Car Seats, Mama Guilt, and Worst-First Thinking

Twig sleeping happily in her newly forward-facing car seat.

Twig sleeping happily in her newly forward-facing car seat.

We’re back! Actually, we’ve been back for a few days, but we are now past our post-vacation de-stressing (which just sounds all wrong!), so I’m ready to actually write out one of the blog posts that’s been in my head.

I’ve always been a car seat freak.

And freak isn’t even an over exaggeration. My in-laws didn’t install Peanut’s car seat for years because I was so paranoid about getting it right. I double-checked everyone’s work. I even commented on a friend’s Facebook photo that her baby’s straps were too low, which I’ve realized in hind-sight was totally over the line. I was a self-proclaimed car seat expert, and not really in a good way.

So when I switched Peanut to forward facing when she was just over a year and a half old, I felt pretty awful about it. I justified it by the fact that she was screaming crying in the car seat virtually every time we were in it. I still felt guilty. I swore that with my next kid I would wait longer, at least until they were 2 (which is the new recommendation by the AAP), to switch them around. Ideally, I’d wait until the car seat’s maximum.

Then what do I do? I switched Twig around at 1 year and 5 months, just before our vacation.

I literally had a mini-mommy-meltdown as I was doing it. I kept telling myself over and over that it would be so much better this way. We could interact with her! She wouldn’t scream so much! We were driving 14 hours for goodness sake! So I did it. And she loves it. I showed her and she was screaming and pointing back and forth between her seat and Peanut’s seat (I’m just like sister!) and wouldn’t let me get her out of it one she had climbed in.

As I sat there watching my toddler freak out about her car seat, I realized that this isn’t that big of a deal. I’m sad it took me absolutely freaking out in my head to figure this out, but it all goes back to mama guilt.

We’re all so bombarded with ideas of the “perfect mom.” We worry about what the “perfect mom” would do rather than what’s right for our family. I was speaking with a friend of mine (hi if you’re reading this!) about co-sleeping today. It’s just not working for her, but she feels guilty about stopping because she feels like she won’t be “attachment parent enough.” It’s all about what’s right for you. You are the expert of your child.

So I’m taking charge and being the expert of my child. Sure, Twig isn’t absolutely miserable backwards facing. She’s not super happy either though, and I have to take her happiness and all of our comfort into account. I don’t need get all hung up on the worst-first thinking of what could potentially happen in a crash. Yes, safety is something to take into account, but it’s not the final answer. My child is still extremely safe in her $300 car seat facing forward. She’s leaps and bounds safer than I was in my lack of car seat growing up or even in the car seats that were made 10 years ago. So even if it’s not the absolute safest she could possibly be, it’s still pretty darn safe.

I’m not advocating that all of you go switch your car seats this minute. I’m not advocating that you switch them early at all. What I’m saying here is that we all need to take a step back and think about what’s best for our families. Don’t worry about how someone is going to judge you or how you’ve read that it shouldn’t be done that way. You’re going to have to work pretty hard to mess up your kid. One little think deviating out of the realm of natural parenting or whatever group you consider yourself a part of won’t ruin your kid forever. Do what feels right. Go with your gut. You are an expert of your kid.

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2 thoughts on “Car Seats, Mama Guilt, and Worst-First Thinking

  1. I think you need to read this.

    http://www.carseat.se/rearfacing/safety-benefits/

    How much safer is rear facing? Research has shown rear facing to be 500% safer up to two years of age. Do benefits disappear after that? Not at all. Rear facing is always safer, even for adults like you and me. Benefits decrease with age as our children develop fragile head, neck and spine. Rear facing at ages 3 or 4 still offer large benefits which the Swedes have shown in real life.

    • Thanks, but I’ve actually done a lot of research. I know that rear facing is much safer. Keeping my kids out of a car at all would be even safer, but it’s just not practical. I’m sure that rear facing is practical for lots of people, but it’s just not for me. I’m not going to get all bundled up with guilt over it. Safest does not always mean best.

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