I recently met with a young mum. She is a friend of a friend, and I came to know her because she lives not far from me and is at home with her 4 month old son during the day. And, she is not happy.
I headed around there one day to introduce myself and see if she was interested in getting to know another local mum. I didn’t take my kids with me, because, well, I didn’t want to frighten the poor girl. I love my kids but they are loud. And destructive. And somewhat intimidating to some people!
It didn’t take me long talking with her to get the idea that she was miserable. You can just tell when someone isn’t overly thrilled with their life.
She is 25 and her gorgeous son is 4 months old. He is not a great feeder, not a great sleeper. She doesn’t know a lot of people with kids and, quite frankly, she feels like she is failing. Daily. Hourly, even. She is not happy with her son, and she is not happy with her life.
Now, anyone who has suffered from Post Natal Depression is probably nodding at this point and saying, “yup, been there”. And, people who haven’t suffered from PND but had a baby who didn’t sleep, didn’t feed, are probably thinking, “ohhhh yea, know that feeling” as well. Goodness knows I’ve been there. I’ve had moments where I’ve looked at my kids and thought, “just go back to where you came from, strange noisy loud baby”.
As I was walking home after meeting her, it really struck a chord with me that she felt so alone. Yet, there are mothers out there who have been in the same position. A lot of them, in fact.
How great would it be, if new mothers were handed a booklet of reassurance when their baby is born. A booklet that says, “hey – you are actually doing a great job!”.
Because sometimes, that’s what you need to hear. Sometimes, it’s nice to know that you aren’t completely failing.
If I were to write such a booklet, this is what I would include:
- You are not failing your child if you want to have an hour without them. You are not a bad mother for wanting some time away from the baby. I offered to come over one day soon and take the baby for an hour or two, and her face lit up like it was Christmas. Which was great except it was immediately followed by a shy, “No, it’s ok”. Don’t be shy about letting other people hold the baby. Give yourself a break!
- Sometimes babies don’t sleep. And it sucks balls. “They” talk about babies who don’t sleep at night. But people don’t talk about babies who don’t sleep in the day time! Having a baby who sleeps 8 hours at night is all well and good, but if they don’t even have an hour in the day then you, the mother, can’t do anything! Even worse if they are grizzly but just will not sleep. Front packs are handy, unless the baby screams like a banshee while in one. Rocking baby swings are handy, unless your baby screams like a banshee while in one. You are still doing a great job.
- Breastfeeding is hard. Making up bottles at 3 in the morning is hard. Babies are needy and hungry and demanding. It is hard. But stick with what you are doing. And if it really isn’t working, try something else. You haven’t failed your baby. Some people breast feed and it’s awesome. Some people bottle feed and it’s awesome. You are still doing a great job.
- Babies aren’t born as the smiling, laughing characters that you see on tv. They actually don’t do a lot for the first few months, aside from sleep (or, not), feed (or, not), and poop. A lot. But, persevere. Once they hit that 6-8 month mark, they become awesome little people. They laugh, they play peekaboo, they do what babies “should” do. And it is fun. Make the most of it as well, you will miss it when they turn two!
- No one expects you to have a tidy house, a well dressed baby, cooked meals every night and be well presented every day. Gosh, if I achieve even two of these in a day, I pat myself on the back and reward myself with chocolate. And, if people do expect these things of you, tell them to piss off. You are doing a great job.
- Lastly, if you really are feeling like you are sinking, ask for help. No one (NO ONE) is going to look scathingly at you and accuse you of failure. NO ONE. If some kindly (if not a little random) neighbour with three strange children turns up on your doorstep and offers to look after your baby for a morning, take her up on the offer. If someone offers to grab you some milk while they are out, accept the offer. And ask for chocolate too. Anyone who has had kids knows what it feels like, around that four-month-mark. The thrill of a newborn has gone, the sleep deprivation has kicked in, and you are probably starting to miss your “old” life. That’s ok! Get a babysitter (if you can – I know some people don’t have that option!) and get that man of yours to take you out for dinner. And, there are people you can call. Your doctor will listen.
So, if you know a new mother who might be struggling, go and offer them some guidance. They may not take you up on the offer, but they just might. As luck would have it, the week after I met with this woman, my kids got ridiculously unwell with a passing cold so I haven’t been back to follow up on my offer (because I did NOT want to make her baby unwell!), but I will be back. Because I remember being at home, not knowing anyone nearby with small kids, looking at my crying little thing and thinking, “why is it so hard when everyone else seems to find it so easy?”.
And, if you are a new mother – it is hard. Other people don’t find it easy. You are not a failure as a parent. You are doing a great job. You are an awesome mother. You are.