Tuesday, July 16, 2013

Letting Go of the Mom Guilt: Yeah, I'm talking to you Judgy McJudgerson

We live in such a time of research and 'rules' and this is especially true for moms. There's always a new trial study or way of thinking that tells you how to do your job and it leads to so much guilt.

"Is my baby getting enough tummy time?"
"Will co-sleeping cause them to be co-dependant?"
"Am I holding them too much?"
"Am I not holding them enough?"
"Should I let them eat this? It may have chemicals, or dyes, or a million other things they're not supposed to have."
"Am I letting them foster enough independence?"
"Are they getting enough sleep? Too much?"

And the list goes on and on and on and on and on...

Sleeping on dad's chest


Don't get me wrong. I love a good case study and we all want what's best for our children. I believe in order and structure. I believe in discipline. What I don't believe in, however, is doing something that doesn't feel right to you just because 'they' say you should and other moms can make it so much harder!

 You get dirty looks if you are buying formula.
What? You didn't have a natural birth? 
You're obviously doing something wrong if your kid's not sleeping through the night by 8 weeks.
Oh, you're not cloth diapering? You're killing a unicorn.

We as mothers should be the last people to judge. Who else can support each other like one mom to another? Who else understands what it's like to have your baby cry so much you hear it in your dreams? Each family is different and within each family, each child is different. Some will need more structure, some will need less. But here's the thing:

NO ONE KNOWS YOUR CHILD LIKE YOU DO.

The first few weeks of Cali's life I worried so much about everything. I kept a journal to make sure she was eating, sleeping, pooping, playing enough. I timed her tummy time to ensure she was getting at least the recommended amount.

In essence, I drove myself crazy.

Thankfully, my husband finally knocked (not literally, people) some sense into me and helped me learn to trust my instincts. God gave them to us for a reason.  Here's a secret for ya...

I rock Cali to sleep almost every. single. time.

I know, right? They say not to do that because it will become a crutch. Do you know what I say to that?

WHO CARES?

I nurse her on demand, I don't put her down at a specific "wakeful period", I hold her... a lot, I let her nap on my chest, and I'll plop her in her baby carrier quicker than you can say "don'tdothat" if it gets her to quit crying. Does this make me a bad mom? Does this mean I'm not teaching her how to self-soothe? Does this mean she'll never want to develop other relationships because I've never taught her how to be independent? I don't think so. I'm not letting her rob banks or smoke pot, people. I'm letting her nap on my chest.

I rocked her all the way to sleep and enjoyed it!

At first I felt guilty for doing these things, like I was somehow ensuring that my kid would be the one in the corner twirling her hair and not making eye contact with anyone. Then I had a dream. I dreamt that Cali was a teenager and she wanted to go out with friends for the night. In this dream all I wanted to do was rock my kid to sleep and she wanted none of it. She was too busy getting ready. The kicker is that while this was just a dream now, it'll be reality one day. I never want to look back and say "I wish I had held her more. I wish I had savored the moments better".

Don't try to make me feel guilty for this either. It won't work.
When the time comes, I'll teach her that I can't do everything for her. I'll make sure that she knows how to face difficulties and look fear in the face. I will teach her that life throws curveballs (see my baseball reference there??) and sometimes life hurts but we have to dig our heels in deep and keep pushing. I will make sure she knows these things. But for now, while she fits on my chest and still wants to be there, I'll let her. I'll savor the moments that I'm rocking her to sleep and she lays her hand on my chest and looks me in the eyes. These are things I'll treasure and I refuse to let someone make me feel guilty for enjoying them now.

With all of that being said, if you feel like doing the complete opposite of what I do then that's ok too. You'll never please everyone with your parenting. Don't let anyone make you doubt what you're doing as a parent if it's what you think is best.

And you there.

Quit judging.


'They' say she shouldn't use a paci. I say she enjoys it.

You have no idea how that mom came to be in the formula isle or why she had a c-section or medicated birth. You don't know why she chooses a stroller over baby wearing or disposable over cloth. You don't know why she's working over being a stay at home mom.

Maybe she agonized over these decisions or maybe she didn't. Maybe simply didn't want to breastfeed or maybe she gets too hot wearing her kid everywhere. Maybe the startup cost of disposable diapers was too much for her family or maybe she simply doesn't want to deal with flushing more crap than she already has to. Maybe her family can't afford for her not to work or maybe she simply enjoys working.

Any of these decisions are OK if that's what works for their family.

So here's my advice for what it's worth:

Trust your instincts. Love your kid fiercely and then go from there. If you love them and want the best for them then the rest will eventually fall into place. Mind your own business too. Just because you've chosen to parent one way doesn't mean it's the right way for everyone. Parent your own offspring and don't worry about everyone else's. Enjoy the moments. That doesn't mean you have to rock them to sleep or let them nap on your chest - that's not for everyone. But don't let life pass too fast without enjoying your children. And lastly... do the best you can.

That's all any parent can really do.