This week I have mainly been trying not to give in to the crippling self-doubt I often have over whether I am raising my little girl ‘right’. ( I hate that word, how can there possibly be a right way to raise a child?) I’ve been an avid reader my whole life; I love the freedom I feel when I lose myself in a fictional world for a couple of hours; I love the quiet satisfaction I feel when I learn something new from a textbook. So when I fell pregnant of course I turned to my oldest friends – books. And for the first time in my life the literary world failed me. Everything I read held conflicting advice on how to raise a child; it seemed for every theory on feeding/sleeping/hygiene/mental development/the other billion factors involved in looking after a small human – there were three conflicting ones. It was a minefield of opinions and studies and first-hand experiences. For the first time in my life I shunned the books and decided to ‘wing it’. Surely a mother’s intuition had to be the best way forward?
Fast forward a year and here I sit, trying desperately to focus on that intuition, attempting to ignore the little voice that’s telling me I’m doing it all wrong. It’s hard, it’s so hard to believe in myself right now; to really trust that I am doing the best for her, that I’m not somehow inadvertently contributing to an unhealthy relationship in the future, or a lack of self-esteem, or raising a completely spoilt brat.
There are times when I think I’m actually doing OK. She’s such a happy little girl, she loves being around people, she loves interacting with everyone, she doesn’t cry when I leave the room to use the bathroom and leave her with friends/family; if I tell her no (and manage not to laugh with it!) she will stop whatever she’s not supposed to be doing. She’s clever, she’s interested in the world, she’s affectionate, she’s entertaining and receptive to entertainment…in short (of course) she’s perfect. But my mind still zooms straight in like a laser to focus on the tiniest perceived criticism I hear. “Her hands are cold, maybe you should put her coat on”. “It’s windy, shame you forgot the windbreaker hood for her pram”. “She’s nine months old, shouldn’t she be eating more solid food now?” “Don’t pick her up if she’s coming to you for a cuddle, she’ll always expect you to hold her”. Nine times out of ten the rational part of me recognises these comments for what they are; offhand non-judgemental observations/questions/comments, and I’ll respond in a similarly flippant manner, whilst silently cursing myself for being such a shit mum that I didn’t foresee that problem myself. Every now and then I’ll respond a little more snottily, and then spend the rest of the day feeling an inordinate amount of guilt, and cursing myself for being such a shit friend/daughter/sister for biting the head off those that care. Either way – I feel like shit. And for what? For a throwaway comment from a loved one. I know, I know they’re not judging me. I know that what works for one baby won’t be right for another, and that no amount of experience or child-raising qualifies someone to know what’s best for my child. I know I’m just in a particular head space at the moment that makes me see things negatively and gloss over the praise. I know that probably if I told my friends and family how I feel they’d make a conscious effort not to say these silly little things. But I feel like they’d be so afraid of me taking anything the wrong way that they’d barely say anything around me, and it’s not fair for me to put that pressure on them. So for now I’ll put up with the ‘jokes’ about how I’m depriving her of warm clothing and good food, and spoiling her with cuddles/attention and I’ll try – really really try – to trust in my instincts and believe in myself.
Because actually when I look at how far we’ve come and how amazing this little girl is, I can’t possibly deny that I must be doing something right. I just need to focus on those things, store up the moments of sunshine so that when the negativity creeps in I can banish it. I’m excited to greet the day when I finally realise I’ve silenced that little voice, when I can stand tall and be confident in my abilities as a mother. It will come, of course it will. Rainbows can be created in the darkest of storms after all.
Until next time then, sweet dreams all