she’s a Mormon…not sure if she’s one of the extreme patriarchal culty Mormons, but my impression is that at least the roots of that religion do not jive with feminism.

      • Sara Lucy

        True, about the roots of Mormonism. The mainstream church recently admitted their founder Joseph Smith had up to 40 wives. It’s hard for them to separate from that legacy.

        I understand that the FLDS would send some wives who could no longer bear children to live alone as “widows”– being essentially useless to the husbands/community at that point.

      • Julie

        I am a Mormon and I do not endorse this message.

  • slandy09

    Rixa has been losing steam recently–she hasn’t been getting nearly the number of comments on her blog as she used to.

  • LottieS

    Good lord…how is no one discussing this horrific video? I am so glad that child came out of it unscathed. I know the whole NCB premise is that birthing at home/in a tub etc is meant to be waaaaay more relaxing and less ‘fear-induing’ than a hospital, but I wouldn’t trade my delivery with my OB in a clean, safe labor and delivery room assisted by trained nurses with Rixa’s birth set up for the world!
    I know, I know…. all women have a choice but why anyone would choose this is beyond me! Crazy. Totally agree it is all one great big stunt!

    Also, what a sad woman she is not to look forward to her children’s futures. It is one thing to lament the loss of their babyhood, quite another to write down and publicise your disinterest in the stages to come. I hope she comes to her senses.

    • Kate

      I think it was discussed at length when it came out. I watched and it made me seethe a bit. My son had respiratory issues at birth and a 1 minute Apgar of 4. He spent 36 hours in NICU… and he was a healthy 37 weeker otherwise.

      • Samantha06

        I thought it was disgusting too. I was shaken as I watched that apneic, cyanotic baby that didn’t breathe for at least two minutes! I estimated a one minute apgar of two- one for tone (it wasn’t completely limp) and possibly one for heart rate. For someone who is supposedly “certified” in NRP, she certainly didn’t follow the algorithm! Then she told the midwife the baby was “pink” at delivery! I thought, honey you must be color-blind! That video grossed me out.

  • anh

    I love this. I echo previous statements. Holding a baby is amazing, but every day with my two year old brings something new and amazing. The other morning we had a true, honest to God conversation on what it means to be a friend (she says a friend is funny and makes you happy) how could I be anything less than elated when I think about our future as mom and daughter?

    • The Bofa on the Sofa

      Holding a baby is amazing, but every day with my two year old brings something new and amazing.

      I actually realized this back when my nieces and nephews were growing up. I realized, and said it multiple times at the time, that although they were great when they were babies, they just got more and more interesting as they grew up.

      My kids are the same way.

  • Ellen Mary

    This piece transcends the typical (if incisive & smart) tone here. Beautiful. <3

  • fiftyfifty1

    For me, having my kids turn into “big kids” has brought new joys that I never saw coming.

    One of my children is very similar to myself in terms of temperament and interests. Every day he comes home with “Mom, here’s something that I know you will think is interesting”…and he is always right. Frequently it is something I know already, and I have the chance to think about it and talk about it again with fresh enthusiasm. Increasingly, however, it is something that I didn’t know about before, and he is right, I am thrilled to learn what he has discovered.

    My other child is very dissimilar to myself in terms of temperament and interests, and learning from her is even more of an eye opening experience. She sees my quirks and weaknesses so clearly-she has me absolutely pegged. And yet she treats me with such kindness and gentleness and good humor surrounding my foibles. I marvel that someone with such high E.Q. could have come somehow from me. She has a way of helping me see the world through a lens that I would never be able to access on my own.

    I feel very honored to get to be the mother of the wonderful humans that are my children.

  • Amy M

    I found the opposite from Rixa–every new stage has been better than the one before. Sure, sometimes I’ll miss holding a little baby, but not enough to want to have any more. These days, my sons and I have terrific conversations in the morning, before we leave for school/work. They are only in Kindergarten, so they still have their moments (I imagine this will always be true), but I love how much independence they are gaining. They are learning how to read—that’s HUGE! That opens up so many doors for them, in terms of gaining independence as well as fun things we can do together. And they are so funny–they like to make up total bs stories, each trying to outdo the other, with completely straight faces. Infants don’t do that.

