Moving on from low supply.

Other than the frustration of feeding my second, things went well all things considered. I mean I had moments (many) I wanted to stop and it was more difficult in several ways. One because I had more support.

Back to that in a minute.

Another one was that I knew what my end goal was. With my first I was struggling on because I had been told I couldn’t, that I would fail. With Miss M I knew I could come out the other side and have a time of normalcy with a nurseling. And besides, she would love me no matter what.
Back to the more support thing. I lined up a supportive midwife and didn’t really have anyone around me telling me that I was terrible for using formula or anything. I had some stress in the hospital as midwives argued about how things would turn out, and brief moments of false hope that things would be normal, but it was not to be. My midwife I think thought I was crazy and wanted to give me permission to stop. I had a great online due date group (note: I highly recommend getting one of these. I joined a local parenting forum, mine was associated with a magazine, and when I became pregnant joined the month due date group. We formed a facebook group, there are about 30-35 of us, and it’s fantastic. Local is key, because you can swap tips about sales and local brands. And meet up! With my first I was a member of parenting community primarily UK and US based. So not really local at all. Also much larger and impersonal. I really think 30ish is the ideal number of people to be civil online.), and a weekly breastfeeding group attended by an IBCLC who was familiar with major breastfeeding issues. All around I felt like no one would judge me if I did stop. But I knew what I was aiming for so it was all personal drive, not some misplaced feeling of needing to prove I could do it. I knew I could. And if it turned out I couldn’t there would be people there to say well done you. If I had had that support with my first I would have stopped I think. But I didn’t and that’s how I have succeeded twice now. But wanting to stop is not a form of failure, nor should it be a source of guilt. It’s just a symptom of frustration. This time I knew my frustration was temporary.

I’ve come to think that so much mommy war crap is very first world problem-esque. Even low supply. Yes, it’s a big and valid problem, that is not as open, treated or acknowledged as it should be, but the guilt and regret is very much a western world bullshit thing to feel bad about. A bit of a tantrum which is negatively reinforced if you will. Our perceptions are skewed by the way we live. Yes, we have an inability to nourish our babies alone but in ‘the wild’ we would not be alone. Ok, not unless you were homesteading or repopulating the world. Much like we aren’t meant to be alone in the weeks and months after having a baby, and yet we often are. Yes it can feel raw and horrible and heartbreaking, and I’m not disputing that, but I posit that those feelings are a mixture of betrayal and being thwarted in our choices, combined with various breastfeeding movement backlash baggage. Betrayal as we’ve been told that we can do it-and then we can’t. Breastfeeding backlash baggage in that even though the issue is becoming more well known it still is not widely accepted so you have people disbelieving you, questioning your commitment and motivation. As if it’s a contest, or endurance event, rather than keeping a baby alive by any means necessary. Thwarted in that this was something you made the choice to do and that choice is taken away from you. I think the emotional repercussions from that is largely a construct of the other two. If you could not do some other choice would you feel so bent out of shape about it? Not likely…until people disbelieve you, question you, badger you and tell you the option you do have is wrong, repugnant and harmful. That leaves you as a sad little ball of raw despair.

All I can really say is that parenting is so much more than the first few years, yet these years are consumed with ideals to do things the right way and when the right way, like breastfeeding, does not work out, or goes poorly we become bitter; consumed with sadness, guilt and regret, because honestly we don’t have bigger problems. Our first years ideals mean well, but the jealousy, the warring, the guilt of if you are stimulating your baby appropriately, enough, right, the worry if you are doing things the ‘best’ and frankly, fashionable way…. it’s all so much bullshit. There are righter ways and wronger ways to do things but so much of the hype sold to us in packages, physical or conceptual, is entirely irrelevant. Babies need touching, feeding, cleaning. To be comfortable and comforted. To be responded to. Kids need a hell of a lot more than that. You haven’t failed as a parent until your kids don’t call you after they grow up. They won’t even remember the first years. The first years are a start but what shapes a child into a person is ongoing interaction.

