Moms, we are in a crisis. We are losing our confidence. And who can blame us? Everywhere we turn – books, TV, blogs, social media, random people at the grocery store – we are being told we need to do our “job” better. We need to parent differently. Sometimes the message we hear is: We just aren’t good enough.
And in this wave of information and oversharing, it can be easy to get lost in a sea of doubt and stop trusting our own instincts.
I still remember the day like it was yesterday. I had finally gathered the strength to venture to the mall with my one-month old son — my firstborn — an infant who cried all the time (at least that’s what it felt like!)
I went to the mall to shake off some of the new parent boredom and loneliness. I was feeling isolated, craving some adult interaction, and had a strong urge to buy something from a brick-and-mortar store instead of online.
So I did it. I grabbed my crying one-month old and headed out shopping. And as I had feared, the second I placed my son into his stroller, he started screaming.
And to be clear, this was not just any scream. We are talking a high-pitched, full-body wail, never-ending-except-to-pause-to-gather-a-deep-jagged-breath kind of scream. I almost turned around and got back in the car. But the voice in my head said: You’ve come this far, baby. Don’t let this ruin our day.
We went inside the mall, and everyone stared at me. I imagined them all thinking: Who IS this homeless-appearing woman, pushing her poor, miserable baby around?
And that’s when the unsolicited feedback began.
Moms appeared out of thin air, rushing over to tell me all about why my baby, whom they had never met, was crying. “Oh, he must be hungry, dear, have you not fed him recently?” and, “Why he sounds exhausted, poor thing.” and “Why are you dragging him out to the mall during his nap time?” and “Are you sure you burped him long enough?”
And on and on and on.
And what I wish I knew then, that I so much more clearly grasp now, is that I should have told those well-intended women to back off. I should have told them to mind their own business and leave me alone so I could go buy something (anything!), grab some expensive Nordstrom’s coffee, and head back home, exhausted and frazzled but at least able to say that I did something that day.
But I was a new mom.
I didn’t trust myself as a parent yet. I didn’t have confidence in what my baby needed. The only “trick” I knew to stop the crying was to drive him around and around in the car — which you can only do for so long without falling asleep at the wheel.
But did I tell that to those women? Did I explain to them that I had already fed, cleaned, bathed, and burped him, and that he hated the carrier, otherwise I’d be attachment-parenting him every minute?
I wish I had. Instead, I heard those women’s words through frustrated and desperate ears. I interpreted their words as a personal reflection of my parenting — that I was clueless, a bad mom, someone who knew nothing about her own child.
I doubted myself.
In fact, self-doubt was a pretty prevalent feeling for me those first few months. Colicky, refluxing babies can shake your confidence to the core. They can force you to question everything you thought you knew, magnify the parts you really don’t understand, and then drive you to tears with their incessant crying.
But that’s not really what this post is all about.
I share this story with you as a mom who has been there — a mom who wants to remind you to trust yourself, to trust your instincts. Even when you feel like you have NO IDEA what you are doing.
Your child doesn’t know you are clueless. And more importantly, they don’t care. You carried that baby around with you for nine long months. That baby knows you intimately, your heartbeat, the rhythm of your breathing, your scent. Those are the things that are most comforting to them.
Sure, they need to eat, burp, poop and pee. However, the feeling of safety and security is the greatest thing you can provide for your child. And as mothers, we know inherently how to do that, we just have to listen to ourselves. Yes, we can hear others’ suggestions, but if it doesn’t fit or feel right, trust your gut.
So to all you moms out there that are struggling with a colicky newborn, an enraging toddler, or a sullen teen, I raise my (virtual) glass to you.
Even on your worst day, when you feel lost and full of doubt, have faith in yourself, and do what you do best: Hold them. Comfort them. Love them. And most importantly, trust your instincts.