Jenson is nearly 19 months old and I’ve already lost count of how many times I’ve felt the dreaded #mumguilt. And you know what I just realised? Most of the time it’s been brought on by other people’s opinions rather than how I feel about my own parenting skills. And this needs to stop.
I want to take a minute to add a little footnote: as parents we all feel this guilt – whether we’re a mother or father, biological or otherwise. But I’m using the term mum guilt for SEO purposes #sorrynotsorry
The mum guilt started before I even gave birth. From the moment you see that positive pregnancy test, you become a mother. Everything in your life from then on is centred around the little person growing inside you. And everyone has an opinion – the worst ones are usually from people who have never had the (dis)pleasure of being pregnant.
I struggled with morning sickness. Not Kate Middleton style but it was rough. On the days when I’d throw up before work and embark on an hour and a half commute, I’d treat myself to a mini cooked breakfast before heading into the office. The joy of being able to eat at your desk! But the amount of comments I had over the space of the five months people knew I was working while pregnant… I had cravings for lemon cake and salt and vinegar crisps, so you can imagine the comments. Especially when I didn’t share.
Antenatal classes were a minefield. The focus was very much on ‘breast is best’ and we were shown the various contraptions used in assisted delivery – but no one ever talked through what happens if you need (or request) a cesarean. Methinks they were in favour of a ‘natural’ delivery.
If you’ve read my birth story posts (yep, posts, not post. I go on a bit…), you’ll know that I had to have an emergency cesarean. Jenson went back to back last minute, he wasn’t shifting and he was distressed. I read an article the other day that said that women are evolving to have narrower pelvises and more women are needing cesareans. Whereas in the past women who struggled during labour would have died, along with their child, cesareans have meant that they survive childbirth and pass these ‘defective’ genes onto their daughters, and so on. For a long time I didn’t really think about the fact that without that cesarean me and Jenson could both have died.
And while I’m on the topic of natural births, if you manage to sail through labour without so much as a whiff of laughing gas, good on ya. But if you’re on your hands and knees begging for an epidural, that’s cool too. I was so relieved when I finally got mine. Isn’t the whole point of labour to get your baby out safely? Who gives a rat’s ass how it happens? Actually, I kinda do cos I find birth stories fascinating, but I won’t judge your decisions.
Now for everyone’s favourite debate: breastfeeding vs formula feeding. I still don’t get why this is such an issue, even though it’s something I beat myself up over for a while. I had planned to breastfeed Jenson for the first six months. It’s the most natural thing in the world, it’s cheaper than bottle/formula and it’s on tap. Easy peasy. Plus, in my antenatal classes, we were told that everyone was able to breastfeed – some people just need more support than others. Great! Of course, as you know from my early Jenson posts, I couldn’t breastfeed. Jenson wasn’t getting enough colostrum in the first couple of days, he was jaundiced (not sure if it’s related?) and he nearly had to be tube fed before I made the decision to switch to formula. When Luke turned up for visiting hours I was a wreck, agonising over the decision, but he made me realise that it didn’t matter how Jenson was fed, as long as he was fed. We were both formula fed and turned out fine, thanks very much! It’s worth noting that I think a large part of my/our problem was due to the trauma of the delivery – for both of us.
I’m all for normalising breastfeeding and women feeling comfortable feeding their child in a public place but I feel like we’ve actually ended up going the other way. Women who choose to formula feed, for whatever reason, are having to defend their actions to breastfeeders who harp on about the sacrifices they make – not drinking, not eating certain foods, being constantly tied to your baby, having to do all the feeds yourself, etc.
I think what we should be doing as parents is supporting each other, not putting each other down, making passive-aggressive comments and judging. We should be praising each other (and ourselves) for raising happy, healthy children, however we decide to do that. Whether we use dummies, bottles, disposable nappies, bubble bath, pushchairs, baby carriers, water wipes, reusable nappies… all that matters is that we’ve managed to get through another day with everyone still in one piece. Because we all make sacrifices as parents – parenting is fucking hard!
So here are a few things I’m not going to feel guilty/defend my decisions about anymore:
- Eating a lot of cake during pregnancy
- Formula feeding
- Starting co-sleeping at 17 months old
- Spoon feeding Jenson his evening meal
- Using dummies
- Taking Jenson out of nursery when he wouldn’t settle
I’m still going to feel a little bit guilty about working part-time but that’s on me – I would spend every waking second with that gorgeous kid if I could!
Are you a parent? What are you done feeling guilty about?