With that I will leave my next post with a compilation of links on various topics. This blog is not so topical to me anymore and no one likes an irregularly updated blog. I have moved on from low supply. I hope others with this issue can as well.
Oh, it will be a fact of life with my future and last child, but that’s all.  It’s moved on from being an emotional problem to purely a medical problem. I’ve accepted it is not fixable. I will never have a diagnosis (well not unless I can find a breastfeeding clinician). And I guess it doesn’t matter. My kids don’t care that they had to be born via cesarean section, that they weren’t fed 100% breast milk. My main focus now is actual parenting and I don’t know that I will have time or motivation to navel gaze about that. I’ll be learning as I go, and my right ways, or even the ways that things go aren’t for me to judge or write a how-to manual for anyone else. It’s just going to be regular difficult from here on out, so I don’t think my musings are going to be particularly relevant.

Not trying hard enough

Not trying hard enough is a phrase that has haunted me most of my life. For a long time it’s been applied vaguely at me in regards to weight loss. Despite my counting calories, and measuring or weighing most everything I eat and seeing no results. I bought into the idea that I must be doing something wrong and that I wasn’t trying hard enough. Now that I’ve finally (finally!) been diagnosed with PCOS I can give myself a little bit less of a hard time.

When breastfeeding went wrong and people actually said to me that I needed to work harder and that I wasn’t trying hard enough (also see: lazy, uneducated, and so on) I again bought into the idea that I wasn’t trying hard enough and it ate me up inside. I mean so many people were saying (mostly without knowing the specifics) that there must be something I was doing wrong.

Thing is, in a normal situation these things are not rocket science. They are simply not that hard. When you aren’t in a normal situation though, all bets are off. There are lots of variations on not normal, so be cool and give support.

This time around has been a really different experience for a lot of reasons. If I had more time I could write guides about horrible sleepy fussy babies with oral particular-ness and how much more this low supply gig sucks when you also have a toddler.  Most importantly though I know this time I am totally awesome and actually pretty damn hardcore for being able to do this.

I ran into some internet comments the other day espousing the same old tired bullshit that low supply is ultra rare and that people who say they have it are all a big bunch of lazy liars and blah blah blah. It made me a bit weepy because I’d forgotten how many of that type of ‘lactivist’ there still are. Here I’d been thinking that recent media exposure on the prevalence of breastfeeding issues had somewhat changed the landscape in the past two years. Ha, I say. Ha.

Someone else in the same stream of comments said something along the lines of ‘Well 99% of pancreases work so diabetes is ultra rare and you only think you have it’. Someone else countered with ‘Don’t eat 50 donuts a day and expect your pancreas to work’. I then thought, if anyone told a type 1 diabetic that eating donuts caused their disease they would just be convinced that person was a moron. Put it all in perspective for me. Anyone who ever thinks I didn’t or I’m not trying hard enough I can automatically dismiss as a moron.

Phew.

Deficient.

I do often wonder if there is something mentally wrong with me for doing this mixed feeding malarkey. In my cynical moments I see myself as a mother willing to risk starving her child out of stubbornness. At this point I know my breasts do not lactate appropriately. There is no tricking, hoping or stimulation that is going to make that not be the case. I don’t think formula is that bad or I’d maybe motivate myself to get some donor milk. Despite that I am now citrus, tomato, brassica, onion, garlic, pulse, and gluten free to keep my baby reasonably happy. Yeah if you’d told me ever that I would be on a restricted diet feeding a baby through a tube I would have thought you were crazy. But here I am. Anyhow. But at some level I can not let go of breast feeding and go completely over to the bottle and formula. Now that we are at the point where it isn’t complete hell to mix feed (seems to be 12 weeks is the magic hump) I seriously wonder what is wrong with me.

I see mothers blithely (so I imagine though I’m certain the reality included tears) say that they stopped breastfeeding due to low supply and I wonder why not me? Since this method is definitely not the standard way of dealing with low supply I do wonder of those that have low supply how many would like to be educated about management option and how many prefer to stop outright.

