The View of Guilt

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By Tracy G. Cassels

Okay, I had planned on staying out of this whole situation with the View outside of my offering webspace for people to post pictures so they have links for the virtual nurse-in on the 22nd, however, the insanity that continues to come out from this situation has forced my hand.  Let me first say that I have never seen the View and I never plan to.  From a public relations point of view, I’m the last person they care about because I was never “theirs” to begin with.  The responses they should care about come from people like Corey at Conscience Parenting because she was an avid viewer and they managed to truly piss her off.  But regardless of this fact, I’m going to chime in because it’s what I do.

Over the past week, the women of the View have apparently spoken of full-term breastfeeding and attachment parenting more generally in some of the most judgmental, awful terms all based on that infamous Time cover.  Things like how the image freaks them out and that babies shouldn’t be breastfeeding once they have teeth or can ask for it.  And then there are the comments from viewers (or readers of Time) saying the idea of a 3-year-old breastfeeding is disgusting and sexual.  These kinds of ignorant and asinine comments I will simply ignore because it’s all they are – ignorant and asinine.  My husband has to continually remind me that debating with people who spout those views off is a ridiculous waste of time and only serves to get me all riled up.  Instead, I will point to some of my own articles here and here on the benefits of breastfeeding for mom and baby, if someone wishes to inform themselves of what the research actually shows.

But then the View had Dr. William Sears on, a renowned doctor and proponent for attachment parenting.  He is not a “guru” or “cult” leader, as some would suggest, but a doctor who has witnessed the importance of attachment and knows the ways that humans have historically parented their children to promote attachment.  He does not have a set of rules one must subscribe to and seems to have made his life’s work out of helping families and babies.  What does he get for going on the View and trying to share his point of view?  Five yappy women who want nothing more than to blame him for everything.  And the thing that comes across most viciously was the accusation that what he does serves to make moms feel guilty.  All of these women feel awful because of Dr. Sears.

REALLY?

You see, this is where I get mightily pissed off because if you really need to blame Dr. Sears for your feelings on your parenting abilities, then you need a reality check.  Unless I’m grossly mistaken, neither Dr. Sears nor any other attachment parent held a gun to your head and told you how you had to parent and then turned around and said you were a horrible mother (and I admit, if you present me with evidence that this indeed happened, I’ll retract my statements).

Plain and simple – you made a choice.  You chose to parent in one of a million different ways.  And then you heard that there’s this doctor who has both research and anecdotal evidence to share about how humans have been raised for hundreds of thousands of years.  This “weird” attachment parenting, according to research, works wonders.  Children are secure, parents are happy.  And so you looked back on what you did and suddenly don’t feel so great.  Apparently one of you left your child to cry for four days until that child finally stopped.  I wouldn’t feel so great either about that.  But here’s the thing – Dr. Sears didn’t “make” you feel guilty.

YOU made yourself feel guilty.

YOU realized, somewhere deep down, that you hurt the person you love (because, yes, despite all this – no because of the guilt you feel – you do love your children and deeply).

YOU wondered if perhaps you could have done better by them.

YOU worried that the actions you took may not have had the desired effect you had hoped for and that maybe, just maybe, you actually hurt that precious bond just a little bit.

And so YOU feel guilty.

But instead of acknowledging and owning that guilt as your own, you decided to blame someone else.  Someone that, until your show, you’d never met.  Someone whose outspokenness has helped thousands of families make a transition to a type of parenting that fits their lifestyle and instincts.  And perhaps it gets you viewers because most people would rather shift the blame from something they don’t like to someone else, but it’s a cowardly approach and one that should be condemned.  You not only attacked someone who never once insulted you or your parenting, but you laid blame on his feet for emotions YOU had over which he had no control.  My father once told me that if you refuse to accept responsibility for your own state, then you hand over the power to your life to others.  And then your happiness is no longer in your control.  Apparently you’ve just given Dr. Sears an immense amount of power over your lives.

There’s a saying by Eleanor Roosevelt making the rounds these days and it goes:

“No one can make you feel inferior without your consent.”

