I’ve been thinking recently about how parenthood (and perhaps more specifically motherhood) makes everything you do open and vulnerable to comment, opinion and judgement. I’ve had strangers stop me and tell me off for one thing or another and I wonder what it is about babies that makes people feel like they have the right to open comment?
The thing is, that somehow, whether you want to or not, you end up being forced into one or another parenting ‘type’ based on your every decision about looking after your baby. Decisions which, by the way, are usually somewhere between educated guesswork and complete stabs in the dark, because no parent has a clue what they’re doing and don’t let anyone fool you otherwise.
The bottom line is that every baby is unique and not like any other, every mum is unique and not like any other, and every family is unique and not like any other. So comparison is not only futile but actually laughable. No-one but each individual family knows of the specific details and circumstances that have led to each decision.
But all the same different ‘camps’ of parenting seem to exist and I certainly can’t help sometimes feeling like I’m being ‘boxed’ into one or another.
Do you breastfeed or bottle feed?
Is your baby in disposable nappies or cloth ones?
Do you baby wear or have a pushchair?
Do you wean baby-led or parent-led?
Do you go with sleep training or gentle sleep?
Does your baby watch TV or are there no screens?
The list goes on. And I don’t think it’s just my general dislike of being pigeon-holed that makes me struggle with all these distinctions.
When it comes to babies I think most parents feel so unsure and unsteady at each step. Are we doing the right thing? Is this the best thing for our child? Is doing this/not doing this going to give the childhood we want for them?
And the added difficulty is that on top of all these big, big questions, parents are often coping with being emotionally and physically exhausted, which of course has a huge impact on decisions that are made and remade.
It’s all very well confidently and absolutely stating that you will never, ever use the TV as a babysitter and that there can be no greater evil in a child’s life. But when you’ve had a grumpy, clingy baby for an entire week and you’re sick of desperately trying to cook meals, do the dishes, hang the washing out, hoover the living room and empty the dishwasher with a small person crying and hanging off your legs, there is no greater relief than the 7.43 minutes offered by ‘Hey Duggee’. Or better yet, the 18.75 minutes that Mr Tumble so happily gives.
This video illustrates this quite well, albeit rather cheesily* :)
I know that I have been so blessed and fortunate with a group of ‘mum friends’ with whom I can be completely myself. We don’t have to all do the same things, or be in the same categories for parenting, but we can still openly, rawly and honestly share our successes and failures without being judged or boxed.
It’s the most freeing place to be because I know that no matter how much I feel like I’ve failed, or how worried I am about making the right decision, that I have friends, mums, who are walking along beside me, just trying to do their best too, and not making any pretences to the contrary.
And so I say to any other mums or dads: don’t let anyone judge you or label you. And don’t let yourself ever judge or label anyone else. We’re all doing our best, and that’s the best that a little one could ever need.
*But clearly she should have put the brake on before letting go of the pram. Rookie error…