We all worry about the same things when raising our babies. Are we giving them the right foods, the right toys, the right social interaction? Are we introducing things too early, or leaving them too late? In hindsight, each decision seems well thought out and correct, if not immediately then eventually, (have you ever seen an adult worrying if his life problems are due to which playmat he had?) and yet at the time, we agonise and ask questions to anyone and everyone who has an opinion, and work ourselves into a state if we cant do our ideal response to any given situation.
When my son was tiny, I had a morning routine. Morning was whenever he woke up, which was obviously a different time each day. I would look at my watch, and begin counting. I’m going to give him his first bottle now, so in order to fit all 5 in today, I will feed again at 10.30, and then every 4 hours and 45 minutes until bed time. Some mornings were really stressful. Oh no, he’s slept until 8.30.. How am I going to fit all the bottles in? Yes, you heard that correctly, I said “Oh no. He’s slept until 8.30.” I apologize. But the most important thing to me was getting the full oz of milk into him. There were days when I fed him every 3 hours, and other days when I left nearly 6 hours between feeds. I wouldnt have dreamt of simply leaving out one feed that day, or making the others bigger or smaller. It was all about the maths, with the handy guide on the side of the Aptimil carton as my friend.
Looking back now, I think I’m pretty crazy. But I dont give myself too hard a time, as I watch so many other mums do the exact same thing when it comes to their children and routine. It might not be milk, but most mums have their own share of craziness in one way or another. If she sleeps now, and then we’re going out later, she might fall asleep in the car, and then will she sleep tonight? If he eats that, it’s only an hour until lunch, and then he might not eat enough of his proper food, and he’ll get hungry mid afternoon.
We’re all a little crazy. As I scan the motherhood forums and see the same questions coming up again and again, tips for weaning, when should I drop the afternoon bottle, what kind of toys are right for a 6 month old.. I think our kids may be the luckiest and unluckiest generation ever. Many of us complain that our parents generation don’t understand what it’s like to be parents nowadays, and they would be right. But a lot of that is because we have unnecessary choice and access to opinion. Our parents are about to start weaning us, maybe they ask their own parents, at a stretch the local doctor or a close friend. But the excess ofnew companies and books, let alone the faceless crowd of opinion on the internet, was simply not available (or frankly needed) thirty years ago.
I’m not saying that it’s entirely unwelcome, after all, knowing more means that syndromes such as cot death has been more than halved, and behavioural and social issues are rarely ignored, in comparion to decades past. However, we also have more serious allergies in younger children than ever before, which many put down to our obsessive cleanliness and hygeine guidelines. There are also so many of us walking around feeling like we’re not doing it right. Maybe I’m wrong, but this is not an issue our grandparents had. Self esteem as parents was most likely not even thought of, wheras now, we are constantly comparing ourselves, not only to our friends, but to people we don’t even know on the television and the internet. A new revolution in reality TV is basically entitled “Terrible parenting that makes you feel better about yourself.” Whether it contains ‘problem teens’ or ‘kids running riot’ or even sending your kids abroad to get a week with “stricter” aka “better” parents, the genre has become a phenomenon.
I wonder if we need any of it? Our parents all managed to get to adulthood eating, sleeping, drinking the right amount of milk, without seventeen different opinions about which teat they used. The same goes for us. I’m sure our parents and grandparents still had the same questions and craziness, it seems to arrive with the baby in the hospital, but without the plethora of opinions and people to ask, they just made a choice and got on with it.
I guess I’m saying, whatever decision you make, your baby will be fine. And if we didnt have all these other people to ask, we’d probably make quite a quick decision. But we have too much choice.
Of course, none of this stops me from checking mumsnet to see if anyone’s got more advice on what R should be sleeping in tonight. (Well…. the room is currently 24, but it’s only 2 degrees outside, and I’m not sure if he needs a long or short sleeve vest….)