My mom gave me a copy of Hungry Monkey a little while after our eldest was born, and I later left it in a Little Library somewhere in town. The book gave me a lot of encouragement as a young mom and I wanted to share it with someone else who might need it or know someone else who needed it. There is a great deal of expectation in the world of young parents. Even from one child to the next with just a few years in between, what was considered safe and good may change. Everywhere you look, it feels like you’re doing everything wrong. Feeding your baby is one of the most intense pressures. I remember my husband gently telling me that he could go get formula after seeing the pink mixture of blood and milk oozing through my top, that my health mattered. He was right, but in the desperate need to do anything that made me feel like I was the only one who could be my baby’s mom, I kept nursing. In the end, I loved chest feeding, but I can see now what was lost in the postpartum anxiety: I was unbelievably afraid that I wasn’t good enough, not strong enough, not devoted enough, that my baby was better with someone else. I latched to the one thing I knew that no one else could do and my baby, both babies, latched on demand for years. 2 years with the first and 2 and a half with the second. My desire to nurse didn’t start in the healthiest of emotional places and I think what many new moms really need to hear is a simple truth that most don’t think to say, because they assume it’s understood. New moms and dads, new parents in general, need to know that they are irreplaceable. There is only one you, so no matter what, no one else can be who you are to your kid. If you go to work, there is still you. If you stay home, there is still you. If you bottle feed or nurse, no one can be you. If you make homemade food or use store bought food, you’re still feeding your child, bonding with them, being a face that they know and love and trust. Yes, there will be other people in your child’s life and there will be times when it feels like they know your kid better, are closer to them, can make them sleep when you can’t seem to. You may even feel like your child likes them more. Those inner thoughts and fears, that debilitating self-doubt comes in and hides that simple truth that you need to know: No one can replace you in your child’s life. Hungry Monkey reassured me that if I was tired and achy and the world felt gray, feeding my oldest yogurt and cheerios was fine, wonderful, excellent, and good. The author helped me worry less about people judging me for including my children in the more dangerous aspects of cooking, like using knives and stoves. Chapter after chapter, he peeled away the layers of kitchen stress and made it easier to see that the ever changing rules and guidelines are meaningless in the overall picture. This doesn’t mean I ignore science or disregard all doctor recommendations, but I do consider them with our family needs in mind. I need recipes that don’t make me feel like a failure in the kitchen and my kids need to see that cooking is for everyone-that feeding yourself is a good thing and that they’re capable of learning how. This morning, my kids both had cereal and milk. Would a nutritionist feel I had given my kids a good meal? Nope, definitely not. Did my kids eat? Yes. Were my kids happy? Yep, absolutely. Was I rushed, harried, frazzled and frantic? No, I wasn’t. I sat with my kids, read to them from our newest book, and drank my coffee. On Saturdays when time is more flexible, sometimes we do more. My oldest has learned recently to cook sausage in a skillet, how to flip patties towards the back of the stove so the oil spatters away from him, and why it’s important to cook with clothes on. Yes, he has gotten an oil burn and he proudly showed his dad as proof that he had cooked. My child was not grievously injured and I was at the stove the entire time with him, but I let him do the work, and he loved that responsibility. His younger brother cracks all the eggs, scrambles them with a whisk, and seasons them to prepare them for me to cook. Both of them now know how to slice kielbasa, what knife to use for bread, for a tomato, to let me handle anything boiling, and how to soak a burn. They both steal slices of red, orange and yellow bell peppers from the plate while I’m slicing. We keep instant cups of macaroni and cheese, because they know they can read the directions and make this themselves. Hungry Monkey just made me feel better about who I was at a time when I felt broken and irredeemable. I think the author would look at my kitchen now and know that I have kids that cook, that we spend time together creating and nurturing our souls and bodies, that life is happening, that someone here is always learning something new. Please remember, only you can be you to your baby, no matter how old that baby gets.
Please consider donating a copy of Hungry Monkey or several. I do earn from qualifying purchases as an Amazon associate, and I appreciate knowing my recommendations are being used for something good and not just to help me eventually earn enough to caffeinate myself. This is a book I suggest leaving an encouraging note in, reminding whoever reads it that they are unique, and placing it randomly, trusting it will end up in the hands of whoever needs it that day. Sometimes books are magical like that. They show up when we need them and soothe our wounds and help us live.