I would doubt that it came as a surprise to anyone that a study commissioned by Gerber Products Co. found that a lot of American infants were pigging out on candy, pizza and a mega-smorgasbord of sugary, salty, fat fast–foods instead of mother’s milk and baby formula. Parenting has changed so much over the last few decades that the fact that infants are being fed like adults is probably just the tip of the iceberg.
A scant 30 years ago, new mothers remained in the hospital for at least three days following the birthing experience. At least they had breathing time to recuperate from the experience before they had to assume the responsibility of caring for the baby. If they had to return to work, there was usually a family member, neighbor or friend to look after the infant.
Nowadays, moms are out of the hospital within hours of delivery and, after they find a caregiver, licensed by the state, most either have to be well-paid or have state assistance in order to be able to afford the help. After that, they can hope and pray that their child will be well-cared for. Some of the parents who are running themselves ragged to provide their infant with the best care they can afford are probably asking, what more does society want them to do and is anyone prepared to provide the wherewithal to do it?
On the other hand, the infants of stay-at-home moms and those that can afford nannies are probably more nutritionally fed. But, of course, these mommies are not in the majority, as the media and the politicians would like us to believe. This fact is just one of the many obstacles that has to be surpassed in order to process the results of these kinds of studies.
When you live in a society where the gap is so wide between “have-more” and “have-less,” it should certainly not come as a shock that there are such divergent patterns of nutrition intake. There are divergent patterns in every aspect of a life where you have an overwhelming number of families living in houses valued from $300,000 upward and an equally overwhelming number of families living in houses valued from $50,000 downward, where you have four-member families who own five cars and five-member families who own one-to-no cars, where you have two-member families earning upwards of $1 million annually and six-member families earning less than $30,000 a year. Other than social security cards and citizenship, how many things do these people have in common?
While most of us would agree that the results of this study do not speak well for the future dietary habits of these infants, most of us have serious reservations about the possibility that anything can be done to forestall the consequences.
I suppose that’s why it’s virtually impossible anymore to adopt a valid community standard in any area. Some communities are top-heavy with individuals whose personal income is likely to be four or five times the median wage of the other 95 percent of the population. Establishing any kind of a bar that would be fair to both of these groups would be hard to do.
At first glance, it’s easy to become disgusted with young parents who appear to be negligent of their infant’s needs. Some folks waste no time getting directly to the point: If people can’t afford children, why are they having them? Old question, same old answer: Boy meets girl or girl meets boy. Matters of affordability come later.
There are many, many families who are struggling against almost impossible odds to provide for their children. We read about families who went from welfare to work, who, with the downturn in the economy, now find themselves without jobs. Many other young parents are trying to make do on minimum wages of $5.15 an hour, and that is hardly enough money to keep a roof over their heads. To get health care, even when it is subsidized by the state, people have to take off from work — often losing badly needed wages — to keep appointments. In today’s job market, in order to keep their jobs, it’s important for workers to get to their jobs every work day — and on time. In the mind of some parents, a cookie or french fry is better than no breakfast at all.
To suggest raising the minimum wage so that people might be able afford a decent quality of life for their family is tantamount to volunteering to be the target of a firing squad. It’s amazing that people who understand that investors deserve a fair return on their investment cannot understand that employees deserve fair wages for their work.
Of course, it’s easier to blame poor parenting skills. That way, we don’t have to look more deeply into the problem. So that peace can prevail, can we talk about something else?
You can join the conversation with Rose M. Nolen by calling at 882-5734 or e-mailing her at email@example.com.