This week’s guest post is from Hannah Radcliffe on why we sometimes need to put the guilt aside and give ourselves a pat on the back for a job well done. I don’t know about you but today, I need to be reminded of this.
Find Hannah on Instagram as @mother_of_savages and her brilliant personal blog at http://www.motherofsavages.wordpress.com
Dear Stupid Parents,
Is there anything more unhelpful than the suggestion that your parenting choices are ‘making a rod for your own back’? I ask this as a rhetorical question, because clearly the answer here is NO. No, there is not. And this is because parenting is confusing, complex and divisive enough without the extra burden of guilt we like to pile on by opening ourselves up to the judgement of others. Now, don’t get me wrong, I am often the first in the queue for advice when I’m struggling with my children; sleeping, feeding, tantrums. There are times when hearing somone else’s words of wisdom are just the tonic you need – and there is a lot to be said for knowing that you’re not alone. But there is a flipside to this too – and that is the stupid amount of pressure we put on ourselves trying to ‘get it right’. And, in the age of the Internet, ‘getting it right’ often means needing to appear to be perfect. But here’s the rub: there is no one-size-fits-all when it comes to parenting. Babies pop out of the womb as fully formed individuals with likes, dislikes, attitudes, inclinations, disinclinations, all manner of preferences…wrapped up in a package that CAN’T TELL YOU WHAT IT WANTS AND CAN DO NOTHING FOR ITSELF. I mean, talk about dropping the evolutionary ball here, humankind. Human babies are basically tiny, contrary, mute dictators.
If you are anything like me, having given birth, you very quickly realised that all that Gina Ford Method you studied in blissful antenatal ignorance is actually total pie-in-the-sky bollocks. As a new, knackered and massively overwhelmed parent, I lacked the confidence to listen to my instincts when it came to Big Savage. As a result I wasted a ton of time feeling guilty about the things I was or was not doing with him and I worried about whether I was ‘making a rod for my own back’. A LOT. And this was because Big Savage was not an easy baby: he was milk crazy and wanted to be on the boob constantly, he suffered with terrible wind that just seemed impossible to shift and he didn’t do much sleeping. So, all in all, the first few months of his life were pretty shit. And I know there will be people reading this who wonder if I know how lucky I am to have him – trust me – I do. But I also think it’s ok to admit that on the winding path of parenting we sometimes stumble across shit bits too. We’re all just doing the best we can, and more often than not that ‘best’ is whatever gets you through the day/night. Whether this is co-sleeping, using a dummy, moving onto formula from breastfeeding or trying a bit of combi-feeding, letting the baby sleep on you, opening yet another packet of Heinz baby biscotti for the toddler and sticking on cbeebies: I would like you to know that I have tried them all.
Big Savage is 26 months old and I still feel like I’m winging it most of time. But then I think that on average, most parents probably feel like this too. The problem is when you look at the edited versions we present of ourselves on Facebook and Instagram, you wouldn’t know it. I am definitely guilty of curating my life to present the most aesthetically pleasing version of the Savage family. But whilst I appreciate that sometimes you just need the World to know that you successfully baked gingerbread men with a 22 month old whilst rocking a perfect red lip, we’re not leaving much room for those of us sitting here thinking ‘today was another royal clusterfuck of a disaster.’
So, having weathered a few parenting storms, my general rule of thumb these days is: did it help? Did bringing Tiny Savage into bed with me at 3am this morning help us get some sleep? Yes it did. Great! Did supplementing Big Savage’s milk intake with formula at 3 weeks old help my poor, cracked nipples get the break they needed? Yes it did. Great! Did sticking on another episode of the Clangers so I could sit in the armchair with my eyes closed for 10 minutes this afternoon help? HELL YEAH IT DID. GREAT! Sometimes parenting is just about surviving through to bedtime.
The only thing I know for certain is that when it comes to babies and toddlers everything changes. All the time. Everytime you think you’ve got them pegged they switch it up on you. So let’s give ourselves permission to do the things that make getting through all these twists and changes that little bit easier. Chuck that fucking rod away and give yourself a great big pat on the back instead. I’ve got a feeling you’re doing brilliantly.