    • araikwao

      Yes, I feel like this, too. I looked at my son in his highchair the other day, eating his dinner, and was so excited and relived that he was feeding himself with a fork, and was able to give me a verbal update on his progress. And my daughter, who ran off into her kindergarten class forgetting to give me a goodbye hug because she was so happy to be there, and that I can’t remember the last time I needed to help her go to the toilet or wash her hands. I love the independence they are gaining, and am excited for their futures.

    • Sara Lucy

      I looove this learning to read stage. My son is also in kindergarten. Last night he decided he was going to start studying insects and set up a little work space. He got up early this morning with a field guide and began doing careful copywork (with no prompting!) of all of his favorite insect names.

      I love seeing things kids come up with as they learn new ways to express their ideas. It’s awesome.

      • Amy M

        That’s awesome. I was going through their school bags the other day and in one, found a math problem he had to do and explain how he arrived at the answer. The spelling was very creative. The other one had love notes from a girl in their class. Too funny!

  • DhanyaCali

    Very beautiful.

  • Jessica

    My husband and I are parenting on both ends of the spectrum: we have a 2.5 year old son, and my husband’s 15 year old son from his first marriage lives with us during the school year. There’s a lot to be said for the joys of a little baby turning into a toddler, and I certainly got weepy on my son’s first birthday or when putting away his baby clothes. I felt particularly sad when I weaned him last year at 19 months. But I love watching him grow, love the new words he’s picking up, the spontaneous hugs and kisses. He’s so much fun, and it only gets more fun.

    I’ve known my stepson since he was nine years old, and before my very eyes he’s turning into a young man. It’s been a wonderful transformation, too. He is so smart, funny, kind, generous, and hard-working. He can drive me nuts, but honestly, not as regularly as the toddler does. I cannot tell you how much joy my husband and I shared watching my stepson play a varsity level sport for the first time this fall – he wasn’t the best athlete, but he had a good attitude and gave it his all. I’m not really ready for him to learn to drive or go off to college, but I am so pleased at the man he is becoming. That should be the ultimate goal in parenting – not natural childbirth, or breastfeeding, or cloth diapers, or whatever – but raising productive, functional, happy adults.

  • The Computer Ate My Nym

    I sometimes miss Baby, but I would NEVER exchange my 11 year old for the baby she was! I want her to grow up, become independent, and live her life in a way that is for her good, not for mine. I did not have her for my amusement but for her own needs.

    And what do I have to look forward to? Let’s see…seeing my daughter grow up and finding out what she’ll do with adulthood, maybe playing with her children or my nieces/nephews’ children some day, spending more time with my partner, spending more time on my career, indulging in my fantasy of writing at least semi-professionally, menopause (yes: I look forward to no more periods and no more birth control, even while I dread hot flashes), and being an obnoxious old lady some day.

    • Amy M

      Sometimes I look forward to an empty nest—not because I want to get rid of my children, but because then my husband and I will have time (and maybe $) to take a nice vacation. I’ve always wanted to see Alaska and Australia.

      • araikwao

        Yes you should definitely see Australia

      • carr528

        I’m just looking forward to the day my oldest is old enough to watch the younger ones. Getting a sitter for four is expensive, so my husband and I never go anywhere by ourselves. My oldest is 12, so we’re right on the edge of being there!

      • Dinolindor

        That was definitely the attitude of my parents. As their kid, I’ve always appreciated and admired how they have their own lives aside from my brothers and me vs. my best friend’s mother who has been clutching desperately to her kids ever since we all left for college.

  • Allie P

    I’d take it a step further, but then again, I’m one of those horrible mothers who thinks babies are something you have to suffer through in order to get to the fun kid part. I’d be happy to be pregnant for an extra year and a half and pop out a toddler. I felt no major attachment to my child until she was about 9 months old and I’ve liked her more every day since. Not a baby person. Never have been.