Guilt is an emotion we feel when WE know we’ve done wrong.  And it’s a good emotion because it helps us learn from our mistakes.  The problem is that owning up to the realization that one screwed up is a difficult, difficult process.  But not impossible.  And in fact, only by owning up can you change course and right things.  I think the women of the View would do well to read this little piece by a friend of mine because she epitomizes the opposite of all they have done.  She owned up to what she saw were her mistakes and in turn changed them.  Can she go back and change the past?  No, but would you rather stick your heels in the mud and continue down a path that makes you feel like shit every time someone brings up an alternate path or change course and witness the beauty that comes with feeling at peace with your own decisions?

As a parent who has made my own decisions based on instinct and supported by research, I can tell you that I have had not only people who exist that do things differently than me (gasp!), but horrible comments directed at me for the choices I have made.  People have actively tried to shame me in my parenting.

But it doesn’t work.

Why?  Because I won’t let it.  I will not take part in second guessing the decisions I’ve made because someone else is uncomfortable with them.  Trust me – attachment parents everywhere get the shit end of the stick when it comes to judgments and guilt tactics.  And we also get the “pleasure” of being the ones called out for the few who do the same back.  But we don’t change, we don’t yell, we don’t try to blame others because we know what we’re doing is right for OUR babies.

So if the fact that Dr. Sears is alive is enough to send you into a panicked state of guilt, then I think you may want to take a long, hard look at yourself and the way in which you parent.  Because something isn’t right.  And it’s all on you.

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Comments

  1. says

    I have only said this one time before and I am going to say it again now:

    Not only am I standing up applauding, but for the first time in my life I am fist pumping and hollering support!

    You were brave for writing this, and what I love as much is that you know your shit! If anyone can say all of this, it is you.

    And all I can say is “thank you”. Thank you so very much.

    For saying what so very many of us are feeling and for telling it like it really is. For taking the things that we have kept to ourselves because we did not want to make others feel bad, and stating them in a way that allows us to feel good- without trying to be hurtful to others.

    Our culture is a mess. And I truly believe -and with every part of me- that it is courageous acts like this piece that will turn us around.

  2. Jessica says

    Brilliant. When I read articles by people advocating very different parenting styles to my own, and telling me that I would be a better parent if I did x, y or z, I do not feel guilty. This is because I am totally confident in my parenting choices. I have thought long and hard about them, I have researched and weighed up my options and have made the choices which I believe are the very best for my family. Nothing anyone said could make me feel guilty about that, unless I felt insecure in my decisions, and doubted that I had done the right thing. Do I feel bad for eating heaps of tinned tomatoes during my last pregnancy, before I knew about the hormone disrupting properties of the BPA in plastic lining those tins? Yep. Do I blame the researchers who are warning us about the dangers of these chemicals for “making me feel guilty”. Of course not… that would be absurd. I will take on board the new information and change my behaviours accordingly so I do a better job from now on. If anyone gets defensive about any choices they’ve made in their lives its a pretty good sign that they feel insecure and uncertain about those choices.

    • says

      Hey Jessica – just a quick word of support! Don’t feel bad about the tins of tomatoes! When we know better, we do better and you can’t do better if you honestly didn’t know. I save my guilt for those times when I failed to live up to my expectations and usually only for “Big Ticket” items. So I feel really bad for badgering my eldest son to go to college (he really didn’t want to). He wanted to be a musician. Thankfully, he didn’t listen to me, but I sure do feel bad about my lack of support early on in his journey. I should have done better!!

  3. Jespren says

    AMEN! Guilt and shame are purely internal emotions that people feel when their actions (past, present, or planned) don’t match up with *their own* beliefs. Other people can point out or bring to mind these inconsistancies, but we don’t create them. And since guilt and shame are *our own* way of alerting us to conflicts in our own choices/actions/beliefs, people do us only good, not harm, when they draw our minds to what is *already there*. Just because we don’t like to feel guilt and shame (which is the point of the emotions, it’s unpleasant so we’ll stop the hypocritical behavior to avoid it in the future) doesn’t make it ‘bad’. It’s a helpful, useful state of mind and blaming someone else is not only futile, it’s self defeating.
    If you’re guilty or feeling shamed about something (and surely all of us have and will), look to yourself and your actions, not to someone else.

  4. says

    Thank you!! Thank you!!

    Thank you for asking the Women of the view to take responsibility for THEIR OWN feelings. I ask the parents and teachers I coach to do this ALL this time… Stop making your kids responsible for your feelings. We CHOOSE how to feel.

