Talking to a good friend of mine who has recently become a mother for the first time, brought a lot of memories of my experience as a newbie to the whole motherhood and parenting world, reminding me that when you are a new parent, things do get blurry and it’s hard to see the line of sanity sometimes.
As a new parent, for a good portion of the first six to eight months of my baby’s life I tortured myself with questions that are on every parents’ mind, Am I doing a good job? Am I a good mum? Is my baby happy?
We all worry
With all the joys and all the wonderful feelings that arise within us with the arrival of the new bundle of joy, come the unmissable and unavoidable tiredness, which often lead to total mental and physical exhaustion. It is inevitable, that at some point most parents, with the help around them or without, would go through these emotions to some degree.
It’s bad enough that I’m an over-thinker, but after I became a mother for the first time, I was driving myself insane constantly second-guessing my every move, plus I suffered from low self-esteem and constantly nagging self-doubt. All of this mixed up with creeping anxiety and inability to voice any of my concerns due to fear and worry of being deemed weak, I basically went through a cocktail of mental and physical challenges, and often felt like I was consumed by a tornado of confusion and inner fears.
Now imagine all this and the most painful question, Am I a good mum? Obviously, when you go through all this it is so hard to see a true and honest picture clearly. All you see, just like I did, is that gloomy and full of doubt and fear picture that your brain draws according to that particular state of mind. Needless to say, it wasn’t a nice picture.
It was a lengthy phase of the so-called parenting learning curve for me but I went through it and it is now a memory. A memory that has taught me a lot about being a parent and myself. All of this had, in turn, encouraged me to start my blog and share my honest stories with all other parents, because talking about these kinds of challenges helps. It helps to open up a different perspective and shine a bit more light onto what can be a very dark place. In addition, it helps to know that you are not alone and that there’s nothing wrong with what you are feeling or going through.
It was my friend who confided in me that has reminded me of how it felt when I was in her shoes.
Am I a good parent? Is my baby happy?
How can you measure if you are a good parent when your baby is only little.
Some say, well when they grow up and you see what kind of person they’ve become, you’d then see if you’ve done a good job.
Okay, but how about now!?
Yes, the most common and let’s be fair honest and the best way we are often advised is to acknowledge that your baby is happy, healthy, dressed and fed! Yes, I completely agree.
But let’s be honest, us parents need a further, deeper, more personal answer.
So, I did something that really helped me answer this question in my head. It might be silly but it worked for silly me!
I counted my boy’s smiles! Yes, I did!
One day, I was having a particularly hard day, I didn’t sleep for five nights in a row, my boy was up every 20 min and breastfeeding was literally sucking the last of my energy. That day, my mind was in the state of defence and I was drowning in the thoughts of me not coping and me not adjusting to motherhood well and me not being a good mum, the list was endless.
Then I looked at my boy and he was peacefully smiling at me.
I thought, that it was the first smile of the day and it felt so good deep inside to see that smile! That day I carried on counting his smiles. My baby was only three months old and I didn’t realise just how many times a day he was smiling! Trust me, if you try and count how many times a day your baby smiles it’ll be the most wonderful surprise to you as I bet you anything it’s a lot more than you think!
You baby’s smile
From that day, whenever I feel like I’m not doing a good job I count my son’s smiles! I don’t compare my counts, I just take each day as it comes! I won’t specify the numbers here either as I don’t want it to be a competition, or comparison or set a bar because, to be honest, there’s no right or wrong, high or low number!
There’s A number and even if the number is One, guess what…your baby had a reason for that One but Very Precious smile, and believe me, the reason is You!
Do you know why? Because if you try and break it down to chemicals this analogy, just like me, you may look at it from the following point of view:
Your baby smiles after a massive poo…you think you are not the reason for this nasty and stinky surprise and follow up a smile? You are wrong! Guess who fed that baby to enable him to produce that mushy nastiness?! YOU!
And everything and anything that your baby does or goes through is because of you and what you do for them or because you’ve taught them and you have cared for them!
Today my boy is fifteen months old and I still have days when I count his smiles!
Sometimes I lose count, as mama’s brain is a wonderful tool which can easily lose track of time or things and often fails to remember numbers but guess what I still count and I love it!
Silly or not, it works for me! It helps me to put my wandering mind at ease as I know for as long as my child smiles and I recognise this honest happiness that he experiences, I am a good parent and it’s ok to feel down sometimes, to be ready to explode from frustration, think about pulling your own hair, scream from the top of your lungs and suffer a voice loss afterwards, or wish to escape to an inhabited island, lock yourself in the toilet in a search of a moment of peace and quiet! It’s perfectly fine and normal! That doesn’t make you a bad parent that makes you human!
Remember children can’t fake their feelings, so each smile is a genuine and honest expression of what’s in their little hearts and its happiness! All because of you!