Last time I persevered because it was a giant fuck you, a because-I-can to everyone who told me I couldn’t. This time, in light of a tricky, overly sleepy baby who is not easy to feed and is orally particular, I wonder why I am so stubborn and dangerous.

I do know that once solids are established my feeding rig will be packed away and things will be…normal. Is that reason enough though? To deal with 6-7 months of difficulty for another year of unfettered breastfeeding before I have to encourage weaning and do it all again?

It’s certainly been harder with two. The mixed feeding takes more time than a healthy breastfeeding relationship so the older child misses out. We had planned three children when we were being logical (before kids) but the idea of doing this feeding regimen again is depressing at minimum. The only thing that makes me consider doing this mixed feeding thing again is that we can self wean. The perks of being the youngest.

Five days of faith

My anxiety over baby weigh ins is coming back. I’d more or less become at ease with having my toddler weighed until her last appointment. Here we have well child nurses who do the weighing and measuring. Most people seem to have ineffectual but harmless ones, a few people seems to have good ones, but mine is subtly malicious. I’d been putting off going for the 21-24 month check. I figured I was going to get a lecture on how bad it was for my child not to drink milk and another suggestion of doping the milk with chocolate or sugar to get her to drink it. Believe it or not I was told by a doctor to do that. Then I swapped doctors. Some kids don’t like cow milk and that’s ok. But milk is some kind of odd holy grail of child nutrition. Whatever. There are plenty of other dairy products and fats in her diet so I wasn’t worried about the lack of milk drinking, just annoyed I assumed I would have to sit through a lecture.

Boy was I wrong. When asked how much milk she consumed I said, none, she doesn’t like it. And I braced for the lecture that didn’t come. I was told that was ok. However, rather than feeling better my stomach dropped because I knew, knew, that the nurse was going to find something else. She always did. Every visit has been an exercise in criticizing something about my parenting.  So at the end of the visit there it was. ‘She’s too fat’. Cue jaw drop from me. My 12 kilogram (27 pound) 23 month old is too fat. I was instructed to stop giving her snacks and the usual anti-obesity advice about not letting her have soda or sweets. We’re a soda free household, child only drinks water, not even juice, eats reasonably well, e.g. not picky, only whole foods. As processed as it gets is store bought pasta. Needless to say I went home and cried. I may not have even made it home. I probably cried in the car.

But now, rather than being obsessed over her weight gain I find myself looking at her body, wondering where the extra weight is. Because she’s not even remotely a chunky child aside from toddler belly.  She’s a lot smaller than most kids her age even. I feel in some ways like my whole life with her has been an eating disorder by proxy. I used to have panic attacks before getting her weighed when she was a baby, terrified her weight wouldn’t go up and I would have to supplement more than I already was. I now compare her mentally to other children and I still can’t see anything wrong, but now I wonder if I’m just deluded. I hate it. I’m terrified I’ll let it slip in my attitudes or behaviors and she’ll pick up on it.

I wanted to enter this next baby’s life without that anxiety over weight. I knew I’d have to go through the 5 days of faith to see how milk intake and gain was going. But now I’m back to being a panicky mess over it. Back to where the thought of a weigh in makes me want to vomit.

Preparing for incompetence

I’m not sure how to feel.
I’m doing my best to be optimisitic. As several midwives have said, and I know, every breastfeeding experience is different. I’m certainly living a different pregnancy, so that point is well and truly home.

This child could have a totally different mouth shape, I should grow additional glandular tissue, things could go off without a hitch.

On the other hand I’m preparing for the worst. No one able to treat this simple issue, no official diagnosis, having to travel to an oral surgeon on the other island with a newborn and hoping that something can be done. Being refused.

I’m set up better this time, that’s certain. I have experience, I know what to look for…sort of. I have someone who says they will aid me with referrals and seeing specialists. It’s a very confusing feeling, being optimisitic while preparing for incompetence.