    They didn’t have to agree with Sears but they didn’t have to take it so personally either.

  5. says

    I’ve just watched the clip – I think the key to this particular interview was a failure on the part of the hosts to actually listen to what Dr Sears was saying. He said, clearly and on a number of times, that the 7 Baby B’s were tools and that parents don’t have to do them all all the time. He also said that he’s added one recently – Balance – and that these tools are especially important for working moms because they help moms reconnect after a long day. So I’ll use myself as an example. I have chosen not to breast feed 4 of my 5 kids (long story, don’t want to bore you). That makes all of the other B’s so much more important for us. At the moment, my 2.5 month old is in his sling while I type and getting lot’s of skin time with mama. I have not weaned (from the bottle) my 17 month old as he still needs it and my DH and I do a lot of cuddling when both of our babies are “nursed” (Dr Sears also pointed out on the View that “nursing” doesn’t necessarily mean BF – it can also mean the closeness associated with infant feeding and we try to follow his bottle feeding advice with the young babies in terms of mama being the source and lot’s of cuddles and eye contact. We never leave bottles with babies to self feed – in fact, the 17 month old hasn’t even figured out he can do it for himself despite the fact he can use a cup, lol!). We also sleep share. Yes, it can get complicated with new baby, but I wouldn’t trade those wee hours when I can check my son’s breathing and settle him with just gentle touch of my hand and a kiss on his head which is so close to mine.

    The issue of the Time cover is different – people will have views about EBF, just like they have about 4 year olds who still use bottles. I don’t have a problem with any of it as long as the parents are thoughtful and continually in flow with the needs of their children. If a child still needs to BF or bottle feed, fine. But when it comes time to end (and most of us can tell when our child is ready – I EBF my daughter until she was 19 months old and when “it went away” she never noticed as she was ready to let it go), we gently help that happen and facilitate the child’s progress into the next phase of childhood. Our way is a gentle way and we can share that with others and lead by example. I don’t force my ideas on anyone, but if my sister-in-law asks about slings, I’m happy to show her my collection and give some practical advice. If anyone wants to know how we co-sleep, I’ll gladly share how we do it and how we keep it safe.

    Do I feel guilty when I can’t do it all? No, not any more. I do the best I can with the tools I have and in my circumstances. That is all any of us can do.

    Should anyone else feel guilty? Probably not. Short of real abuse, most kids grow up just fine. My parenting style fits me and I think it would fit a lot of other people if they knew about it. I love to share and empower and support. Motherhood is too exhausting if we can’t be there for each other, know what I mean?

    • says

      This is a great example of how you can look to the 7 B’s as balance. I think that’s such a key thing for moms everywhere to remember. Having a set of tools doesn’t mean they’re prescribed or rules and using just one can help keep a connection to your child. But even if you choose not to follow any of them, no one who does is trying to make you feel guilty! Certainly not Dr. Sears himself. Thank you for sharing!

  6. says

    This was a brilliant post. Absolutely fabulous. I don’t watch “the View” either, and consequently, never will. While I am sick and tired of the judgmental BS that runs rampant in this country, it’s posts like this that make me feel confident in my own decisions. And truly, that’s all I need.

    • says

      That’s wonderful and you should feel confident. If you’re following your instinct and doing what works for all members of your family, then you won’t feel guilty :)

  7. says

    YES! guilt is a very unpleasant emotion that i think most people do not want to face. they do not want to face their mistakes (or what ever it is that is making them feel bad) so they push it out onto others because it is so much easier to deal with.
    sadly that doesn’t help anyone.
    i have not watched the view in, gosh… YEARS! but this isn’t the first time they have gotten all nasty about breastfeeding. it is sad, because they have the power to really make a change. by supporting breastfeeding they could really make a difference since women watch that show. it sucks. it sucks that they say such ugly things, and are so “freaked out” by nurturing children.

  8. Cecile says

    Just about every day i am out raged, pissed off and disgruntled by one comment or another, at work, in the media, on the news or on TV. It has to STOP. So much misconception is truly harmful to the race of human species. Something needs to change and your website gives me hope. Thanks again :)

    • says

      Thank you! I hear you on the media and the frustrations surrounding what they choose to report. It’s just awful. Hopefully we can slowly educate people by presenting another point of view and allow them to decide for themselves!

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