I think I might have mentioned in a previous post that before I had my daughter, I had no idea what sort of mother I wanted to be, or indeed whether I was going to be any good at it.
I’ve always felt that I was at a bit of a disadvantage in the ‘motherly instincts’ department. For one thing I used to make babies cry. Where I grew up in France, I used to go to a church where they had a crèche during the service. I knew from a very young age that it was not a good place for me to be. Babies used to take one look at me and their little faces would collapse. I always thought babies and young children looked suspiciously like they knew far more about the world that they let on, and I never knew how to be around them or what to say to them. My younger sister on the other hand was and is a natural. Young children would run to her from across the room with trust shining in their eyes and great big smiles on their faces and she was like a second mother to them. I don’t know how she did it but part of me started to believe that I would never generate this kind of reaction in a child. It just wasn’t me. I was probably not made for it and I would make a terribly cold mother.
I also felt that I would likely fail at mothering because I hate housework. I thought that to be a good mother, you have to desire and enjoy keeping a home and have good china for the special guests. But the truth is that I am not particularly house-proud. I like a house to look lived in and I cannot abide anything to do with cleaning the place. I will do it but it is the worst kind of chore to me. I am not tidy, I do not like ironing clothes and I despise dusting, hoovering and cleaning. And the fact that I hate every moment I spend cleaning led me to believe that I was not cut out to be a mother. When your model is Marmee from Little Women, Laura Ingalls Wilder’s mum and the 50s American sitcom woman, you can start to develop wrong ideas about what it means to be a mother.
Thankfully none of it has turned out to be a factor in my ability to be a good mum. Little Girl is not aware that her mother used to strike fear in little babies’ hearts, which is a bonus. But having her has highlighted the fact that I am inherently lazy. I don’t want to be lazy, but I am. Being active does not come naturally to me and I have to work at it on a daily basis, especially now that I am responsible for a little one. I would describe myself as a person who likes to ‘be’ as opposed to one who likes to ‘do’. I don’t believe that there is anything wrong with either state but add a drop of laziness to the mix and you may have yourself a problem. Now with a baby to educate, I cannot afford to spend the whole day sitting around drinking cups of tea and watching DVDs
like I did in my last month of pregnancy.
My practices as a mother are shaped by who I am, warts and all so I am increasingly aware that as my baby gets older, I will have to be more and more intentional with her parenting. I cannot just hope that she will be OK. I am responsible for shaping her early life and giving her a good start. In my professional life, I am not lazy. I am a good worker and I even clean the work fridge… So for me to beat the laziness in my personal life I know that I need to plan the education of my child like I would a work project. But I still want to enjoy it. I do not want it to become a chore. That said it is early days in our parenting journey and I haven’t yet sat down to put my thoughts for the future in order but here are some things I do at the moment to make my life easier and help me enjoy myself.
- Feeding a person: Breastfeeding was tough at the beginning but after a horrendous few weeks we suddenly got it and it has enabled me to relax and see these times as bonding times rather than a ‘thing’ that must be done. Most importantly, I cannot force my baby to eat if she doesn’t want to. She gets to decide when to stop. Sometimes it’s 2 minutes, sometimes it’s 10 but it is always her decision. Choosing to do self-feeding with solids is an extension of this idea that feeding times do not need to be stressful for either of us. I was getting anxious at the thought of doing separate meals for her and forcing purées into her mouth. Thankfully there will be no need for this, if her scoffing down lasagne last week was anything to go by.
- Sleep is of the essence: Co-sleeping is part of the attachment parenting ethos. I didn’t set out to do this but it has worked for us and made me a much happier mum. At six and a half months, Little Girl still has her side-cot, although sadly she is starting to outgrow it and we will be moving her to her nursery during the half-term holidays next week. The benefits for us have been: better bonding, easier for breastfeeding, less noisy sleep for her and much better rest for me. And she is able to fall asleep on her own in the evenings, despite advice I was given that it would be difficult because she would be too used to have me near.
- Security: After a traumatic birth, I wanted to make sure that my baby felt as secure as possible. Co-sleeping is part of this. I also make sure that breastfeeding is a relaxed and quiet time, and that I do give her some attention; Little Girl likes to hold my hand when she is eating. Changing time is also a time of interaction, especially with the extra wriggling these days! I sing to her and give her a little massage, sometimes just hands or feet. I hope that having safe places in her home life will instill in her the confidence to be adventurous when out in the world.
- A loose routine is better than no routine: I didn’t like the idea of pushing a routine on her so I really just follow Little Girl’s lead on this one. And she has got one, it just isn’t quite like clockwork. I try to listen to her rhythms and facilitate them as much as possible.
- Time for me: I enjoy motherhood, I really really do. And if our family can afford it, I want to continue to do it full-time until Little Girl starts pre-school. But I don’t want all of my time to become Little Girl’s time. How can I teach her patience if I am always available right now? I need me-time. For me, it has been starting to blog in earnest and discovering new communities online. My life is being enlarged from reading other people’s ideas and their beautiful writing. It is easier to live your life in a bubble full of the ideas and beliefs of your own tiny sub-culture than to have it scrape against someone’s Other experience and be challenged. I have much to lose in doing so, but also much more to gain.
This post is part of the Practices of Parenting Carnival hosted by Sarah Bessey on her blog, where you can find more parenting stories from other bloggers.