Thursday, November 18, 2010

I made this.

I remember looking down at my approximately seven month old baby almost six years ago now, and realizing with a shock that nearly every molecule in his body came from mine.

WOW. Powerful thought, huh? At that point, he was still making "food face" every time we tried to give him something solid, so he was still pretty much exclusively nursing, as he had been since birth (aside from the 20 ccs of infant formula the pediatrician at the hospital pushed on us because we didn't know what a wet disposable looked like :-/). So not only had the original 8 pounds 6 ounces of him come directly out of my body, the raw material he'd turned into the next 15 pounds had, too. (Yes, my 7-month-old was about 24 pounds. That's not a math error.)

So I'm reading The Upside of Irrationality by Dan Ariely, who is a behavioral economist at Duke University, and there's a chapter on the meaning of labor. Turns out, when we make things ourselves, we value them more. He calls it The Ikea Effect, and says, " increase your feelings of pride and ownership in your daily life, you should take a larger part in creating more of the things you use in your daily life."

This triggered my memory of that moment, when I realized this whole entire person on my lap was something I made (with some design assistance from my husband). How does that change how I value my child(ren)? Or, to put it a devastating way... how does the near-universal adoption of formula feeding for part or all of infancy compromise a mother's natural, normal pride in and value of her child?

A couple of pages later, he goes on at more length about how this phenomenon enters our everyday lives:
Similarly, we think we will not enjoy assembling furniture, so we buy the ready-made version. We want to enjoy movies in surround sound, but we imagine the stress involved in trying to connect a four-speaker stereo system to a television, so we hire someone else to do it for us. We like sitting in a garden but don't want to get sweaty and dirty digging up a garden space or mowing the lawn, so we pay a gardener to cut the grass and plant some flowers. We want to enjoy a nice meal, but shopping and cooking are too much trouble, so we eat out or just pop something in the microwave.

Sadly, in surrendering our effort in these activities... we may actually give up a lot of deep enjoyment because, in fact, it's often effort that ultimately creates long-term satisfaction.
Another WOW. This touches on so many things. People ask me "what do you EAT?" when they hear what I don't: gluten, dairy, soy, corn, eggs, nightshades (not to mention artificial colors, flavors, and preservatives). What I eat is mostly what I make myself. Yes, doughnut day at work drives me crazy sometimes, and there are days where my brain throws its own little fit at the idea of having to jump straight into dinner prep as soon as I get home (once I've gotten snacks for the kids, nursed the baby, and started the older one on his homework). Every so often, I think, "I wish I could just call Crispy Crust and be done with it."

And then I'm glad I can't. Because if I could, I would... and I wouldn't feel good about it. I'd feel like a cop-out, a lazy bum, someone who isn't doing the right thing. Our modern world tempts us constantly to cut corners and compromise, and in the process cheats us out of so much satisfaction. While our Big List of food allergies makes things tricky, it also forces me to make, invent, and create.

And therefore, to enjoy.

1 comment:

Cyndi said...

I remember when my daughter was twice her birth weight. My husband decided she was placenta parmesan. Half "vegan meat" and half "dairy." I thought it was very apt.