I have the what-ifs on all sides. What if things do appear normal? I’m going to still be paranoid and stressed. I’m going to worry that my supply will drop off if a problem is missed or dismissed. What if it is my issue with production? What if there is a problem and no one can see anything? I still don’t know what I’ll do in all situations. I can only hope that either things are normal and no problems appear, things are abnormal but easily recognized and fixable, or I can manage the problem the way I did before. That last one is certainly not the preferred option.

It feels bittersweet to think that my best option is a problem, easily recognized and largely fixable.

I wonder sometimes what I’m thinking. Walking back into this trauma, both to get it right, and because it’s the right thing for us to do.

Becoming a pariah: Breastfeeding’s underclass

I was a member, as previously mentioned, of a large parenting forum. I had a journal there which I started shortly after my baby was born. In that journal I documented our ups and downs with our breastfeeding issues. I’m considering how best to showcase those posts, often very raw and unhappy, on this blog. Anyhow, I titled my journal our journey with low supply as I thought that was our issue for 8-9 months. I keep digressing, but the main topic was about our struggle with low supply.

First off it made me hugely unpopular because the noisy breastfeeding advocates exclaimed that low supply was so rare and here someone was living with it, struggling with it, being public about those struggles and emotions, and apparently most aggravating, finding a way to keep breastfeeding despite it. Somehow being a successful combination feeder was a huge insult. I guess it’s easier if people fall into the breast feeder or formula feeder camps. It seems that once someone has fully gone over to not breastfeeding and they say that they did because of low supply it’s easier for those vocal people to tut and say that that wasn’t the issue. Far more difficult for them to do so to someone who has kept breastfeeding and has not managed to increase supply. Anyhow, as long as I didn’t argue the party line (all women can breastfeed; try harder!) too much I mostly got left alone; ignored even. But until I changed the title of my journal to something more general, at least three separate people came into my journal for the purpose of arguing with me about how I was wrong. I was told that if I’d been better educated, if I hadn’t doubted my abilities I would have seen that I was wrong about having low supply and I would have been a successful breast feeder. Now, at the time I tried to be nice and civil. After all they weren’t quite that blunt (ok, one person did tell me that if I’d believed I could breastfeed I would have been able to do it). People hardly talked to me in there as it was. I was trying to be sociable. But it got to me. I spent so much of that time plagued with extra doubt because of the things people were saying to me. By openly labeling myself a low supply mom, I publicly invited scorn from those breastfeeding advocates indoctrinated in the belief that 99% of women can breastfeed. One of the most hostile to me now has a blog herself (possibly one of the more hostile pro-breastfeeding blogs I’ve ever seen, not that I go looking) and is very much a ‘I did it why can’t you’ type.  I gave her latching advice and other support and she threw it in my face because after she ‘educated’ herself she decided my low supply wasn’t ‘real’.

I continued to offer advice and support to women who were also experiencing similar issues. During this time I noticed an upsetting trend. I am a member of other open breastfeeding support and information sites and networks and I saw it there as well. It was acceptable to treat women with breastfeeding issues as second class breast feeders. Talking about what problems looked like was ‘not ok’, ‘scaring women’ and the like. Those who had issues were dismissed as uneducated and failed by the system, those who succeeded were hailed with a ‘job well done’. This further glossed over what symptoms of breastfeeding issues look like. Who needs breastfeeding information and advice most? Those with issues, yet these areas are frequently dominated by passionate women with breastfeeding as their cause. Those who had issues, with pertinent advice to give, are most often relegated to the back seat while those who have overcome, or did it without too much fuss, become the first line of offense for those looking for help. The feelgood message is all very well and good, but it’s not appropriate for anyone with an issue beyond ignorance. So yes, know what a normal newborn feeding pattern is like, but also know when things are verging on abnormal and do not apply the protocols for ‘normal’ to that.

I know this is overflow from the dispelling breastfeeding myths movement. Dispelling myths is all well and good since our cultures need to relearn what normal breastfeeding looks like, but preventing knowledge of what problems look like to keep from ‘scaring’ someone hurts us all. No wonder when breastfeeding fails women feel so lost. They don’t know why or how things went wrong. There’s rarely any closure. On top of  not being able to access adequate help that is able to competently discuss the issues and come to a satisfactory resolution, you have these freaking mommy wars pushing that it was all about toughing it out. Advocates pushing that it’s all about the mother’s ability to stick with it and it becomes a spiral of what-if and if-only long after the fact.

