Being a parent is riddled with guilt. Of course, I am not saying anything new here. It has been said a million times before, but I guess this guilt is triggered by different factors in different families. The most frustrating ones are the guilts you feel whichever way you approach the situation. It seems, sometimes you just can’t win. Here’s what ties the knot of guilt on my stomach.
The number one has to be childcare arrangements and the amount of time I spend with Little F. After my maternity leave – I took a full year – Daddy stopped working to look after Little F, while I returned to my job. Daddy works for himself, so once Little F has settled, Daddy started to take on some work. Gradually his parents started looking after Little F more and more. It’s all well and lovely and Little F has always been looked after by close family. I felt good about this.
Until I spoke with a couple of my colleagues, who were pregnant at exactly the same time (there’s no more than 3 weeks between our boys). They are both German and did not have an option of grandparents looking after their kids. Both their kids went to the nursery at 6 months. Initially it was tearful, but now at 18 months they both love it and can’t wait to go in every morning. Mums are happy with the arrangements as well, since their kids get to interact with lots of children, do crafts most days and part-take in messy play.
It made me feel bad that I may be restricting Little F’s potential by having him stay with grandparents, who rarely take him out to the park or play-groups. He is their 5th grandchild and though they love him – I can see the bond strengthening everyday on both sides – they do approach looking after him in a relaxed ‘been there, done that fashion’. And they like to have the TV on all day, even during meal times.
I have been feeling bad about the nursery vs grandparents question and the result is that I have quit my job to become a full-time SAHM (and blogger). I did not want to pay a large proportion of my salary to give Little F a stimulating environment, neither did I want him to lovingly stagnate with the grandparents. The final decision was helped by our recent holiday in Mallorca, where I realised how much we both missed each other with Little F, and how much I have missed already in 6 months of working full time. I want to spend time with my little boy and help him discover this intriguing new world.
So I no longer have to feel guilty about not sending Little F to the nursery, or equally sending him, and I also don’t have to worry about not enough stimulation being provided by the grandparents. I’ve opened a whole new can of forms, and I am sure that these two (three?) pet guilts will be replaced by a multitude of others.
My second pet guilt is leaving Little F to cry before he settles back into sleep routine, on holidays, after holidays or room moves. I have been vehemently against sleep training and crying-it-out techniques. I intended to be the all loving earth-mother. It didn’t quite work out that way.
After 6 months of not having slept more than 2-3 hours at a time, and having tried any technique and advice I found online or supplied by new mummy friends, I was desperate. I was feeling that I was sliding down into a dark place. I was constantly tired and tearful. It was December and not enough day light didn’t help. Daddy was not able to help, as I was breastfeeding and Little F didn’t want to take a bottle, even with expressed milk.
I have read horrible accounts of babies being left to cry for an hour or more and ending up vomiting in the cot… I was not going to allow this to happen. After a lot of effort and time Little F was fine going to sleep in the evening in his cot, following a routine of breast and bath. The problem was waking up at night, every 2-3 hours, though I’ve stopped night feeds a while before.
One evening I took the plunge and thought to myself ‘I’ll let him cry for 5 minutes. If he does not go back to sleep on his own I will go in to settle him’. And a miracle happened! He cried, quite hard, for 3 minutes and went back to sleep!
It was still a long way before he slept through the night – at about 9 months – but it gave me a little more sleep, and lots of hope.
Now that he is 18 months he is well settled in his evening routine and we only have issues with bedtime if he sleeps anywhere else but his room, or if he has not seen me for a day (on a couple of occasions I worked late, or had to go away for a day). There is no other way to settle him in a new place than to leave him be. He will cry for 5-10 minutes the 1st night, 5 minutes the 2nd and only cry out when I leave the room on the 3rd. On the 4th night he gives me a kiss and a smile and goes to sleep very contentedly.
My third and last big knot of guilt is food. I feel guilty if I don’t cook Little F meals to leave with granny, or not prepare a good dinner. This is particularly important, as we are vegetarian and granny does not know what to feed him to offer him a complete diet.
We have been following BLW from the beginning, so Little F has always been offered what we were having. Sometimes he eats lots, sometimes a little and rarely none. I try not to worry, as he makes up for it in a day or two. It does make me frustrated though if I make an effort to make a particularly ‘complete’ healthy meal (with pulses, grains, nuts, greens the lot) and he doesn’t eat it – even if he could not get enough of the stuff a week before.
There. Writing it down makes me feel like I have shed some guilt. Why on earth am I feeling guilty about not sending Little F to the nursery AND sending him to the nursery at the same time?! Words on paper have a peculiar way of uncovering the lack of logic and help me understand where I go wrong.
What are your pet guilts? Do share them in the comments. If you write them down you may feel a little lighter…