I actually don’t need to write an entire post about this. It can be summed up in one word. Everything.
I find it very easy to reassure a fellow mum she’s doing a brilliant job and to not be too hard on herself but when it comes to me I am full of criticism and guilt. I am absolutely my own worst critic and the thing is deep down I know I’m doing my absolute best for my kids. Perhaps because I love them so much I hold myself to much higher, near impossible standards.
However I also think it is absolutely the case that it has never been harder to be a parent. Our parents and grandparents merely had the family next door to compare themselves to and a flimsy advice leaflet from the NHS. Today the internet is chocked full of other mummies proudly (and rightly so) sharing their triumphs. We only need to open Facebook, Twitter or Instagram to see thousands of parents sharing pictures of things like breakfast featuring their perfectly round pancakes topped with fresh fruit on a kiddie friendly plate and we immediately begin to compare ourselves. The fact is the mum producing the perfect breakfast may have been weeping into her pillow the night before because her kids had woken up for the 10th time. However because we only see the perfect image, the brief snapshot in time, we believe that everyone else is achieving perfection while we are falling well short.
We also have a mountain of advice flying at us from all angles. The NHS orders us to, among a million other things, keep babies in our room for 6 months (I lasted about 10 weeks) and to only give breast milk for the first six months (both mine were mix fed). We are told we must put baby down drowsy but awake, we must get into a routine, we must sterilise everything, we must follow car seat guidelines, we must be mindful of safe sleeping and heaven forbid we have a glass of wine. Obviously a lot of this is sound and commonsense advice. But with all of this information flying at us, no wonder we feel bad when we don’t follow all of it to a T, it’s very hard to drown out all this noise.
Here are just some of the things I obsess over:
Giving up breastfeeding.
When I stopped feeding Bubba One at 20 weeks I felt terrible. I had already spent weeks frantically Googling “thinking about giving up breastfeeding” to find a million other mums had struggled with the same thing. However I became obsessed by statistics and medical advice, convinced I was failing my baby by going against the science.
Sending Bubba One to nursery.
The first day I left my daughter at nursery I felt terrible. I felt like I was abandoning her and she would be utterly bewildered and miserable. Thanks to Google I also found multiple news articles about studies proving kids who go to nursery emerge emotionally scarred.
Going back to work.
Another endless Googling session on this one. I went back full time after Bubba One and was so dreading leaving her for five days a week. Everywhere I turned I met mums who had gone back three days a week or not at all. It made me think I was being selfish. In truth you have to make the right decision for your family and actually Bubba One LOVES nursery.
Enjoying Bubba One being at nursery.
Sometimes when I took a day of holiday I would still send my daughter to nursery and, shock horror, do something for myself such as lunch out or seeing a film. I loved it, which made me feel awful as I should have taken the day to have quality time.
Letting the children watch too much TV.
I managed to avoid letting Bubba One watch too much TV in the beginning but when I went back to work, fell pregnant and had Bubba Two it was the only way to get stuff done at times. It also is marvellous at putting an epic whinge attack on hold. But I feel bad when I see my eldest daughter staring open mouthed at Peppa Pig while my youngest desperately cranes her neck to see from her awkward position on her play mat.
Looking at my phone when kids are in the room.
Being off the internet for just 30 minutes can feel like a lifetime. Last time you checked Stephanie Davis and Jeremy McConnell were planning to have more kids, then minutes later he’s branded her a “f***ing nightmare”. With news websites updating by the minute, Twitter, blogs, Facebook and email it is hard to resist the draw of my phone when my children are occupied doing something else. The other day my toddler told me off for picking up my phone and I was taken aback, have a made her think my phone is more important? Will she be a smartphone addict before she even learns to read? The truth is I spend more time taking my kids to fun places or reading them stories than looking at my phone, however I judge myself based on five minutes of me time here and there.
Feeding toddler an easy meal.
If I don’t serve a home cooked meal full of fresh vegetables I worry I’m depriving my child of vital nutrients she needs to grow. I try my best to batch cook healthy meals for the freezer but sometimes I fall back on a cheese sandwich or, duhduhduuuuuuh, fish fingers. This is another one where the NHS advice is a bit of a hindrance as we are told no sugar or salt and to only feed fresh fruit and vegetables as snacks. In fact, there is nothing wrong with the odd treat and surely it’s better to have spent time having a bit of extra fun with your child than slaving over a hot pan.
All of these are things I would happily tell a friend to chill out about but when I face the same issues myself I am full of judgement.
The fact is everyone feels guilty sometimes and everyone can worry they’re not doing as well as the next person. We need to learn to be our own cheerleaders. Drowning out the noise is tough but I’m getting better at it. When I falter all I need to do is look at my two happy and healthy kids to know I’m not doing a bad job.