I spent a long time feeling really bitter about how I couldn’t get any meaningful advice. Then I realized, those who had it to give had long since distanced themselves from those who only had platitudes because the self proclaimed bearers of breastfeeding wisdom feel continually justified and vindicated in what they are telling people (most of which is more or less true and nonetheless helpful and reassuring to those who are simply ignorant of what normal newborn behavior looks like), while those who have advice to give on problematic matters get shot down, belittled, accused of scaring or misleading women and other negative things. So they, though they may crave the providing of proper information and support, slowly withdraw because frankly it’s a demoralizing atmosphere. Like me. So now I’m part of the problem. At least I’m preserving my sanity.

Regret for information not had, and tears shed for the wrong reasons, are most bitter indeed.

The root of the 1% myth

I finally found the research that is behind the statement that 99%, 98%, ‘almost all women’, can breastfeed. It’s contained in a WHO report from 1989.

In the report nearly 4000 women from Nigeria and Zaire, as well as 450 from Guatemala are followed. No lactation failure is observed. You can read it at the link above.

Here’s my problems with the study in comparison to our industrial world.

Ancestral diet: In pre-industrial societies the population is more likely to be eating what they have been eating for the past several centuries. This means allergies are more likely to have worked themselves out of the population. Us in the western world? We’re eating sugars and processed flours and food additives, colors and dyes and flavors, not to mention foods our ancestors didn’t eat.

Genetic diversity: People in the USA, New Zealand, Australia, Europe, the UK and similar countries are less genetically diverse than African populations. However, this African genetic diversity is cluster or tribally based and not the hybrid mix that is found in the Western/developed world. That is, while many variations on the theme of humanity are present in Africa, they are not mixed as much as might be found elsewhere in the world. This means that while the populations are diverse, each individual population has gained genetic stability for issues like tongue tie and PCOS. Possibly to the point that these issues have been, to some degree, bred out of these populations. (See the comments as there are some important clarifications discussed there)

Chemical exposure: In industrial societies we’ve had decades of being exposed to endocrine disruptors, pesticides and industrial toxins. This means we are more subject to the things that go along with that, like endocrine disorders, autoimmune disease, and genetic mutations.

Modern medical science: We now have women surviving childbirth who may not have without modern medicine, and likely would not in a less developed country. The 2005 WHO report indicates a ‘natural’ childbirth mortality rate of 1-1.5%. This includes issues like high blood loss (a factor in lactation failure), postpartum infection (potentially as a result of retained placenta, another potential lactation issue). We also have women conceiving who may not have in the past.

The 1989 study above puts the blame on psychosocial factors for women not breastfeeding and seems to imply that all lactation failure is a result of perceived insufficiency rather than actual issues.  In addition it makes the assumption about the nearly 4000 African women that secreting milk=enough milk to sustain the infant. For the Guatemalan women the 448 are over an 8 year period and apparently all living children were all successfully breastfed. I’ve mused before that the 98-99% is potentially the percentage of mothers unable to secrete milk at all. A figure that meshes well with the ‘natural’ childbirth mortality rate incidentally. Or unable to physically put the baby to the breast due to serious medical issues like postpartum cardiomyopathy.

All of these factors contribute to a higher rate in developed countries. Simply put we are not women living traditionally in Africa. The differences between the populations considered are of considerable significance. The psychosocial factor is of importance, but for those who did educate themselves, did ‘do everything right’ and still experienced issues, it is clearly not the only meaningful factor.

Talk me out of my crazy

I recently found a pediatric dentist locally. I had been unable to locate one and having done a bit of snooping around thought that I, without a referral to a local specialist, which I have been unable to obtain, would have to fly to the other island in a day trip to pay a private visit to a laser dentist (the only one in the country). So I’d more or less resigned myself to not knowing what our issue was until I was having another baby. With my experiences previously I’ve become more than a little gun-shy in terms of talking to professionals.

