My name’s Beth, I’m in my 30s and my baby was born in September 2015 – not such a baby anymore! Being pregnant and having a child has been very interesting, quite often funny, but occasionally tough for me. Well, they say you either laugh or you cry. There’s been quite a bit of both.
Nothing very out of the ordinary in this situation. But, here’s the thing – I’ve been looking after all sorts of children professionally for well over a decade now. Ugh and, apparently, I’ve also started counting things in decades. I love children and think it’s very exciting being a part of their developing little personalities. I’ve looked after children with learning difficulties, I’ve looked after kids that are on the average path of developmental stages, I’ve looked after children who people in the business would call ‘high-end’ – i.e. they can display behaviour which can be extremely challenging. I’ve looked after three children under three. All of which I can arrogantly, but truthfully, say I kind of did standing on my head. I’ve always got kids, understood how they tick, and they like me.
Which means that I had vaguely thought that I’d be more equipped than most new mothers when it came to looking after a baby of my own and when I was changing J’s nappies and clothes I definitely had speed on my side. However, the last two years has been spent being shown, via an impressively diverse cornucopia of humiliations, what an extremely daft thing to have thought this was. Nothing and no one can prepare you for it.
You can think, like me, you know it all. But along with your new child you also take receipt of many other terrific things – sleep deprivation on torturous levels, an inability to keep your house clean, piles of washing, guilt, and self-doubt. And, just to recap, I was doing something I had already been doing professionally for upwards of 10 years. What must others feel like, people who have been thrown in entirely at the deep end?
Well, after much thought, I’ve decided that they probably feel… much the same. I can look at my child thinking how crappy a parent I’ve been that day, glance around the room idly wondering how that pair of pants got on top of the lamp shade, put my hands through my hair and find a yoghurt lid stuck in it. Great now I’ve got more yoghurt on me. I’m sure this is a scene that you are familiar with.
When I was in my 20s I did a certificate in counseling. During this period of studying, I was single and didn’t have children – how much time must I have had on my hands?! I was one of three students in the class that was childless, the majority were parents. When we were learning about theories of child development – Bowlby and Winnicott and all those guys – I remember watching the mothers and fathers chewing their nails while turning the pages, listening in horror to the lecturer’s words. I could see them anguishing over how they had parented as they scribbled down sums calculating how much it was going to cost them in family therapy sessions. Our lecturer used to reassure them with the following words: “No one’s expecting you to be perfect – just good enough.”
It was only later when I became a parent that these lectures came back to haunt me. It was around the time J had just learned to crawl. People had been reassuring me that when she started to crawl she’d sleep much better as she would wear herself out. Well, she’s moved through crawling onto running, most of the time in the opposite direction to the one I’d like her to go, and she still woke up at 4.30am this morning and decided it was time to get up. When will she wear herself out? Hopefully when she learns to cartwheel.
One afternoon, around this crawling time, I went to the park for lunch with a friend. I felt then much as I do now – like I’ve been to a week-long festival but without the actual fun of the festival. I listened to my friend complain about how tired she was because she couldn’t get to sleep the night before so she had taken a sleeping pill and then slept until 11am and now felt groggy. Whilst resisting the urge to push her face into the quiche we were eating I nodded, trying to feign sympathy, while watching my daughter crawl away across the park’s grass. My friend asked “How far would you let her crawl?” I told her, confidently, that whilst learning about attachment theory I had read that a well-attached baby would always stop and look around to check where her mother was and that they would only go a few meters.
I watched little J crawl and crawl… and crawl. She didn’t look round once. It started to feel like a game of emotional chicken – to risk showing how little faith I had in my theory in front of my friend by running after her, or sit it out, with a potential crushing of the soul if J never actually looked round. How far was I prepared to put her attachment to me to the test? Not all that far, as it transpired. I blinked first, got up and went to get her, happier not to find out if J was heading off to start a new life for herself. My friend asked, “Are you worried she’s not well attached?” I pushed her face into the quiche.
I am now a part of the good-enough parenting club, constantly tortured with worries of whether or not I’m doing things right. My child is of the age where I still have to go to toddler groups and be fairly regularly informed by other mothers why I am not doing it right. I remind myself of my tutor’s wise words “just be good enough” while I stare at my daughter face down licking the floor. I weakly smile and shrug at the other parents while their children sit nicely on their laps. But, not all parents would be looking on in horror because a lot of parents are like me. Take a look across the playgroup at Caroline’s son, for example, over there with the crayons up his nose. She feels my pain. This blog is for you Caroline and any other parent out there who seems to have given birth to a crayon-noser, or a floor-licker…there are all sorts of wonderful, joyous little weirdos out there. We are the proud parents of these bundles of joys and let’s take a step back and have a good laugh about it.
I am the CMO (Chief Mummy Officer) at The Mummy Company and we supply a pop-in service to help new parents or old parents or anyone that needs or wants it. What’s unique about this is you can buy this as a present and our aim is for it to be a popular baby shower gift- seeing as the baby shower seems to have crept over the pond. My blog is in association with my company but it is my hope that it can be a standalone entity that will be a fun read, and also give you the odd bit of useful information and, if nothing else, make you laugh.
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