If you have a both a child and internet access, you’ll know that feeding your child is one of the most fraught and contentious subject that you can discuss. Forget politics, religion or working out which book sucked more- Twilight or 50 Shades? Those debates have NOTHING on the way you feed your kids for the first 10-15 years (yes, YEARS) of their lives. From birth until it’s time to make school lunches, what we put in their mouths is bound to be controversial to someone. It’s like we can’t help ourselves; we have to be outraged by the slightest difference in method, needs or philosophy.
Got milk? What kind?
When they’re born, it’s all about breast feeding versus bottle feeding. We spend at least the first few months figuring it all out, whether it’s getting the hang of breastfeeding/expressing or working out which formula suits our baby best. In between, we find ourselves defending our choices.
You might find yourself listing the reasons that you couldn’t breastfeed, describing the symptoms that lead to a certain formula being needed or explaining why you demand breastfeed, yes, even in public. It’s so hard to just do what you need to without someone else offering their opinion, so we sometimes try to head it off by explaining ourselves in advance.
When our babies are small, we are often sleep-deprived, tired, uncertain, desperate to do right by our child and terrified of getting it wrong. That combination leads to understandable insecurity. And when we perceive even the slightest challenge to what we’re doing, we go on the defensive.
Time for solids!
After those first months of boob vs bottle pass, we reach the stage of solid food. Even more choices present. To rice cereal or not to rice cereal? Whatever you decide, make sure you have a good explanation ready! What about pureed food versus “baby lead weaning”? Have you got the relevant research on hand if someone should question how you’ve chosen to feed your kid?
Babies generally start solid food between 4 and 6 months of age (another debate in itself). Many parents are still sleep deprived and finding their feet, whether it’s the first baby or the fifth! All it takes is one comment or suggestion that differs to what they’re doing, and they’re back to square one.
In the proverbial trenches, defending our parenting choices yet again.
Soon enough, babies become toddlers. Is there anything more temperamental than a toddler when it comes to food? From eating all of their dinner plus half of yours one week, to a self-imposed starvation the next. Before you know it, your baby that loved to gnaw on steamed broccoli pieces places themselves on the “I only eat white things” diet. Suddenly, you feel the need to explain why they’re only having plain bread/chicken nuggets with the coating removed/plain noodles/whatever to someone who really doesn’t need to know, because you’re sure you’re being judged. And yes, you probably are.
With the focus on healthier eating, there are now loads of healthy lunchbox inspo groups on Facebook where people will share their tips and tricks to a healthy lunch. Parents (usually mothers) will ask for advice, share recipes and that kind of thing. They are all about bento boxes, sandwich cutters, thermal jars and homemade sushi. There are discussions about insulated bags, ice bricks, cute moulds, tiny little skewers for mini fruit kebabs and ways to pack different things.
I’m all for a healthy lunchbox, myself. There’s some really good reasoning behind packing a well-balanced lunch. I don’t have the time or the inclination to get fancy about it, and that’s okay. This is one of my daughter’s usual school lunches:
That’s a cream cheese sandwich on wholemeal, carrot sticks and cherry tomatoes for recess, grapes and cucumber sticks for “crunch and sip” and a packet of sultanas for an after-sandwich “treat”. Basic AF, pretty tasty and the bonus? She’ll eat most, if not all, of her lunch and tell me how great it was.
By the time your kids hit school age, any conversation around feeding them is bound to put you on edge. You know how it is. People side-eye the parents of the kid who always has a lunch order, even if it’s for a salad roll. Sending chips to school as treat is to risk a comment from another parent or, worse, the teacher. There is always a story going around about a school sending home a treat that was perceived to be “too unhealthy”. Parents have hit back, showing their naughty-slips on social media to the resounding (and often justified) outrage of the masses, leading to many a conversation about the good old days before lunchbox policing was a thing.
You can’t win
Interestingly, though, it’s not only the unhealthy school lunches copping a flogging lately. Getting creative to entice your kids to eat a healthy lunch is the latest reason we’re rolling our collective eyeballs at each other. Take a look at these comments on posts about creative, healthy lunches:
Let’s just opt-out of the outrage over school lunches
While it can apparently be a dire crime to admit to white bread and muesli bars as lunch box fillers, we are now seemingly just as upset about parents who put in what can be seen as too much effort.
We are damning each other, either way. Which is why I think we should all just bow out of the battle, because it doesn’t really need to exist anyway.
Like so many aspects of parenting, we tie ourselves in knots trying to do our best and feeling terrible if we take a perceived short-cut. We need to go a little easier on ourselves and definitely easier on each other.
Honestly, I have no idea how long other mums and dads spend making school lunches. I couldn’t care less if you’re a sanga and fruit lunch family (me) or you roll your own fresh sushi daily to accompany bits of cheese cut into star shapes and homemade sugar-free bliss balls. If you’re the latter, I know your efforts aren’t an indictment on my simpler version. And my simple version is not intended to shame your efforts.
Kid has lunch? Good! Simple or creative AF- who cares?! Healthy, filling, maybe a little treat? Excellent, we’re all doing great. Raising kids is hard enough without the constant judgment, feelings of inadequacy and competition over the small stuff.