As I enter my third trimester I have been reflecting on my approach to motherhood and the things I have learned or used as a guide during the last two years. They are certainly not rules, as admittedly I am not always consistent with following them but they have definitely helped me on my journey.
1. I don’t care about being judged.
It’s sounds a little arrogant – especially when half the time I feel like I have no idea what I’m doing. The reality is I was once one of those childless adults who looked at mothers analyzing what they should or shouldn’t be doing without ever actually knowing what it’s like. Now that I am a Mum the most empowering thing that I can do is trust myself. No one knows my child like me. No one knows me like me. The advice givers don’t know my child’s temperament or mine, if he or I are tired, hungry, sick, what research we have done or who I have sought advice from. It’s easier as your kids get older, I remember what its like with a newborn as you feel far less empowered, confident or skilled and feel like your drowning in anxiety, fatigue and judgement.
Sure I still have moments like last week when my 18 month old threw a tantrum in the café and I felt every eye upon me as I chose to ignore his behaviour. In the moment I cared. I would have loved to spend half an hour telling the spectators why I had the approach I did - but why should I waste my time? Instead I rallied and continued my method (and later cried in the café bathroom that we would never go out in public again!). So yes, I have those infrequent times when I care, but 90% of the time I at least try not to!
2. I don’t take advice – I consider it.
I have no problem with advice or hearing about others experience. I ask other people if they breast-fed or bottle-fed, or when they went back to work, not because I care about their choice, but because I did all these things and like to hear how others managed it. I have friends who are more experienced parents than I, who I bombard with questions like “what did you do when..? How did you manage…?” but I don’t feel the pressure to take the advice. Again in reference to my previous point – I am empowered. I am the expert on my own situation and can respectfully decide if I will/will not use the advice given.
|The arrival home from hospital with our newborn|
3. I don't compare myself to other mums.
Sure, Roo will be 20 before he ever tastes soft drink (I can dream) but should it bother me if other Mums let their child have something other than water? No. Again – we are not the experts on another’s life. By making a judgement you are assuming you know everything about that persons situation as if you’re a greater expert on their life. If I waste energy thinking how great I am because my child doesn’t know what ice-cream is, I will also soon commence thinking how terrible I am because I didn’t read a book today or relied on the TV to entertain while I got ready for work. I believe the reliance on social comparison to boost your own esteem or feelings of togetherness can also create the problem of making you think you’re the worst Mum in the world. The reality is I need to focus my time caring about my own child. How can I have the time for that if I am busy caring what others do? I have also found that this goes back to my first point about being judged - the more you care what others are doing, the more you will probably feel like others are judging you.
4. Ask WWJD- What would Joe do?
When I was a kid growing up we learnt a tag line at church – WWJD “What would Jesus do?” But as a parent I DON’T ask “what would Jesus do”. I ask “What would Joe do?”. Joe – being Joe Blow, the typical average man. In short – it’s usually what Joe wouldn’t do – and therefore I must also NOT do!
As a Mum I have no intention of being an “enabler” as I call it. If I do all of the household work or parenting I will enable by husband to get out of doing it. So before I do a job I ask myself “What would Joe (or insert partners name) do? Would they do that? If not, why do I feel the need? Yes, I cooked dinner, made the bed and did a load of washing (all while my husband was home). Why should I also do the dishes, vacuum the floor, wipe the benches and empty the bin? Will the dishes sit there for 3 days? Of course. Will I hate the feeling of food crumbs stuck to the bottom of my socks? Will I keep squashing more and more rubbish into the already over full bin? Will I feel slightly (ok, majorly!!) anxious when someone visits the house? Yes, Yes, Yes! But if I keep on doing it I enable ‘Joe’s’ behaviour to continue. What would Joe do? Nothing? Well me too!
The same goes for parenting – If you always pack the nappy bag how will you partner know what is needed when he has the kids? Everything about parenting is learned. If you don’t allow your partner to do things how will they learn? Once I arrived at my in-laws to collect Roo and found he had no pants on and there were towels all over the floor – The Captain had dropped him off without packing nappies in the nappy bag! Will I double check the nappy bag next time he has drop off? Nope!
|Roos first birthday|
5. Put yourself first and avoid guilt
I know everyone says to put your child first but I try my best to put me first. My Mum told me “What’s best for Mum is best for Bub” at the time I think she was talking about feeding methods for a newborn but she has kept the themed lesson throughout my motherhood journey in relation to taking time for myself.
When Roo was born one of the first things I did was volunteer at a local museum on the weekends. It meant my husband was alone with a new baby – something that I was used to doing while he was at work. It gave me freedom and mental stimulation and my husband a chance to build the skills I had been learning. I also returned to work not long after Roo was one. This ties in with my point above WWJD. My husband makes plans all the time and just assumes after he makes them that we will work out the details later. Yet at first I never made plans without first working out who would be home with Roo.
But if I put me first, I find if I am rested, have my own time and am a better person/mum. Early on in my motherhood journey I really lost my identity. I think this is because I had stopped doing the things that were about me such as work, social life, hobbies. Now I am doing all those things again my sense of identity beyond motherhood has returned and I don’t plan on losing it again.
It’s difficult, I feel guilt occasionally (or feel guilty for not feeling guilty) especially when you will receive questions that your partner never will. I doubt anyone asks him where Roo is while he is at work or when he goes out in the evening, but these are the questions I receive whenever I am out alone, be it work, social, coffee etc. No doubt I will struggle once I have a newborn again, but it will continue to be my aim.
Do you have a similar approach? Or is there something you think I should add? I would love to hear your thoughts!!