    • toni

      I absolutely love babies, I love toddlers too but I have found 1 year + much more draining than the early months. They’re just so darn quick. My bub is almost 2 now and has been going through this whining phase for about 5 months. Weaning was horrible, (next baby is getting breastfed one year max). My mother is hopeless for advice and swears none of us went through any whining phases but as I recall whenever the little ones were being ‘pests’ they were handed over to the staff lmao. My son is lovely and hilarious and sweet natured don’t get me wrong, I just feel like I’ve run a marathon every day and the housework just never effing ends. I really do miss the baby days sometimes, when he slept all the time and never hurt himself and I could do all the chores while he napped and had time to read the paper.

    • Kq

      I loooved babies… and then I had one and discovered that babies are pretty boring and gross. I enjoy my son more every day as he blooms into this amazing boy child with personality and interests!

      • Kelly

        After having number two, I realized it was not a fluke and I do not like the newborn to four month stage. Once they hit four months, I am planning on the next baby but I always swear through those first four months that I will never have another one.

    • me

      I love babies. For me it was age 1 to about age 2 1/2 that sucked; they’re independent enough to want to do everything themselves, but lack the skills to be able to. Not to mention the tantrums and lack of communication skills to be able to tell you exactly why they’re freaking out. Near age 3 it gets much better (and seems to get better thereafter). My husband hates the infant stage, but finds that toddler stage “fun” (don’t ask me how, lol). So it seems to work itself out in my house. I do most of the work while they’re infants, he takes the starring role in the toddler stage, then it becomes more evenly split after that.

  • Cobalt

    “Parental identity choices” is an excellent description.

  • LovleAnjel

    Read Rixa’s post carefully. It’s not so much about her kids becoming independent from her, but that it makes her feel old. The first part of the sentence is “Because I thinking of growing older and aging and getting wrinkles and health problems…” She mentions her own aging before she mentions her children.

    Also a dead giveaway: “…it’s the end of a stage of my life as a young mother. As long as I have one baby, I still feel like I am in that group.”

    It’s about her growing older. Having an infant does not make you a “young mother”, being young makes you a young mother. She uses her infants to prop up self-esteem which depends on the cultural emphasis on the value of youth. Very feminist!

    • Cobalt

      “Parenting keeps getting more complicated as my kids get older, and I miss the sheer joy and simplicity of raising babies. I don’t have much to look forward to once I no longer have a baby underfoot. Teenagers? Bleh. My kids turning into adults and leaving me alone? Sob.”

      I think it’s more her identity as a mother of young children. It’s easy to define yourself as a particular kind of parent with babies (with most babies, there are some that blow your plans up immediately). They get less cooperative as they get older.

      • Box of Salt

        Cobalt “They get less cooperative as they get older.”

        You mean they’re going to form their own opinions as they learn from their experience?! Oh, no!11!

        Isn’t that the whole point of raising children?

        Disclaimer: mine are in elementary school.

      • Amy M

        I know a woman who still identifies as an AP parent, even though her kid is well into elementary school, and goes to public school. She was never really extreme about it to begin with, but why she clings to the label, especially when the most important parts (to her) are no longer applicable, I don’t know.

        • Life Tip

          I imagine that when you build up your identity around that label, it becomes very hard to let go. Especially if part of that identity is imagining yourself to be better than those who do not have that label. I imagine she may have lost a lot of friends along the way, and her AP support group really no longer has anything relative in common.

          It must be very difficult once your kids are no longer young, and it turns out that all the choices that you made such a big deal about, berated others for not doing, and created an identity around no longer matter all. And there’s no difference between your own kids and their peers. And the relationships you’ve invested in were built around something that doesn’t matter anymore, with people you might have nothing else in common with.

          • Amy M

            While I agree with your general point, I’m not sure this particular woman ever had an AP support group. She definitely felt (at least back then) that her way of raising a child was the best way, and other ways were inferior. She went back to work when said child was 2 or 3 and has since led a life very similar to mine (two parents working, child in daycare/public school), which doesn’t really leave any space for AP, especially with older children. But yeah, I guess maybe it IS hard to let go, since it was so important to her.

    • yugaya

      I think it has more to do with immaturity and not youth or being a young mother, mental and emotional age of the author does not reflect her actual age at all.

      “the Best Thing Ever and I don’t know if anything else can make up for the loss of that”

      My six year old exhibited the same type of profound sadness over the loss of a particularly big and interesting bubble during bath time the other night. 🙂

  • SporkParade

    Confession: While I was in the hospital after giving birth, I got a little misty-eyed at the thought that one day, G-d willing, I’ll have to give him up to some other lady (or dude, but lady is more statistically likely).

