There are a lot of practical things I could tell you about bringing up baby. I could tell you all the ways I’ve tried and failed to soothe or feed or put baby to sleep. I could reiterate all the advice I’ve ever gotten – the good, bad and ugly. But I realized if there was any type of advice I would give myself it would be two things…or rather one piece of advice in two parts: relieve yourself of expectations…
…for your baby
This seems obvious, right? What expectations could you possibly have for a baby? We all know babies are useless on their own. But believe it or not, there are expectations. Expectations on what solutions will work to solve the problem you’re having. Expectations on how your baby will react to these solutions. Expectations for how long the solution will last even if it does work. Every time you set an expectation of your baby, said expectation will be thrown up all over you.
Baby slept through the night one week in a row? We figured out sleep! But then the next night, no one sleeps more than an hour. Baby figured out how to do something? Milestone! Then refuses to do it again for a month. Baby naps in the crib? But then will climb out and run after you when you put ’em down for the next one.
I’m not saying to live your life in constant defeat. All I’m saying is to be flexible. You will lose your mind anytime your routine is disrupted, rightfully so. But it’s no one’s fault. It’s not your baby’s fault. It can’t be helped. They are changing everyday and what works changes every day. When they wake up, they are a brand new person and with it comes learning, being confused about and getting frustrated over something new every day. It can’t be helped. It’s certainly not your fault either. Which brings me to…
This one I feel is more obvious, because we are in a day and age when posts are flooding my Instagram of “real moms”. Moms who need a break or can’t seem to catch one. Moms who need to remind themselves they are worthy of their own time. Moms who shouldn’t feel guilty about their kid not acting the way that they are expected (*coughs and points upward*) to.
I don’t always do exactly what I post on Instagram. I’ll guilt myself over letting my babe watch 30 minutes of that Ladybug show instead of creating sensory activities to do. I’ll stress over bringing out a can of Bernie-Os instead of making dinner from scratch. I’ll tell myself that I’m not doing enough for my child to develop a particular skill. But fixating on these things won’t make me or my baby any happier. By fixating on these things while they’re happening then I miss out on savoring the cuddles when we do watch the ladybug show, which comes so rarely for an incredibly active baby. I’ll miss the happy way my baby shovels bunny shaped noodles into a protruding belly. I’ll miss the random new skill I definitely did not work to develop, but it happened anyway because babies are sponges and they want to do what you’re doing too.
The more guilty I make myself feel or lose my mind over things that aren’t going right, the less energy I have to actually enjoy the fleeting moments of tiny personhood I have today. Pregnant me, I’d at least like you to relieve yourself of these burdens a little bit more.
At one my post-partum appointments, my doctor spoke to me about PPD and how it was necessary to relieve myself of the burden of responsibility. He told me mothers tend to take on everything themselves and make it harder than it needs to be. Of course, in order to do so it is important to have a supportive network and I am blessed with one. I have a husband who takes on parenting as a partnership and live on an island where the extended family is revered*. I understand that not every mother has this luxury. However, I will say that any mother in that situation is not less worthy of having their own time. You still deserve a break and not feel like you have to be anything more than a hot mess if your kid is happy and healthy. If anyone out there knows a parent struggling through this pandemic, give ’em a call. We could use it.
* though we haven’t been seeing them in the times of corona