After my midwives failure to refer me, being turned away by my doctor four separate times, no resolution from the lactation consultants I was able to see it seemed easier to just let it go for a bit. Sure, every so often I got up the nerve to ask for help again, but much less lately. Having to steel myself for whatever news may follow only to be turned away just for asking left me afraid to even ask. I haven’t really thought much about it in close to six months. Not since I asked my health nurse about pediatric dentists to deal with a potential lip tie tooth gap (which did not manifest thankfully) and she wouldn’t give me any names because it wasn’t a ‘serious issue’ . At this point, without laser dentistry any tongue or lip tie clip is a general anaesthesia operation anyhow, and as our breastfeeding relationship has essentially approached normal, we don’t technically need the operation any more. I had thought of flying up north and getting it done via laser when she was older, but it’s no longer critical. But now faced with a name and a phone number, seriously it’s stuck up near my computer where I can squint thoughtfully at it, I’m feeling apprehensive and worried.

I haven’t even decided to call yet. I mean, she (the dentist is a she) may not have expertise in that area, may not want to do a consultation just to check (which I’ve decided is what I want right now), or may do the consultation and decide there’s nothing there. So then do I trust the opinion, do I still doubt, do I accept that it was me after all? My head is swimming with what-ifs that won’t go away unless I rebury my head in the sand or go for it and make that call.

I get tired of taking the high road.

It’s not fair that I have to watch what I say in regards to breastfeeding lest I have my throat jumped down for ‘scaring’ women, or ‘making them worry’. It’s not fair that I generally encourage trying it, because you never know until you do, seeking the help of qualified professionals and being prepared and get flack. It’s not fair because those that go around saying ‘just believe in your body, milk production is in your mind'(seriously?), real (as opposed to fake or imaginary?)low supply is ‘soo soo so rare’, or better yet ‘98% of women can breastfeed’ do so with near impunity, yet are so quick to jump on those who say: stuff doesn’t always go to plan.

For the past year or so I’ve spent a lot of my spare time offering advice on the breastfeeding section of a parenting forum. I started there when I was pregnant and stayed after having my baby. It became a bit of an unhealthy hobby, helping people. Why? Because when I was blindsided by our issues I went there for help when I wasn’t getting any elsewhere and I got terrible advice. I didn’t want any other women struggling to be left with the advice I got. ‘Just breastfeed her more’ (ok well, 18 hours per day for 10+ days in a row seems abnormal to me. Not sure how I can fit more feeding in there as we both need to sleep a little), ‘don’t listen to the midwives, that weight loss isn’t so bad. It can go up to 20%’ (seriously? What awful advice. I recall getting a snippy telling off when I pointed out that LLL guidelines are to supplement if over 10% loss), ‘she’s probably just a slow gainer’ (yes except all she did was lose). Regardless of what our issue was all the advice I got was more or less telling me to get the latch checked (at least 20 various professionals observed the latch, not one had anything to say about it), or to just trust my body and ignore my midwives.

Here’s what the real guidelines are: If over 10% loss increase feeding frequency and seek help. If over 12% have infant evaluated, and potentially readmitted for dehydration treatment. Some systems class over 7% as observation time, and over 10% as supplement now. 20% is not ‘just fine’.

So I’ve been spending my time telling people who present with symptoms that seem all so familiar to seek professional help now, things they can do if they want to continue breastfeeding, signs to look for for tongue tie, where to get help and support and similar, and so very often I have to beat back those that say that giving formula will cause them to lose their supply ( it dries it right up like sun on a hot day don’tcha know), that they don’t need to supplement, that if they just feed their baby more, if they just want this enough that they can do it… And I hang my head and back away. I’m tired of being told I’m scaring women when those with concerns ask questions and I give real answers and real symptoms to watch for instead of pattering off that low supply is soo soo rare and all it takes is determination.