    • toni

      I cried thinking about my son having his heartbroken by a girl, being bullied at school, failing exams. The worst thought I had was of him being a lonely old man in a nursing home and no one visiting him. He was only two days old when I was thinking of all this! It still makes me well up now.

      • Medwife

        Oh my god, me too! I looked down at his sweet little face and thought of him getting dumped someday, that there was no way I could protect him from being hurt… Oh lord. The baby blues are CRAZY.

    • MLE

      My thoughts raced to the conclusion that anyone who is born must die, which is really dumb if you ask me.

      • SporkParade

        That’s not dumb at all. We found out a few weeks later that my husband’s family’s dog is terminally ill, and I felt guilty because what was I doing choosing to create another human being in a world where nothing is permanent and everything good and beautiful must come to an end.

        • MLE

          I mean that it’s dumb that things die :). Amazing how nothing hammers home mortality like a new life.

      • Sara Lucy

        This feeling was so horribly intense with my first baby.

    • Smoochagator

      Hahahaha, I had the EXACT. SAME. MOMENT with my first son. I looked down at him and realized that someday he was going to get married and love that birth more than me.

      Ever since then I have tried to be a particularly nice daughter-in-law.

  • Trixie

    I wonder, do some people who continue AP into unschooling end up with perpetually dependent children? It seems like that’s a pretty likely outcome.

    • Cobalt

      I know one mom of five grown kids who did AP, un-schooled, no vaccines, all home remedies, all that. Four out of five of them are now your average adults after going through a super wild and scary freedom phase as soon as they hit young adulthood. The other one is super dependent, living at home with no plans to move out.

      • Kate

        I wonder what proportion of AP-raised kids grow up and decide to be incredibly mainstream.

        • Roadstergal

          Rebelling against their parents by going mainstream. It reminds me of (utterly lovely) friends of ours – very highly tattooed and be-pierced. Their teenage son has nary a body modification, and my husband and I joke that he’s rebelling against his parents.

          • toni

            Ha, one of my best friends is an extremely strait laced Presbyterian. Her parents are in a motorcycle gang.

          • Amy M

            Ha! I remember at one place I worked (an academic lab) one guy whose wife was expecting a girl, had all these plans for his daughter. How she would be a nerd and into science just like him and how he would disown her if she became a cheerleader. He was joking (I hope).

            Worse though, once, I met a woman at a party who had grown up quite a misfit. She’d been ridiculed a lot in school. I’m not sure which came first: the ridicule or the embracing of geek culture (role playing games, comic books, etc), but she embraced that geek culture to an extreme. She was loudly telling us that she would raise a child (a girl of course) to be just like her. I thought that was pretty sad—not that there’s anything wrong with liking the geek culture stuff, but with wanting your child to be a misfit who spends her youth in pain and misery. Then, as now, I thought pretty much what Dr. Amy said: You have to let your kids be who they are and love them and accept them that way. I can see that that can be difficult if they are people who you can’t relate to, but you have to love them anyway.

          • Smoochagator

            I met a guy once who bragged that his daughter wouldn’t be able to shock him or his wife because they were soooooo counter-cultural, and I said, “She may rebel by becoming a conservative Catholic.” His face registered not just shock but genuine fear. It had never occurred to him that his child might rebel by embracing the very lifestyle he had rejected.

        • Who?

          We’re mildly progressive politically. My son was an arch conservative (we were living Family Ties there for a few years). If that’s rebellion, I’ll take it.

          These days he is finding ‘his’ side of politics extremely distasteful-the realisation that they are not in fact conservative has been really hard for him. The great thing is that he is open to recognising the issues on both sides and thinking about them and what he’s actually looking for.

          It must be hard for Rixa’s kids to realise they don’t interest her anymore.

    • Ennis Demeter

      Bingo.

    • Bugsy

      I wouldn’t be surprised. The extreme AP mom i know spends a good amount of time guilting her son into remaining dependent.

  • Jessica Burke

    Beautiful written, being reminded of this concept is good for all of us.