Are you doing enough? I mean – really – are you helping your child develop their fine and gross motor skills enough? Do you feed them enough vitamin and nutrient dense foods that make up the colour of the rainbow? Are you hugging your baby enough, because if you don’t you will definitely traumatise them, right?
The best kind of parents read all of the articles, researching and exhausting avenues of all topics. You earn expert parenting level Google-ing skills. And read the parenting books to be sure you are ticking those boxes to give your child the perfect upbringing. Perfection is possible if you know all of the tricks of the trade, right?
I’m coming to you from the other side, the side of worrying about all of the above and obsessing over getting this parenting thing right. Acting out of fear, rather than confidence in my abilities or confidence that the love I have for my children is enough for them, and myself.
With the internet and social media we can often have unrealistic expectations for ourselves, and our babies/older children. Comparing our parenting style and coping abilities to that which is merely a highlight of somebody elses day, because who wants to show images of themselves ugly crying in the car after a stressful morning of daycare/school drop offs. At the end of which we can be left with unhelpful thoughts. Or dwelling on our child’s behaviours and beginning our overly-analytic process once again.
Maggie Dent recently wrote an article on the challenges of mothering in the 21st century, “Others [mothers] tell me they lay awake reviewing every decision they’ve made around the children, striving to want to do it better — to be a better mum.” As a new Mum, this happened personally more times than I could count. Because the entire experience is brand new, there is no path yet travelled to guide you on what not to do. If you already hold high expectations for yourself, becoming a new parent can cause some anxiety because parenting, as much as it can be researched, really is a fly-by-the-seat-of-your-pants and personal experience. Which is totally FINE.
Just like your fingerprints, no two lots of parenting experiences are the same. And when you are running off 3 hours of sleep over 2 days you are at your most vulnerable. The rationable side of your brain is in overdrive with new responsibilities and we question if we can really do this parenting thing. We question if admitting out loud that we are having a hard time will damage our baby. Then factor in opinions of those around you – wow – are we vulnerable as new parents.
Can you hear me out for a moment, you will hear this and maybe not really HEAR it, but…you know your baby the best. Better than the rest (rhyming will help it stick). Not the baby expert you follow on IG, not your Aunty Mable, but you. Imagine the days before the internet and parenting books coming out your earholes. We would observe more intently our child’s behaviour and trust our instincts because the overwhelming realm of influence didn’t exist.
Now that I have a school aged child and also a second child, the pressures I subjected myself to weren’t necessary. We started swimming lessons as soon as possible with the first, did Gymbaroo, went to every event possible to give him experiences and while that was all great, it wasn’t totally necessary to rush around from one activity to the next when realistically he and I were too tired and not enjoying it.
This is a message to the first time parents questioning their credibility and worthiness as parents. If you’re reading this, and you give your child food, clean clothes, a safe place to sleep, and cuddles then you are already doing a fucking awesome job. And truth be told, we have all sat there with our baby who is not wanting to sleep, listening to them cry for hours on end and wondered what the hell we are doing but eventually small moments of clarity appear when you think, I must be doing okay.
Those moments appear when we are fully present and focused on our family. They appear when we begin to trust ourselves and understand perfection is unattainable and the unpredictable quirks of human life are what build resilience and wisdom.
Raising our first baby is a chaotic and beautiful experience. Full of teachable moments for ourselves that often can only be seen once our babies become independant.
Please don’t be too harsh on yourselves. You’re doing the best that you can.