Struggling with parenting? Have another baby!
April 1, 2010
I wasn't an ESPECIALLY neurotic new mom. I wasn't! Honest! I mean, I do cop to falling on the High Strung side of the spectrum and yes, I did sign up for three (THREE!) new mom groups, which, as everyone knows are reliably packed with neurotic new moms, but I did okay! I really did. I kept my head above the newborn waters and didn't get stuck in any Woe I Can't Do This! swamp (well, not too stuck) and everything was fine. IT WAS. That said, when I think back to my new mom days and really, I realize that what I knew about parenting boiled down to two Wildly General Proclamations.
The first is: My Baby's Doing It So ALL The Babies Do It. You, the New Mom, can't really help thinking this. Sometimes you don't even realize you're thinking it in the first place. I mean, your sample size is rather small. It stands to reason that when your baby needs a good hour of rocking before he goes to sleep or won't take a pacifier or thinks that rice cereal mixed with breastmilk is the most revolting thing he's tasted in his life, you just assume that that's the way it is. And why not? I mean, that rice cereal mixed with breastmilk DOES look revolting.
The second is: Oh God, I Must Be Doing It All Wrong. Perhaps this applies only to new moms like me - MILDLY neurotic, furtively glancing at the more outspoken moms in the moms' groups, taking every random parenting comment to heart, okay maybe a LOT neurotic moms - but I bet there are more of us than we realize. I think this thought comes after the My Baby's Doing It So All The Babies Do It. Eventually you realize that not ALL babies need to be rocked for an hour before they fall asleep, so why does yours? What's wrong with him? Well, NOTHING! He's gorgeous and perfect and precious and obviously the problem is YOU. What are YOU doing wrong? And then you sit for hours in front of the internet or the books the internet recommends you read, trying to figure out what YOU are doing wrong, you big fat horrible failure of a mother!
But I have a found a cure to this line of thinking my dear Internet, and that cure is: have another baby. Go on! Do it! DO IT NOW!
Molly slept in a mini crib next to my side of the bed for the first several months of her life. I distinctly remember, when she was a month or two old, putting her down after feeding her and lying down myself, our faces close together. I needed some rest, I needed to not have someone touching me for five minutes. And then I watched, in total utter astonishment, as Molly's eyes slowly fluttered closed and... SHE FELL ASLEEP. All by herself! Without any intervention! You guys, I was rocking Jack to sleep WELL past his first birthday. I felt like I'd tried everything, I'd read everything, I was obviously doing something wrong and I just couldn't figure it out. And here was my second baby, falling asleep all on her own. WHAT?
And just the other night I sat at the dining room table, my jaw resting on the scratched and dented surface, watching my daughter shove broccoli into her mouth. She chewed, swallowed, smiled, said "MMM!" and ate another bite. Just across from her sat Jack, my firstborn, carefully inspecting every bite of chicken nugget for offending bits of green. Jack was a half decent eater till he hit 18 months and then Pickiness reigned. I've been sitting here waiting for the inevitable 18-month-old food refusal from my second child, but she just strolled up to me with her mouth open, waiting for a bite of MY vegetable-laden dinner.
So it's clear to me that not all babies do the same things. And it's becoming almost as clear that I'm not doing everything wrong - at least, not ALL the time. My kids live in the same house with the same parents. They have the same schedule and go the same places. They're served the same food and play with the same toys. I haven't actively attempted to change the way I parent the second baby. And yet, the two Massive Moral Failures I experienced with my first - falling asleep on his own! eating ANYTHING! am a HORRIBLE MOTHER! - were (and still are, FINGERS CROSSED) complete snaps with my second. This revelation is So! Freeing! I can hardly stand it.
Anyone else experience this? I need more research for that scientific paper I'm writing for Neurotic Moms Of America magazine. (Motto: "It must be ME.")