Everybody plays, everybody wins.

Last week, Elita at Blacktating.com wrote a post about an upcoming book that came across her desk. (She works for the library system and is therefore, even more of a hero to me.) Anyway, the book is entitiled: Is Breast Best?: Taking on the Breastfeeding Experts and the New High Stakes of Motherhood. I am not going to discuss the book here because Elita does a good job on her page, but I am going to give my hypothesis as to why we are still dealing with these mommy wars.

Now, mind you, I am not a social scientist and everything that follows is essentially out of my head but bear with me here. I am thirty years old (born in 1980) and if you are my age, or younger, you might remember the phenomenon of “Everybody plays, everybody wins.” (In fact, it might still be happening.) The basic idea was, in the realm of sports specifically, every child on the team got a chance to play and everybody got a trophy. The basis of this was the question of how losing would affect a child’s self-esteem and it seemed to have been determined that the self-esteem of children is so fragile that it must be protected from any hits at all costs. But let’s look at the fruits of this labor:

-Helicopter Parents: We have a whole generation of parent afraid of letting their kids make mistakes or getting hurt that they will hover near by and swoop in as soon as a danger (real or imaginary) presents itself. Now, don’t get me wrong, if your kid is in bodily harm- swoop, swoop away, but if your kid is over the age of 18… it’s time to stop swooping.

-I know a woman who is a Nursing Professor, teaching graduate level nursing courses here in Missouri and she has had to field irate phone calls and emails from the parents of her students (mind you, this is graduate school so these students are at least 22 years old.) These phone calls are usually to discuss/ argue against bad grades. Because of the privacy act, the professor is not allowed to discuss the grades with the parent, but that does not sway them.

-Many people, my age or younger, are afraid of making mistakes because of the Everybody plays, Everybody Wins mentality and as a result, we have the Mommy Wars. We have a group of parents who grew up being told that they could do no wrong and that they were perfect in every why that when they encounter a teaching or philosophy that is counter to their own held beliefs the effort is put forth to discount/ disprove that counter-philosophy.

So, let’s get back to this book:

A big problem people have with pro-breastfeeding campaigns is the notion that “Breast is best” or “Breastmilk is a superior infant food.” The author of the book is taking the opposite approach and defends formula as being just as good as breastmilk, however this assertion is false. Formula is not and never will be just as good as breastmilk. It just won’t. Look at it this way:

Statement A: A potato from the garden is superior to processed, fast food french fries. French Fries will fill you up and keep you from being hungry, but it is not the same as the potato. Manufacturers try their best to make the french fry nutritionally equal to the potato but as close as they come, it’s still a french fry and not a potato.

Can you argue with the above statement as being false? Now, I love french fries and I could eat them at every meal, but of course I don’t because that would not be good for me. So let’s read that statement again with some substitutions:

Statement B: Breastmilk is superior to Formula. Formula will fill you up and keep you from being hungry, but it is not the same as Breastmilk. Manufacturers try their best to make formula nutritionally equal to the breastmilk but as close as they come, it’s still formula and not breastmilk.

While most people would not call statement A false, there would be plenty out there to say that statement B is false, even though the only change was in 2 words.

So, where am I going with this? Breastmilk, Formula, Homeschool, Vaccines, Fast Food, Juice, Wooden Toys, etc., etc., what ever parenting choices you make you have to be confident that you made the right decision for your family. My SIL hated breastfeeding and therefore did not continue very long. My SIL is a strong, confident woman and knows that she did the right thing for her family. But she also knows that formula is not the same as breastmilk and is not going to convince herself otherwise. What is right for my family is not right for my BFF’s family and we need to stop pretending that every family is the same in every way.

But with that said, breastfeeding advocates are not going to stop giving the facts about the nutritional superiority of breastmilk because there are mamas and mamas-to-be out there who are still deciding and discerning what feeding method is right for them and they deserve all of the facts. Maybe what we all need is a little dose of humility and we need to stop trying to be the best at everything. After all, in this life not everybody is going to play and win but once we are with Jesus and get our crowns, all of this stuff will just be noise.

So what are your thoughts? Are you a Helicopter Parent? Was “Everybody Plays, Everybody Wins” a good thing for us? Are we, as parents, just neurotic?

As an aside, this is my 100th post!! If you’ve been reading all along, thanks! If you are a new reader, there are 99 other pretty good ideas to read!

Pax Christi!



Filed under breastfeeding, feminism, life, monday, mothering

2 responses to “Everybody plays, everybody wins.

  1. Maman A Droit

    Interesting thoughts! I’m 25 & definitely think it’s not considered okay with my peers to imply that you might be doing something better than someone else (since it might make them feel bad!). There’s a lot of pressure towards total relativism/saying any choice you make is just as good as any other, but the truth is, that’s a bunch of balogna! It’s tough for some people when facts don’t line up with their delusions.

