Perfectionism, Advertising, and Braided Armpit Hair

June 7, 2010

One thing I don’t understand is the eagerness of some people, and companies, to let you know that, as a mother, pretty soon you’re going to let all those standards you set when you had kids fall apart and be ok with it, because that’s what everyone does.
Really? Why?

When I was pregnant, we started eating organically a lot more. Obviously doing this for everything we eat is a little much for our budget, but we do the best we can because that’s important to both of us. The musts are organic milk, eggs, meat, and certain fruits and veggies. Bella’s only had 2 foods in her entire life that weren’t organic, and I’m pretty proud of that. As she gets older, I figure that’s going to be harder to do, and that’s ok.

I try to clean with non toxic products, and we compost, use organic material on our lawn, buy eco friendly products, use only natural and organic lotions, creams and washes on Bella, and recycle. However, a good dose of bleach gets the towels whiter, and nothing compares to Vaseline for dry skin.
I buy her clothes that are pink, and onesies with flames on them in gray. I bought her a book about trucks, and plan on buying her tractors for the dirt when she’s a little bigger. She’s not going to wear a bra at 7 or a bikini at 9, or think that Barbie is what she must look like when she grows up.
So I get a little uptight when my choices come up in conversation and I get looked at like I’m the nut job that birthed her child while swinging from the vines in the Amazon and I braid my armpit hair.
Then bead it.
While skinning a squirrel for my winter coat.
I don’t know about you all, but I get tired of hearing, “You’ll get over that and realize a box of macaroni and cheese isn’t the spawn of Satan.” Good grief, I know that. I don’t plan on being the parent that won’t let their kid go to birthday parties for fear of inorganic chocolate cake and greasy cheese pizza. The parent who is convinced their child is allergic to everything including water, and pale as a ghost for fear 5 minutes in the sun will burn him to a crisp.
Packaging Boyhood: Saving Our Sons from Superheroes, Slackers, and Other Media Stereotypes
Yet, No Impact ManI don’t understand how making healthy, age appropriate choices became the “perfectionist” standard. Why companies encourage us to be “normal moms” and slap those hot dogs and pizzas on the table without a second thought to where they came from, and let our kids wear adult clothing out the door while we don’t say a word about it.
It’s almost like the commercials and magazines encourage you to not have enough time to care what your children eat, wear, watch on TV. “For goodness sake, only over-paranoid, controlling, weirdo moms do that! You don’t have the time for it, so why bother? 5 year olds with padded bras are SO in, your kid needs to eat an entire bag of Cheetos for snack.”
Consuming Kids: Protecting Our Children from the Onslaught of Marketing & Advertising
Raising Baby Green: The Earth-Friendly Guide to Pregnancy, Childbirth, and Baby Care
Watch Food Inc. or No Impact Man. Read Raising Baby Green, Fed Up!, Consuming Kids, or Packaging Girlhood/Boyhood . You might wonder why we aren’t bothered more.
I believe that companies have tricked us into thinking this is the norm for today’s household. If you watch commercials, you see time and again a thin, pretty, put together mom, harried by the day and her whiny kids who suddenly thinks, “I almost forgot! I have Pizza Rolls in the freezer! Dinner solved.” Her kids are suddenly happy, she is the best mom ever, and they all plop themselves in front of the plasma TV for family time.
Packaging Girlhood: Rescuing Our Daughters from Marketers' Schemes

Let me be clear, I’m not saying every mom should be sitting her family down to a 3 course, all organic, freshly made, locally grown meal that took her 3 hours to slave over in her starched white apron, and then cleaned up her mess with baking soda and a cloth made of woven grass. Or that her kids should wear homemade clothes from gunny sacks and ribbon.

No. I’m just saying we should be looking and reading what we buy. It’s not that families shouldn’t eat pizza or candy or grab a bag of something and throw it together on those crazy nights. I’m saying that these companies want us to think “Pizza Rolls” 9 times out of 10. When it should be the other way around.

They want us to give in to the pressure of letting our middle schoolers wear thongs because it’s cool. (Seriously, read Packaging Girlhood.) Cool for who? The 11 year old boy who just got an eyeful and can’t figure out what “flirt” peeping over the top of her low rider jeans meant?

It takes a life change, it takes time. Once you know, once you are informed, it becomes easier and quicker. Meals can be prepped faster. Ingredients are on hand. Farmer’s markets become field trips. Grocery bills might be a little higher initially, but medical bills are lower.
Your kids don’t have to wear clothes that scream, “What’s up hottie – you know you want a piece of this action!” when they are playing hopscotch at recess. Their underwear does not need to have arrows, smiley faces, “cute”, “sexy”, or anything else on it. Girls who do not have breasts – do not need bras.
We want Bella to be raised in a happy, loving, clean, healthy home, where she isn’t bound by the standards of companies run by nasty old pervs out to make a buck off your child’s self esteem. To think while chicken nuggets can be an occasional meal, they aren’t a kitchen staple. That an orange can be an after school snack. That the companies that advertise the newest movie on Little Debbie Cakes or promise a free ring inside Coco Puffs do it on purpose, it isn’t because they’re “just so gosh darn swell.” It’s marketing at it’s finest.
I can’t be a perfect mom. We can’t raise Bella in a bubble, and we don’t want to. But we can make informed choices about what she eats, wears, and watches on TV, and we can be proud of that. So that when she grows up, she already has that knowledge. What she chooses to do with it is up to her.
As is braiding her armpit hair.

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