My daughter just turned four months old (happy one third of the year b-day, Scarlett!). The past four months have been the most amazing, challenging, exhausting, exhilarating, frightening, happy, crazy months of my life.
As a new mom, I have done everything in my power to raise my daughter with love, affection, attention and ridiculously out-of-tune sing-alongs (which she seems to love, despite the awkward looks I get when I break out in to song and dance in public).
This child of mine is my life. She is the most important thing in my world, and will be so every single day for the rest of my life. With that commitment to her comes the most amazing rewards that anyone could ever dream of (there is nothing more amazing than being a mom), but also comes with one major downfall.
Every decision that I make for my child, until the time that she is able to make decisions for herself, will have a tremendously important effect on her life. No pressure, right? Should I bottle feed or breast feed? Should I let her cry or run to her with every peep she makes? Should I let her sit in front of the T.V. (so that I can have 15 minutes to brush my teeth and possibly shave my legs for the first time in two weeks #NewMomProblems) or is T.V. exposure at such a young age harmful? I continually read studies, articles, and other people's opinions, and yet, at the end of the day, these decisions are mine. But, am I making the right choices for her?
What I find the most interesting since becoming a mom is that many mothers think that they are the only mother in the world, and that the way they choose to raise their child(ren) is the best way (the only way, in many cases). Maybe they're right...maybe it is the best way, but very likely, it is simply the best way for THEIR child. The beautiful thing about life is that we all have the ability to choose, and especially as mothers, we have the ability to choose many things for our children (especially at this young age). One major choice that we have is how we are going to feed our children.
With each passing month that Scarlett continues to grow, the inevitable transition to solid foods continues to creep up on me. As a mother, I cannot wait for that milestone, as it means that my daughter is a healthy, growing child, but it also means a long future filled with having to be "THAT MOM."
Let me explain.
As a nutritionist and a believer in eating and living as cleanly as possible (of course there are circumstances where this may not apply), I can only hope that my daughter would choose the same for herself.
As a four-month-old, I can only ask for her opinion so many times before she just looks at me with confusion and pukes all over my shirt. This means that I am left with the decision as to how I am going to feed my child all on my own (with the help of my husband, of course). Am I going to "let her be a kid" or am I am really going to be "that mom" -- you know, the one that deprives her child of conventional cookies, soft drinks, ice cream, pizza and chicken nuggets from the drive through (all of the really "good" stuff).
Am I really going to be "that mom" that sends her child to school with homemade chicken fingers and sandwiches on sprouted whole grain bread with vegetables and avocado (hold the mayonnaise and processed turkey). How dare I only feed her fruits, veggies, and wholesome snacks (yes she will have delicious, nutritious snacks), instead of giving her the "good stuff" so that her friends will want to include her in the underground snack trading that goes on during lunch time (like, hello, no one is going to want her sunflower seed butter and apple snack when they could have cheesies with extra chemicals and added colour). How dare I be "that mom." I mean, really, it's just cruel.
The choice to feed my child with wholesome, natural, clean foods has been a choice that I have made -- one that (hopefully) my child will thank me for and continue to choose for herself as she gets older. But, it's also a choice that comes with the potential of having to explain myself to other mothers at birthday parties, teachers at school, and even members of my own family and friends -- and there is nothing in life that I hate more than having to justify my decisions.
As an adult, and especially as someone who has never really cared much to conform to social expectations, I can handle having to explain myself once in a while (mainly because I plan on using it as an opportunity to educate those around me about the amazing benefits of living a healthy lifestyle, beginning at a young age.) But, I worry that my daughter will have a harder time explaining to the kids beside her why her lunch looks different than theirs. I dream of the day (hopefully before my child is school-aged) when "depriving your child" means feeding them chemical laden chips, cookies and bologna sandwiches, instead of delicious, homemade, wholesome meals. How great would that be?
I was told the other day that taking a trip with my child to McDonald's playland is considered letting my kid be a kid, while providing her with nourishing, fueling, energy-boosting, growth-promoting foods is deprivation. That comment infuriated me (so much so that I am now writing this instead of taking a much-needed power nap while my daughter sleeps).
We have come a very long way in terms of people recognizing the importance of good food for kids, yet there is still pressure to feed our children "kids food" so that they fit in. Dare I say "no" to a second piece of birthday cake at my child's friend's birthday party - what kind of mother would I be? I mean, there are of course circumstances where I would let my child partake - a piece of cake wont kill her, neither will a piece of pizza with her team after a soccer game or dance recital, but 5 pieces at the party and then cake and pizza for the next three days for leftovers just wont fly here. "NO", friend, aunt, grandma, or friend's mom at the birthday party, she can't "just" have one more can of coke. That's my choice, and if it means that I'm depriving my child and being "that mom", then I will proudly wear that badge. Our grandparents grew up on wholesome, homemade, nourishing foods (that weren't filled with tons of chemicals and processed ingredients), so why shouldn't our children?
We have to stand up for what we believe in and make choices that work for us as individuals and for our kids. We have to teach our kids to make choices that work for them, and stand firmly behind them. And, lastly, we have to stop believing that our own personal choices suit everyone else around us -- I know for a fact that my lifestyle choices don't work for everyone, and that's okay.
So, if the word "deprived" is going to stick around for a while and be the definition of limiting the amount of unhealthy, processed, sugary foods that my child consumes, then sure, my child is so deprived...and I plan on keeping it that way.
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