No you did not misread that. But let me explain myself.
A few things that people have said to me since I have become a Mum:
“You give so much to Poppy but what about you?”
“I worry about you because you do so much.”
“When do you get any time to yourself?”
“I couldn’t do what you do, I don’t have the time/patience/energy.”
“How do you manage to stay so positive and energetic?”
“She will be fine if you leave her to cry for a bit, you need to rest.”
“She still wakes that many times a night? You must be shattered!”
I thought about this the other day when my lovely Mother In Law said she worried about me, and I couldn’t explain why but I told her that 99% of the time I feel great, despite still feeding at night, carrying Poppy for all of her naps, breastfeeding on demand, scheduling our life around her and not ever having a break…
Well I understand why that is after Poppy and I became sick last week, and I was completely exhausted. Poppy was crying, clingy, irritable, restless, tired and I was losing patience. Now that she has recovered I have suddenly realised that she is happy almost all of the time. Unless of course she is tired or hungry, she is generally smiling and laughing and our days are stress free. I started to appreciate how easy my parenting choices have made my everyday life.
Parenting is tiring full stop, and yes I have days where I feel particularly shattered. But what is the alternative? Let me look at a few different scenarios. The easiest one to explain is our sleeping arrangement. We co sleep and Poppy wakes up on average 3 times a night to comfort feed. She has always slept amazingly well during the night since birth though, meaning she will not fully wake up and she will fall back into a deep sleep very quickly, allowing her to get 12 hours sleep each night. By lying right next to her I simply roll over, let her latch on and we both fall back to sleep within minutes. In the morning I can hardly remember if I woke up at all in the night.. Of course I look forward to the day Poppy is sleeping through in her own room, but aside from the fact that I don’t feel comfortable with sleep training methods, I actually just cannot be bothered to even try to encourage the transition. Not now and possibly not ever. She will choose to go into her own room eventually, definitely by the time she is bringing boys home! Our current arrangement means that we are both well rested and happy the next day. I am sure I could find a suitable no cry method in the future that may result in Poppy sleeping in her own bed after a few weeks, but even just a few weeks of implementing that is too much effort for me to be tempted! See, pretty lazy of me!
How about the baby wearing during the day? Poppy used to go down for naps in bed every now and then, until I became super lazy and decided that the half an hour it took me to get her to sleep that way really bored me. Now she has every nap in the sling or carrier, because I can carry on with what I am doing and most of the time she will drift off peacefully all by herself. She also sleeps for much longer in there so I am getting a longer break and she is getting more valuable sleep and wakes up happier! Doesn’t my back hurt? Sometimes, yes. Enough to make me want to go to the effort of ‘teaching’ her to sleep longer on her own? No.
Breastfeeding. I plan to breastfeed for a long time. A large reason for this is definitely the health benefits. But also…you guessed it…I can’t be bothered to wean her! I have no problem with our current arrangement and Poppy loves it! So why would I go out of my way to try to put and end to it, potentially leaving Poppy feeling confused and upset which in turn presents daily challenges and could leave us both exhausted? I have heard of Mum’s who have multiple children who have said that they simply do not have the time to even consider weaning their babies, so they just let them wean themselves and barely notice that it is happening. When I merely think about the process of fully weaning Poppy I am filled with anxiety and stress at the prospect of such a difficult process; I wouldn’t even know where to start. This is especially true of night weaning, considering Poppy is only settled by me during the night I can’t even begin to imagine the impact of night weaning on our general sense of happiness! Of course lots of Mum’s wean with no problems and there are times when you can take advantage of your babies natural reduced interest in breastfeeding. You can gently encourage it, but that still involves a considerable amount more effort than doing nothing at all. So I choose the latter.
Baby led weaning is an interesting one, as most people think you are super patient for doing this and putting up with the mess. Me, I think it is really lazy. I don’t have to prepare any purees for a start. And at the moment because Poppy isn’t all that bothered about swallowing her food, and is still getting all of her nutrition through milk, it is incredibly easy to skip a meal if we are busy or out of the house one day. Obviously this is not going to last for long! But my point is that I don’t have any worry about whether she is eating enough, or that she has suddenly lost interest in food, or that the health visitor says she should be on this many meals, or she won’t take the spoon, or when I am going to fit in meal times, or what I will do when we go to someone else’s house at lunch time. I can’t really be bothered to spend half an hour each meal time trying to shovel food down her throat, I would rather enjoy my own lunch, because we all know I love my food, whilst she makes a mess and I can worry about that later, like when she is in bed. It only takes a few minutes to wipe the high chair and the floor, and it probably balances out when you think that I don’t have extra washing up from making the baby food in the first place.
As for elimination communication, leaving them nappy free helps everyone get the hang of it, but sometimes I admit she is really nappy free because it seems easier than getting a fresh one and getting her all dressed again, and I am definitely too lazy to be washing nappies more than once a week. Now that she goes so often in the potty I have less washing, and barely have to wipe a stinky bum from one day to the next. It really doesn’t require that much effort of my part and will certainly make the complete potty training transition one big lazy fest for me because one day she will just be 100% ‘trained’ without me doing anything different from now.
There is a theme that is very apparent when you are responsive to your babies every need, all around the clock. They are happy! Seems obvious but I have seen in the past Mum’s despairing because they feel their baby should be putting themselves to sleep, sleeping through the night, eating three meals a day, playing happily on their own…whatever they have read or heard from the ‘experts’ or interfering friends and family. The result of those concerns has been for Mum to get extra stressed trying to implement a sleeping routine that just doesn’t seem to be working, leaving baby stressed and crying and Mum tearing her hair out and feeling like a failure. Truth is that Mum is far more tired and giving way more in terms of her energy, sanity and independence than I am. She is burnt out, and baby is too. When baby is over tired or confused about what Mum is trying to achieve, they are not happy. And an unhappy baby is much harder to look after. And so the cycle continues. Stressful nights follow challenging days, because you don’t have the energy or patience to deal with a grumpy baby, and the more inconsistent you are during the day the more clingy your baby is likely to become. In the long run you become exhausted and resentful.
By ‘spoiling’ Poppy I am keeping her well rested and happy. She is happy enough that I don’t feel I am constantly seeing to her or cheering her up. A happy baby is a healthy baby and enjoyable and easy to look after. Which means I am not stressed out, or feeling unconfident about my parenting abilities or resentful about why my baby is the only baby who doesn’t seem to conform to what the textbooks say. Maybe she would be fine if I left her to cry a bit, but she would probably just cry more, and that isn’t my idea of ‘me time’. Yes I do give a lot to Poppy, but no more than any other parent, and I probably give less of my time and effort than a lot of parents who put everything into getting their babies into a routine in the hope that life will become easier. Mine is already easy and will get even easier but a lot more slowly. No I don’t get any time to myself, because the cost of it is not worth it. An unhappy baby makes an unhappy Mummy. Overall our well being is pretty positive and our quality of life is great. So until that changes, I will carry on being lazy and enjoy every minute!
Hope you have all been enjoying the sunshine like Poppy has! I am not managing to fit much blogging in lately between studying, but I will definitely be posting about my super exciting weekend next week!