For the last few months (well really since my daughter was born) I’ve been trying to decide whether or not to have another baby. We’re so blessed with our girl and feel very contented but there is something niggling in the back of my mind that one more child would complete our family. To be honest, I change my mind from one week to the next and I find the subject pretty stressful.
I have analysed (I over analyse A LOT) every aspect of the effects of our decision, from the financial to the practical. Part of my analysis (much to the dismay of my family and friends) involves asking other people their opinion about what we should do, I call this processing.
I asked somebody I love what he thought I should do and his response at the time upset me. He seemed shocked that I was even thinking about having another baby as I didn’t seem to enjoy motherhood all that much. He compared me to my sister, who he thought seemed much more comfortable being a Mum. I didn’t blame him for how I felt, I knew it was an observation and not a criticism, rather I tried to figure out how he could have reached this conclusion. I thought it was obvious that having my daughter had changed everything about my life for the better, she gave my life meaning.
I thought about this on and off for a week before I realised how he’d reached his conclusion. Like I said before, I analyse a lot, and I involve other people in this form of processing all the time. Ever since I found out I was pregnant I wanted to get it “right.” I wanted to be the perfect Mum in order to give my little angel the best start in life. This meant that I read everything I could get my hands on about being pregnant and raising a child. I am quite obsessive and it consumed me. So whilst I was pregnant I was a picture of health, I ate good food, continued to exercise, meditated, I even listened to Mozart as I’d read that this would make my baby more intelligent. The first thing I bought for her was Muzzy, a DVD collection that would teach her to speak another language (she was the size of a shrimp in my stomach).
When Grace came along I loved her immediately (of course) and took to motherhood instantly. And I continued to try to “get it right.” From birth she was enrolled in baby gymnastics, music classes, swimming lessons and every day was filled with these activities or soft play or playtime at the park. Don’t get me wrong, I wasn’t after the perfect child, I wasn’t about to start entering her into princess pageants or listing her with modelling agencies, the emphasis was on me to be as good a Mum for her as I could be. I was adamant that she’d have the best start in life I could give her and for me that meant keeping her engaged and active.
Of course things didn’t go as smoothly as I planned. She wasn’t born into a routine as I’d hoped, she didn’t sleep through the night until she was three, she was fussy because she teethed, she wanted to eat chocolate rather than vegetables, she didn’t always want to be sociable, she wet (and pooped) herself constantly for a year, she went through a stage of smacking other children, basically, she was a toddler. Of course me being me, I struggled with this lack of perfection and the way I dealt with this was to second guess myself constantly. What was I doing wrong? How could I get it right? And of course I expressed my concerns and frustrations to those close to me (every single one of them), hoping that they might have all of the answers. I can imagine that it must get a little tedious, but still, I can’t help myself.
So when I was told it didn’t look like I was enjoying motherhood all that much, I realised why. Me processing all of the things that I am worried about must sound like I am constantly moaning. The thing is, when I am talking about Grace wetting herself or not sleeping through the night or her having a tantrum, it’s not her that I’m angry with. I’m angry with myself. Why can’t I get it right? Every time something doesn’t go to plan it’s not her I blame, it’s myself, I feel like I am failing her all the time. When it sounds like I’m moaning because I don’t care to be a Mum, it’s actually the case that I care too much. Don’t get me wrong, I’m not looking for sympathy, I am well aware that a mother’s guilt is common place. But I know that at this age a child’s mind is ripe for learning and I feel a lot of pressure to get it right. The last thing I want to do is plant a negative seed which will have an undesired effect later on in life (dramatic I know). So every time I make a mistake, every raised voice, every time I give in to her, every time I let the TV do the babysitting, I feel like a failure and I criticise myself.
So I suppose if I’m honest, when I am processing my concerns with those close to me, part of me is looking for reassurance that I am doing OK.
I think what I’ve realised from this is that, actually I am doing OK because from the moment she was born, everything I have done is for her; pretty much every thought I have is how I can do the best by her. I have tried my best and I continue to do so. I have also learnt that perhaps I need to try to chill out just a little bit (or even a lot). I’m bound to make mistakes, such is life. To compare myself to others is pointless; we all have different ideas about what constitutes a good upbringing and ultimately, if we’re being compared, usually somebody comes out unfavourably. And I’m sure most Mum’s will agree with me that we don’t need that; because we’re hard enough on ourselves.