One of the things I have found hardest since having Theo is making decisions as a parent. Once the doctor and midwives knew that Theo and I were both okay, immediately after birth, the decision making began.
Vitamin K injected immediately into his foot, or drops to take away and give him at home? Breastfeeding, even if you’re finding it really hard, or formula? Do you feed on demand or start a routine? Which routine? How much stimulation is enough for a few weeks’ old baby? How much sleep should they be getting? Should they be in the bed with you? When should the baby move into their own bed? When should they move out of your room? What toys should they play with? Will he develop allergies if you don’t let him get covered in mud whenever you go out? Is he old enough yet to go on a swing? If we swing him in the air by holding both hands, will his arms pop out of their sockets? Purees or baby-led? Nursery or childminder? Is my child going to have a lifetime fear of monkeys because I watched The Wizard of Oz with him over Christmas? Is there salt in that!?
I was reading something at the weekend which was referring to judgemental parents. Whenever you are in a group of parents, and you talk about what you’re doing, you will more likely than not get an ‘Oh, you’re doing it THAT way. Oh, interesting. No, we didn’t do that’ comment. And all the doubts you had about the decision in the first place will come to the surface. Shit. Maybe we SHOULD have just done purees. Maybe a childminder WOULD have been a more caring environment for him to spend his days in. Maybe I should have taken the full year off.
And the thing is, nine times out of ten, I don’t think those supposedly judgemental comments are meant to be critical at all. They still feel that way, because I’m never that sure about anything we are doing. I try to brazen it out, but even decisions I thought I was completely confident with waiver in the face of another mum saying ‘Oh really? Yeah, we definitely couldn’t have gone down that route’. WHY NOT? I have to remember that the chances are, those parents aren’t that sure either – they didn’t do things the same way and they’re probably asking the same questions in their head about their decisions as you are.
You can do as much research as you like, but advice online and in books is so completely contradictory, and people have hugely varied views on what the right way is to do something. I read up loads, and decided not to be an attachment parent, not to feed on demand, not to have the TV on too much when Theo’s awake (apart from The Wizard of Oz) (and The Sound of Music), to do baby-led weaning, to go back to work, to put him in nursery. Some people will definitely think I have been doing things the wrong way. Will I do things differently if we have another child? I genuinely have no idea. Theo’s a pretty awesome baby, but would he be more or less cool if we’d done things differently?
I think after a year of parenting, I have finally figured out the truth: no one knows what the hell they’re doing when it comes to raising kids. Everyone is just bodging it and hoping things work out ok. You look at people on Instagram and think ‘Gosh, they’ve got it all sorted, what a perfect family life’ and then you chat to them and they’re in exactly the same boat – winging it.
This discovery does not make me happy. I want there to be a right way to do things. Then someone can tell me what the best thing is to do, and I’ll just do that. As it is, I’ll just have to carry on fudging things and keeping my fingers crossed. Next on the list: Should I stop breastfeeding Theo in the mornings? When? Now? In 6 months? Is he eating enough during the day? Should I be changing his schedule now that he’s only taking one nap most days? Should I be leaving him if he wakes up in the night, or is it better to go in and give him a cuddle? If I give him a cuddle, am I ruining his ability to get back to sleep on his own? If I leave him to cry, am I going to make him think that he isn’t loved? The list is never-ending – tiny, potentially consequential things that I literally don’t know what to do about. I try to just follow my gut and remember that the main thing is that he is always in a loving environment (which he definitely is), but still. It all makes me feel kind of anxious.
Are you a parent? Do you know what you’re doing? HELP ME MAKE ALL THE DECISIONS, then.