Thursday, September 1, 2016

Oh, The Guilt!

When I was about to become a new parent, I read.  I read the books, the articles, the weekly updates and I will tell you that there are lots of things that these books and articles will tell you from the progress of the baby, what behaviors to expect in the first year, and what to do if you develop PPD. So naturally, I thought I was prepared.  However, one thing I was definitely not prepared for was the guilt.  Holy moly the guilt.  I mean, where did this come from?  Talk about being blindsided!  

I was prepared (or so I thought) for the sleepless nights, the frustrations, the overwhelming and unconditional love.  But I was soooo not prepared for the guilt. I have come to realize that I have felt this out-of-left-field emotion since the first few weeks of my first son being born.  

It started with little things like feeling that I wasn’t engaging my baby enough, or feeling guilty for not taking enough pictures in his first few weeks of life.  Later it turned into feeling guilty that he fell and bumped his head when he was learning to stand. I also felt guilt the first time I raised my voice because he bit me while nursing and it scared him and made him cry.  The list keeps going, and keeps progressing as he gets older.

And then it started to come from different places.  Seeing pictures of others and their kids out having new adventures made me feel guilty that we haven’t taken our child to do something like that.  Seeing artwork proudly displayed by other parents made me feel guilty that I haven’t sat my child down and (somewhat forced) him to make me an art project to hang - P.S., my oldest kind of could care less about art, so that’s how I make myself feel better about that one!  Oh, and of course there are the obvious sources of guilt from the articles and books such as, is he getting enough fruits and veggies? Is his bedtime early enough?  Are we reading to him enough and exposing him to enough (but not too much!)?

Don’t even get me started on the second child guilt...I mean, how do you really make a 3 year old understand that it is not OK for him to bite or pull hair, but then tell him not to be upset at his baby brother who does the same things to him??  I feel so much guilt when I see the confusion in my toddler’s eyes when the baby gets picked up and tickled after he pulls someone's hair, or the dog’s tail, yet he got a stern “NO, we do NOT do that.”  when he did the same thing after getting carried away while playing.  It breaks my heart to think that he thinks he is the one always getting reprimanded.  And as any parent of more than 1 will know, the obvious guilt at this stage comes from trying to divide your time and attention.  Oi…

I often wonder if this type of guilt, sometimes referred to as Mom Guilt (but should just be a generic Parent Guilt) is new or worse for my generation?  Did my mom, and the moms of her generation feel this much guilt?  Or did they just know that they were doing the best they could and following their gut for what felt right for each child? I would like to believe it was the latter.  No parent should have to feel guilty for the way they are raising their child as long as they are doing their best.  So for now, I will take a page from my mom’s book and do my best to parent my kids while showing them my unconditional love.

Thursday, August 18, 2016

The Struggle is Real

Parenting is a struggle.  In so many ways.  Every day there are struggles.  The same struggles, new struggles.  Sometimes it is the tantrums, the millions of questions (hourly), the battle of wills, the messes, the laundry. The list goes on.  But tonight the struggle was different for me.  Tonight my 10 month old baby boy cried every time I put him in his crib.  Normally at night I will nurse him, rock him for a minute or two with his paci in, and lay him down in his crib awake and he will roll around until he puts himself to sleep.  But tonight he needed me.  And it got me thinking about these struggles of parenthood.  

I struggle with wanting my baby to learn to put himself to sleep, vs wanting him to need me. Some nights, I love that he is so comforted by me, and I can just feel his little body relax in my arms as he drifts to sleep.  And on those nights it breaks my heart to feel him tense up, and hear him start to cry when I lay him down.  

My practical side says to follow my routine: rock him for a couple minutes, lay him down with his paci and walk out of the room.  But my sentimental side, my motherly side, says to pick up my baby!  He is crying, it’s out of the norm, he needs me.  

And that train of thought got me thinking about other similar struggles.  My toddler is a talker.  He is non stop talking from the moment he wakes up, until the moment he falls asleep.  And it is everything from questions (why, why, why…) to stories of things he has seen and done, to his “future” plans of being a builder, and tower crane operator and building skyscrapers.  And many days, my husband and I make eye contact across the kitchen, and just give an internal sigh.  When will we get some quiet???  But what will happen when we do get that quiet?  What happens when our babies grow up and we aren’t the ones they want to tell all of their thoughts to?  When we can’t get more than one word answers or grunts from them?  I am pretty positive we will miss these days.  We will miss the constant stories, and the imagination running wild.  We will miss his 3 year old attempts at negotiating dessert, and tv shows and bed times.  We will miss how easily he could make his baby brother laugh and how protective he is of him around other people.  

There are countless things like this in parenting that I try to remind myself of when the struggle threatens to break me.  When I have answered the 300th question by 10am, I try to remember that I am helping him learn his world.  He trusts me with his world and I am his most trusted source.  When he refuses to go play unless I come with him, I try to remember that very soon, there will be a day when I am no longer cool.  When my baby is cranky and teething, I try to remember how easily I can comfort him compared to later in life, when my hugs and kisses will be last on his list.  

So often we struggle with what we should do as parents, vs what we want to do, or what our gut tells us.  And tonight I realized that that is part of the beauty of parenting.  We get to decide what is best for us and our kids at that moment.  Each moment (however repetitive it feels) is unique.  And our reactions to those moments should be the same.