I know I’ve helped some people in the last year to feel better about whatever they had to do. I can think of  quite a few women who asked for help and have described low supply or inefficient milk transfer symptoms in the last year.  It barely makes me feel better because there’s an unending tide of well meaning but quite unhelpful advice.

I think it’s time to back away. I can’t fight this.

Motherhood:Is loneliness hurting us?

When did motherhood become a lonely profession? I feel like it has more to do with the breakdown of the neighborhood and the community than anything else.

I think of older customs like confinement and churching of women after births and personally consider that those were at least helpful in establishing breastfeeding for all that they were isolationist. Albeit they may have been done for reasons of ‘uncleanliness’ or part of the routine oppression of women, but once mother and baby emerged from the 4th trimester isolation there was a place for them in a community of mothers. More or less.

Now, unless a mother is proactive, it can be quite difficult to find a sense of mothering community. To remedy this lack there are a number of artificial community aids. Things along the lines of mother and baby groups, breastfeeding groups, online communities and so on. I personally was too traumatized, and thus lacking in confidence, by my complications to feel able to go to a group such as a breastfeeding group and for various reasons (earthquakes among them) all my mother and baby groups dissolved before they really got started. So I was left with online groups, which can be highly divisive.

How did it get this way? What part of our culture broke?

I’ve had to make an effort to appropriately socialize my child. Part of this is our personal circumstances, but a large part is the culture. I work away from home so daycare was a welcome option, but my child never sees or plays with other children or adults when either of her parents are around. Children can be a bit like dogs in that separate conditions are mentally separate. So playing with other kids at nursery is not the same sort of activity as playing with other kids while parents are around. Which is why it’s important in dog socialization to expose puppies to many conditions and situations. I’ve been making determined efforts to remedy this. Interestingly enough almost everything available to me is a paid service. So it becomes an economic issue. I have to pay to appropriately and fully socialize my child. Such is the price of being a thoughtful parent. Because I am considering this thoughtfully I can see that there are many social services that replace what was once more spontaneous. We have people who we take our children to to make sure they are developing properly, we have groups we take our children to so they can play with other children, we have help doing many things that used to be part of village knowledge. And then we scurry back to our houses and do not talk to our neighbours. I’m not saying that things were all rosy when we lived in village community groups and had a better sense of community, but because civilization is becoming more isolating we are working harder to ‘do right’.

What was socialization like for children historically? Looking beyond nostalgic images of some (most likely imaginary) halcyon time we can see a few constants: Children were part of two main social packs.

Pack 1: the family unit, in which the child is a lower ranking member of the pack. This might have consisted of parents, extended family including uncles, aunties, grandparents, cousins and siblings.

Pack 2: the child pack in which the child will have a variety of rankings, generally based on age but potentially influenced by familial social status. This might have consisted of neighbours, cousins, siblings, playmates or schoolmates.

Now compare this with the social groups mothers may have historically found themselves in:

Pack 1: The family pack in which the mother is a high ranking member. This pack will consist of the mother and her children as well as any other family members in residence.

Pack 2: The community pack in which the mother may have a variety or ranks based on any number of factors, including but not limited to age, familial or partnership status, number of (living) children and so on.

What these two sets of packs have in common is that one set has a politically derived hierarchy based on social jockeying and the other  has a more fixed structure. As the child ages they develop skills to increase their standing in their social pack and learn to be a higher ranking member in the familial pack. However, where the familial pack meets the social pack is something that is lacking in our current lifestyle. In our current lifestyle we still have our familial packs and many of us have some form of social pack, whether it be friends, workmates or so on, but they don’t often mesh.

So is this really a big deal? I tend to think it might be. I say this as I, as well as many other people of the past several generations have been brought up with our packs increasingly separated. I certainly witnessed my parents having friends, but I was the only child for many years. If children aren’t seeing adult, or at least emotionally mature, social interactions how will they develop socially within their child pack? When they become adults how will they know how to manage their family packs? How will adults know how children act? How will children know what ways are available for them to act as adults? I feel that because we are isolated that it takes more effort and conscientious  thought to learn to do things differently than our parents.