  2. Congratulations on your 100th post!

    To eat a potato or to eat a French fry. Perhaps we could take a step back and consider whether we’d rather eat a real potato or something carefully manufactured in a laboratory to be as nutritionally close to a potato as possible. Even the humble and oft-maligned potato possesses vital nutrients, such as over 25% of the recommended daily value for vitamin C when baked with skin on, among other nutrients present in significant amounts (B6, copper, potassium, manganese, etc). And check this out: “A new analytical method developed by Agricultural Research Service plant geneticist Roy Navarre has identified 60 different kinds of phytochemicals and vitamins in the skins and flesh of 100 wild and commercially grown potatoes. Analysis of Red and Norkotah potatoes revealed that these spuds’ phenolic content rivals that of broccoli, spinach and Brussels sprouts, and includes flavonoids with protective activity against cardiovascular disease, respiratory problems and certain cancers. Navarre’s team also identified potatoes with high levels of vitamin C, folic acid, quercetin and kukoamines. These last compounds, which have blood pressure lowering potential, have only been found in one other plant, Lycium chinense (a.k.a., wolfberry/gogi berry). How much kukoamine is needed for a blood pressure lowering effect in humans must be assessed before it can be determined whether an average portion of potatoes delivers enough to impact cardiovascular health. Still, potatoes’ phytochemical profiles show it’s time to shed their starch-only image; spuds-baked, steamed or healthy sautéed but not fried-deserve a place in your healthy way of eating.”

    We only just now are finding some of these things. How many other nutrients are present in a potato–a POTATO!–that we don’t even yet have the technology to *see*, much less identify what they can *do* for us? Can we really fool ourselves into thinking we know even a tiny bit of what there is to know about a potato, or an apple, or breastmilk? Given this information, would anyone concerned about their health really want to eat an artificial potato, given a legitimate choice? An artificial apple? Artificial breastmilk?

    There is no pretending that we can manufacture breastmilk. We can manufacture something close enough to human milk to save babies’ lives when necessary. But since we don’t even know what all of the substances in breastmilk are, and we have absolutely no clue what many of them do, we’re better off trusting that our bodies have put these substances in the milk for a reason. If we can’t yet identify every building block and its purposes, it’s highly likely that there are many as yet undefined benefits as well. I want my babies to have those benefits if it lies within my power to make them available. And, thank God, it does. I am so thankful I have been able to breastfeed and for so long. I am absolutely serious when I say that not switching to formula within the first two weeks of nursing my firstborn was one of the most difficult things I’ve done in my entire life. I can see now that a decision to switch to formula would have been entirely justified, but at the time I would have felt like an absolute failure for switching and I don’t think it would have helped my post-partum depression at all.

    It’s a miserable state we’re in if so many women have to consciously tell themselves and others that they are no less than their peers because of how their children are fed, especially those who wanted to breastfeed but couldn’t. I’m sure there are women who feel superior because they breastfeed and/or because they “know” that there are actually very few women who, *medically* speaking, actually cannot produce milk, and so everyone else ought to be breastfeeding and that’s that. Thoughts on either end of that spectrum can’t be healthy, emotionally. In the “mommy wars” there seems to be little respect for others’ life experiences. As with the composition of our food or our milk, there are many tiny building blocks in our lives. We ourselves probably don’t even know what one little word here or one stray look there has done to shape us into the people we are today. So we can’t even begin to feel justified in judging anyone else for their choices. Life is complex, and so are families, and so are social pressures, and so are support systems, and so are decisions. Especially when you’re sleep-deprived.

    Just a few hours ago I was having a conversation with my husband about how to raise our daughters not to care so much when others, especially their own siblings, are “better” than they are at something. As a child, and then as a young adult, and then as a young first-time mother, I cared a lot. I had to grow beyond that, and my newfound Catholic faith has helped me take the last steps out of that chronic mindset. That’s not to say it doesn’t still creep up now and then, but I am now able to identify it and its effects and weed it all out through prayer and the sacrament of Reconciliation.

    Yes, our children need to value themselves, but not for being “just as good as” or “better than” everyone else. That’s a dangerous attitude which requires dwelling on the successes or failures of others at the expense of our ability to recognize our own gifts and the responsibilities those gifts entail. There will always be someone who is stronger, faster, more astute at a given subject, etc. Measuring our place in a hierarchy cannot be the driving force behind our day-to-day living. We and our children need to value our God-given uniqueness. http://www.usccb.org/nab/bible/1corinthians/1corinthians12.htm

    …And we need to value the God-given uniqueness of our milk, too. Even if we’re not able to provide it, we cannot deny that it is wonderfully made.

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