Out of all the surprising parts of parenthood, I would have to say that I am most surprised with just how much being a parent overwhelms me. Not always in a bad way, but when all the little details of the day are taken care of and the house is quiet, I sit on the couch and feel like I’ve been hit by a Mack truck. No one ever said taking care of kids would be easy, but the sheer exhaustion from the sad, mad and glad parts of the day can knock you on your ass.
One of the things that I find overwhelming is the amount of peer pressure out there on food. And what you shouldn’t be feeding your kids. First, we get the whole “5210 Let’s Go!” talk from our kids’ doctor. The Childhood Obesity Prevention Program tells moms and dads that your kids should eat 5 servings of fruits and veggies, have 2 hours or less of screen time, 1 hour of physical activity and 0 sugary drinks, more water and low-fat milk. Every day. This seems pretty straightforward and I can handle that. But that’s just the beginning.
Then you hear about the “dirty dozen” – the fruits and veggies that have the highest pesticide residue. Ewww. No one wants their kids eating residue of any kind, right? So we’re told to buy organic. You reach for the milk, but oh! Wait! Make sure the farmers don’t use growth hormones. They cause cancer. And while we’re at it, don’t bother buying your meat at the supermarket because you should only be eating grass-fed beef and free-range chickens.
Processed foods are bad. Feed them to your kids and they’ll get fat.
Gluten = Poison.
Rice contains arsenic.
Soy beans and corn are grown from GMO seeds. Eat them and you will be filling your child’s body with Round-Up weed killer, causing ulcers and sterility.
High fructose corn syrup = child abuse.
The list goes on and on. I won’t even mention the whole breast feeding vs formula powwow that you’re bombarded with before you’ve even been released from the hospital with your newborn.
This type of parenting peer pressure is one that we put on ourselves. We all want to feed our kids healthy food. We just can’t figure out what is actually healthy anymore because it seems like everything we eat is “contaminated” in some way. I was in the grocery store a few weeks ago and I was passing the Pop Tarts. I stopped and looked at them, marveling at all the different sugary yumminess that’s available now compared to when I was in school. Then I realized, my kids have never had a Pop Tart. I’ve become some kind of health food nazi. I bought a box (or 3) of Pop Tarts. I became a hero in my kids’ eyes. It made me think really hard about all the pressure I put on myself to make sure my kids are putting healthy choices into their little bellies. And I remembered when I was in high school, grabbing that hot Pop Tart in the morning when I was rushing to get out to the bus stop because I couldn’t drag my butt out of bed on time. My insides haven’t rotted yet. Eating some junk now and then didn’t harm me in some irreversible way.
I had a friend tell me that she had read all that hooey about Ritz crackers and how bad they are for you. It made her feel guilty for letting her teething baby gum on a Ritz cracker for a snack. Giving our kids a cracker shouldn’t make us feel guilty. As parents, we have enough things that we feel guilty about. We don’t need to add food choices to that list. Unless you’re feeding your kids fast food 3 meals a day, I think you’re doing okay.
Let’s stop the madness, moms and dads, and not let other people tell us what we should or shouldn’t feed our kids. I’m sure that my great grandmother, who raised 4 kids during the depression, didn’t feel guilty that all my grandma ate was oatmeal and bread. I’m sure her neighbors or friends didn’t judge her by what she fed her kids. My grandma will be 92 next week. Obviously, she lived. So will our kids.