My mother used to say that the most beautiful thing in Life is to have children, to be a mother. So when I found out to be expecting, I was convinced that this experience would be really the most motivating one in my Life. Until I ended up with a screaming baby in my arms, feeling absolutely useless with total sleep deprivation. For months I would say to everyone: people who say that having kids is the most wonderful thing in Life must have had a sh…y life before their kids.
So why is it that my mother loved being a mother and for me it was not so easy to become one.
First of all, it’s important to consider that my mum passed away one month before I got pregnant. I’m still convinced that she – after arriving in Heaven – went to the baby department and sent my son to me, saying ‘if we wait that my daughter decides to make a child, she will die childless…’. So I became pregnant without wanting kids and had to face it without my mother’s help.
Secondly, my mother had to be only a mother and trusted all the others in our village (a little one just to be precise): she had confidence that the pediatrician, the midwife, the nursery school staff, the school teachers and everybody else know their job and know it better than her. So she did what all the other mothers did in the village without questioning. I started my career as a mother in a completely different era: nowadays, mothers are expected and also forced to know everybody else’s job. We have to decide about vaccinations without a degree in medicine, we judge pediatricians and look for those who follow homeopathy, without ever having read a scientific article about the validity of homeopathy. We must go around in the city and evaluate nursery schools, knowing things I studied for my exams in pedagogy, such as differences between a Montessori and a Waldorf school. We are bombed with bio-food and diet charts for all ages, with new and newest reveals in medicine and revolutions (?!) in child carrying, we pay for assistance to purchase a baby sling or a Maitai after throwing out our good old, but ‘cold and impersonal’ baby chair. We are eager to start teaching everything to our children ‘at a very early age’ ergo right after their birth and play with them even by neglecting anything else we should do. Because being a mother means to know more and better than anybody else. This leads to the scary phenomenon that we don’t trust experts any more and decide about things we don’t really know about by following instincts or random advice.
Thirdly, we are judged by everybody. I was surprised when in my preparation course for the delivery I was asked to take my mother or my mother-in-law with me for one of the lessons, since the doctor wanted to address some advice to them. She, a very lovely and prepared Polish pediatrician, wanted to make sure that these elder and highly respected women wouldn’t fool their daughters(-in-law) with old superstitions and beliefs. So she explained that a child with fever should not be covered too much (unlike adults), that eating broth won’t help to have more milk, that if a child cries more does not mean that he/she will have stronger lungs, etc. I understood her initiative after the birth of my son. People must have seen my lack of self-confidence and frustration and kept telling me what I was supposed to do or what I might have done wrong. I mean people on the street I had never met before. So one asked me why I let my son starve, while I was running home with the buggy and my screaming son, another one wanted me to put more clothes on him, while a third one yelled at me that I was about to kill my child with so much clothing… And I got even more desperate. I had difficulties to put my son down into his bed to sleep during the day, he wanted to cuddle the whole day. Then I read a book, where a midwife explained that we had to let our kids cry, go to them regularly and talk to them but we had to insist on leaving them in their bed. I tried and let my son cry for two hours (checking on him every 5 minutes). I could not do this again either to him or to myself and accepted that I had to do everything with one hand until he started walking. But for weeks I heard other mothers saying that I for sure traumatized my son. I felt guilty. But what for?
In the end, whatever we do, there will be a new research or at least some ‘experts’ who will disagree with us. We are judged by everyone – even those who don’t have any kids – and feeling guilty, unprepared or helpless have or will become normal part of our daily set of emotions. Disregard the fact, that we all try to do our best to be good mothers without having any clear or widely accepted guidance. Once I was told that in everything I did, I had to decide about directions, so at least I did something with conviction. When then I understood that things were not working well, I could change direction. But standing in one place hesitating about what to do, where to go and why, won’t help me and can really hurt my kids.
So my message to all new or older mothers is: trust yourself. When we don’t follow our dictator brain, we follow our deep and silent instincts and do what our mothers did. So the worst thing that can happen, that our children become like we are. If we can make it a bit better, we did a great job. The magic word is ‘relax‘: you cannot know everything and you don’t have to. You can trust your pediatrician, give them and yourself time to see if they care enough for their job and your child. Ignore the people on the street and just smile whenever people want to give you their advice. You are in charge and if you make anything wrong, you will have to fix it. Have your opinion, but don’t stress about reading all articles. Believe me, no child has ever died because got non-bio fruit for snack or was taken out for a walk in the summer without a hat. Being immaculately clean is a new way of seeing kids, in my village people still think that a happy child is dirty, because he/she has been playing all day outside. Children survived for centuries in much worse conditions, without vitamins and even without their parents’ support. So you cannot make such horrifying mistakes.
A happy, healthy and balanced child needs more than anything a happy, healthy and balanced mother. To become and remain one is your main job. Work on this, before you read any new posts about palm oil or a baby seat for cars.