Now first of all, I have to confess, I don’t actually think that I am a bad mother at all. My kids are happy, healthy and as a huge boost to my self-esteem worship the ground I work on. (You should see how happy the are when I pick them up, I feel like Beyoncé.) They clearly can’t spend a minute away from me judging by the amount of times they like to sneak into my bed at ridiculous o’clock or wail ‘Mummy!’ at bedtime, my bedtime and 2am. But they are happy little girls, and if my kids are happy, I know I must be doing something right.
However, what does bother me is the constant stream of competitive motherhood, always pitting mothers against each other stating each way of parenting to be superior. Let’s be honest, it does seem to stem from mothers as I never really seem to hear of it from fathers. And let’s face it, men and fathers are judged differently. I’m guilty of it myself, often praising my male friends for taking their offspring out for a day, forgetting that I do it all day, every day. It’s interesting how we are treated differently. We are all parents.
Personally, I just want the competitive mummies to stop. There are a million different ways to raise children and in my opinion, does it really matter if they never eat organic food or co-sleep, as long as they grow up to healthy, well-adjusted and know that they are loved?
This post was inspired by a friend of mine who when busily preparing for his 3 year old’s party, informed me of how he was screening all of the music for inappropriate language and content. My daughters on the other hand have requested Beyoncé on Spotify, but each to their own. Nobody is right; nobody is wrong.
I’ve written this post to assure all the other mothers out there (and yes it’s for mothers) who worry they are not good enough, that they are not alone. Also I’m 99% sure that they are amazing mothers. Simply because, if you are concerned enough about your parenting to worry if you are good enough, you are already amazing. There is more than one way to be a mother; be the mother your kid needs.
Here are just some of the reasons that I am apparently a bad mother.
I never breastfed my children
When I was expecting Number 1, I fully intended to breastfeed for as long as possible. I had seen people close to me do it, and it looked liked a wonderful bonding experience, plus it seemed less hassle than having to wash and sterilise bottles. I’m lazy.
However, when she was born, following a difficult labour which left me unwell, I struggled to breastfeed. I was drained but believing it was the ‘best’ and ‘only’ option for my newborn, I persevered. This view was exacerbated by persistent and pushy midwives and health visitors.
It took me being readmitted into hospital with a poorly starving baby who had lost a 1lb of her already slight birth weight, within a couple days, to realise that formula wasn’t poison. Formula wouldn’t harm my daughter. Starving her would.
I’m forever grateful to the common sense of a helpful midwife who recognised my baby’s hungry cry, my despair and feelings of failure, to advise me on how to formula feed. She herself had recently been in the same situation and slipped into post-natal depression. She didn’t want he same for me.
However, she only supported me with formula feeding on the provision that I told no one that she had helped me. Ironically, it took her student midwife to notice that Number 1 had quite a bad tongue tie, which was the reason that she couldn’t latch. All the others had been so intent on forcing me to breast feed that they didn’t even contemplate there may be a difficulty. As soon as my baby was fed, she was happy. I regained my sanity and was able to bond with her. Happy mama, happy baby.
I briefly considered breastfeeding when I was expecting Number 2, and attended a breast feeding class at the hospital. I left, enraged at being told that formula fed babies are less likely to bond with their mothers. Tell this to my then clingy toddler… Number 2 was bottle fed from birth and I had a much easier newborn period with her as I refused to be pressured to do something I didn’t want to do. As mums, we already put a lot of pressure on ourselves, we don’t need others doing it for us. I’m grateful I didn’t try as Number 2 was even more tongue tied than her sister. And guess what, they’re both perfectly healthy.
My experience was a bad one and I don’t want to sound like I’m demonising breast feeding – I’m not. Remember this; it really doesn’t matter how your baby is fed, as long as they are fed. And yes, mine had jars occasionally too. The point I’m making is about choice and other people respecting our choices.
My children went to full-time nursery from 8 months
Both times they started, I cried. I found it hard to leave my little ones. On my first day back after my first maternity leave, I remember a colleague asking me if I felt guilty about being back full-time. I replied that I didn’t, as providing a roof over her head and food in her belly was much more important than feeling guilty about something that I couldn’t control. That question made me so angry at the time as I can guarantee nobody asked her father, who worked a mile down the road, the same question. Why just judge me?
In an ideal world, I’d love to spend more quality time with my children, but I am obliged to provide heat, food and shelter for them, all by myself, as I am a single mother. Their basic needs takes precedence and I will not feel guilty for meeting them. We just make sure we cherish the time we do have. Maybe that’s why Number 1 wakes at 5am every morning…
My children use tablets
Now, they don’t spend all day every day in front of the tablet. They are very active little girls and for that reason, I need a break! My girls are so determined to spend every second with me that they wake at 5am every morning.
As the idea of waking but at 4:30am to get ready before them doesn’t appeal, I give them tablet time every morning so that I can shower, get dressed and do my face. I need the half hour to feel like me and to be myself and they enjoy watching nursery rhymes, surprise eggs, or more bizarrely, unboxing of toys. I just don’t understand that but it makes them happy, keeps them occupied and enables me to get ready.
I have me time
Now don’t all faint in shock but sometimes, I sneak out of work a bit early, leave my girls in after care so that I can go and get a pedicure, read a book, write, meet my best friend or go to the gym. And the worst part is, I don’t feel guilty. At all.
There’s a reason why airlines tell us to put our own oxygen masks on first. In order to be good parents, we need to be happy and pedicures and the gym make me happy. Time away from my girls to be myself makes me feel refreshed and better equipped to deal with toddler tantrums. I didn’t give up being me when I gave birth and I refuse to apologise for wanting to be myself. It’s not a crime.
Like I have already said, I don’t think I actually am a bad mother. I’m parenting in the only way I know how, and in the way that works for my and my daughters. In the big scheme of things does it really matter if your child has a dummy or not? If you co-sleep or not?
I’m not saying that my approach to motherhood is perfect, I’m also not saying that it will work for everyone. My point is that it’s not right. But it’s also not wrong. Last time I checked, I am the mother to B and A, so other people’s opinions mean absolutely nothing.
I only wish that I’d learnt this lesson earlier rather than panicking for months that I wasn’t the perfect mother because I am. I’m the perfect mother to my very individual little girls who love me almost as much as I love them.