It’s Not Her, It’s Me

Last Thursday we had a nightmare day.

Scarlett was whinging and grizzling all day and wouldn’t go for a sleep, no matter how much I tried to put her to bed. By afternoon, she had progressed to screaming. So, I am ashamed to say, had I. Finally, at around 4:30 pm, after a desperate phone call to Daddy C and some deep breaths, I sat her on my lap with a muesli bar and she fell asleep almost instantly in my arms, exhausted.

My poor grumpy baby last Thursday

The next day I went away for the weekend and I work Monday to Wednesday, so today was my first full day with her since then. She had been difficult for Dad over the weekend also, so I was afraid I was in for another day of tearing my hair out.

Well, it’s currently 3 pm and she has been wonderful all day. But the thing I’m sitting here trying to figure out is – has she been a happier baby today… or have I just been a better mum?

You see, I changed my approach today. I read a lot about gentle parenting. I completely agree with the idea that grumpy toddlers need you to recognise their needs with compassion, not to be disciplined for having emotions. I know that me getting stressed out only adds to the problem and will never solve anything.

So today I decided I wasn’t going to worry about getting anything done. If she got grumpy, instead of getting annoyed with her, I would get down on the floor and give her the attention she was asking for. And that is pretty much what I’ve done. There are toys all over the lounge room. The kitchen bench is covered in dishes. Anytime she was grizzling, I picked her up and read her a book, or sat on the floor and played with some toys.

Funnily enough, she has also been happier to go off and play on her own for short periods. Is that just because she is feeling happier today? Or is it because, with her need for love and attention met, she is satisfied and more able to spend some time on her own?

I tried to put her down for a morning sleep and she wasn’t having a bar of it. So instead of getting annoyed and stressed out and trying over and over again (a la last Thursday), I just accepted that she wasn’t ready to have a sleep, and got her up and read her a book instead, and then she wiggled off for another play. Finally, half an hour ago at about 2:30 pm, she became quiet on my lap and with little effort from me, fell asleep.

My beatuiful happy girl today

Last Thursday, when I was trying so hard to get her down for a nap – was it really because she needed a sleep? Or was it because I needed that cup of tea and half hour of silence? Was I really thinking about her needs – or about my own?

Today, when she wouldn’t go for a morning sleep – I just had my cup of tea anyway (sans silence :-P). I checked my Facebook while I gave her lunch. I gave up on the idea of a quiet cup of tea alone and accepted that I could fill my own desires while still putting her first and being present to her.

So have we had a better day today because she woke up feeling happier? Or has she been happier because I let go of how I wanted the day to go and instead focused on going with her flow?

I think it’s a combination of the two, to be honest. She definitely had woken up on the wrong side of the cot last Thursday, from the moment she got up. But I also handled it badly, and went to bed ashamed of the mother I had been that day.

Hopefully I will be going to bed a little happier tonight 🙂 And a little wiser, for having seen in action what I had long believed – that so often, it is not her that needs to learn the lesson, but me.

I guess we’re in this together bubba, my little teacher

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Things Motherhood Has Taught Me: Humility

Motherhood has been the greatest teacher of my life.  Over an ongoing series of posts, I am going to share with you some of the things motherhood has taught me.  I’m going to kick off with what I feel to be perhaps the most important lesson so far – that of humility.

When I was pregnant, I knew it all. I knew exactly what kind of mother I was going to be and the choices I would make. I was one of those awful, awful first time preggos who think they know everything about things they have never experienced. Who want to give people directions for paths they have never walked. Sometimes I wish I could go back in time and give myself a good smack in the face.

I planned an all natural homebirth. I was going to use cloth nappies. I was going to breastfeed as long as my baby wanted to. I have to be honest, I judged people who did differently. I didn’t understand why anyone would choose a drug-filled hospital birth, to pollute the earth with disposables, to formula feed from birth.

It’s funny the way life has of teaching you these lessons. As it turned out, my homebirth turned into four days of agonising posterior labour that ended in hospital with gas, pethidine and an epidural (i.e. every drug possible!). I just couldn’t get the feel for cloth nappies for a long time and so she wore disposables for the first 8 months of her life. I hated breastfeeding and endured 6 months of it before weaning with relief onto formula.

At first I felt like a failure. I felt like everything I had tried to be as a mother, I had failed at. I saw other people having beautiful homebirths, easy drug free births, cloth nappying from birth, breastfeeding into toddlerhood – and I thought: they are the mothers I wanted to be… why can they do it and not I? I must be a massive failure.

But then, as I became more at peace with the mother I am and stopped comparing myself to others, I began to feel like maybe events had happened the way they did to teach me a lesson. A very very important lesson that I value highly, and that I feel makes me a better person in taking to heart.

It taught me the lesson of humility.

It taught me never – NEVER ever ever – to judge another person whose shoes you have not walked in. You can never know how you would react to a situation until you are in it. And just because someone does something differently to the way you would do it, doesn’t mean they are wrong. There is nothing to say that the choices I make are right – they are just right for me, in the moment that I make them. Everyone is just doing the best they can, with what they have, where they are. And if you’re sitting and judging someone harshly because they made a choice different than you think you would…. well, in my experience, life has a certain knack for chucking you into a situation where you may just come to an understanding of that choice.

The mummy wars that pervade modern motherhood drive me nuts. Except in a very few matters, there really is no black and white right or wrong when it comes to parenting. There are no true “experts”. We all come into this job with our own biases and personalities and life history. If all people are different and unique, it’s crazy to think that we should all conform to one way of parenting.

I parent my way – I stand strong in my choices, knowing they are right for me and my child. But I can also have the humility to know that they may not be right for everyone. And that is ok. It doesn’t make me wrong and it doesn’t make other people wrong. Even if I feel I have been in a similar situation to someone else – I haven’t truly been in their shoes… and thus, truly, I have no place making judgement on them.

I still do feel a little sad about the way some things turned out in my journey so far. I feel sad about the homebirth I missed out on. It sucks that I didn’t have an evangelical breastfeeding experience. It sucks that I didn’t emerge from birth instantly being the personification of the ultimate earth mother, but rather that I had to grow into (am still growing into) the mother I want to be.

But in some ways, I am glad as well. I am grateful for the lesson of humility my experiences have taught me. I am grateful to have had a glimpse of some of the things other women go through that leads them to make choices I once judged or pitied.

I am grateful to motherhood for bringing me out of my own head and back down to earth. I feel that it has made me a better, more loving, more accepting person. And that’s gotta be a good thing.