Ever see this sign?
Every time I see it, I have to resist the temptation to find a can of spray paint.
According to that quote every time my floors are clean and my kids aren’t happy, I’m a bad mom. Hmmmm….
“Yes, you have to finish your broccoli.”
“But that makes me unhappy!”
“Well… we can’t have THAT! Here. Eat this lollipop instead.”
And yet almost every mom starts down the slippery path of parenthood believing her worth as a mother is firmly planted in the happiness of her children.
Frankly this is…
*brace yourself for bad language*
My first baby, LB, was the “ideal” happy baby. She slept through the night at 6 weeks. She played contentedly on the floor (sitting still!) while I made supper. Her angel-temperament guaranteed me a spot in the “I’m Awesome” Mom Club.
…until my precious EM arrived and they kicked me off the rolls.
This new baby was opinionated, perpetually grouchy, and way too demanding.
She sent my “mother pride” spiraling straight into the Sea of Self-Righteousness where it dramatically exploded into teeny-tiny bits.
My mom-esteem lay shattered like Humpty Dumpty all over the floor. My heart was resentful.
Would I ever look at EM with the same loving spirit I had towards LB?
What Makes a “Good Mom”?
Being a good mom is not dependent on whether or not you have a “happy” baby.
Being a good mom is dependent on effort.
My degree is in social work. Pre-kids, I worked with foster kids and their families. I’ve met some pretty horrific “bad moms”. Getting them to show any effort towards their children was a challenge.
Sidenote: Not all my clients were “horrifically bad”. Some genuinely cared about and loved their children. The hard work those parents put in with me clearly demonstrated their commitment to learning the skills they needed to care well for their kids.
Dear friend, if you have hugged your baby when he was crying…if you’ve gone to the doctor to ask questions…if you’ve searched online…if you’ve read a parenting books…
That is all EFFORT. Effort that earns you a Good Mom Gold Star.
Now that we’ve determined that you are, in fact, a Good Mom, I should probably let you in on a little Good Mom secret.
Good moms can still feel unbonded. They can still struggle with resentment towards their spirited baby.
Bonding is not what you think it is.
It’s not imprinting. (Shameless plug for Team Jacob.)
It’s not a hurricane crushing the coastline with giant waves.
It’s a gentle rain that weathers down mountains. It happens slowly. In stages.
For some (like with my LB) it starts in the womb, fully flowering shortly after birth. After all, it’s easy to love an infant who popped out in 2 hours, who smiles, and laughs and SLEEPS.
For others, with difficult birth experiences or high need babies, it lays dormant under a layer of disciplined “I will do these things because I need to” tasks.
The bond will lay dormant through the difficult “winter” months of struggle, weathering away a resentful heart and dropping seeds of love until finally those seeds take root in the good soil you’ve been unknowingly tilling and explode into blooms.
That’s what happened to me. My heart has melted into goo for my little EM.
And it will happen to you too.
You just have to push through those difficult “winter” months.
Buy earplugs. I can’t tell you want a HUGE difference these made. It minimized the sharp, gouge-my-eyes-out cries, but still allowed me to hear my talking toddler, the phone, and other important sounds. This greatly helped me keep a calm “I can do this” perspective.
Talk to your doctor about Postpartum Depression. We all struggle with crazy hormones to some extent after birth. In fact, you can have Post Partum Depression up to a YEAR after birth! If you are feeling a particular weight of sadness…talk to your doctor. Medication (natural or pharmaceutical) can help your brain get back into balance.
Find a happy place, and go there alone. At least once a week ask a spouse or friend to watch your baby so you can go and drink coffee, take a walk, or stare at a wall in silence. These havens of “me time” will fill up your internal emotional tank and provide the calming fuel you’ll need for the rest of the week.
Seek more opinions. Your doctor sees your baby once every so often, for 15-20 minutes. You, on the other hand, are with your infant 24 hours a day, 7 days a week. He may have the fancy-pants initials, but you have the expertise. If you feel that something is “not right” with your infant, make some phone calls and set up a 2nd opinion. Specialists are special for a reason… call a pediatric gastroenterologist or chiropractor for extra advice.
Try something new. If you’re breastfeeding and your baby is fussy, try cutting out dairy products. Give it a week and see if that helps. If it doesn’t, cut out gluten…then soy, keeping track in a food journal of any changes you see. If you’re using formula, educate yourself on the different types of formula and test to see if a different brand/type would be more effective.
Perhaps this is too bold of me…but I think that if you’re reading this article, on this great site, you’ve already passed the “Effort” Test.
You are a good mom.
Matter of fact, I would say that by continually educating yourself, trying new things, and by walking away to calm yourself guilt-free when you need to, you are quickly moving into the realm of greatness.
Since I started this post by complaining about a bad quote, it’s only fitting I should end by boasting about a good one.
What are the “million ways” you handle your spirited baby?
Share a few with me in the comments! Your “few” could be just the thing other struggling moms need to hear (and try).
Heather Gaither is a married SAHM of three girls in Wisconsin. She loves to mix humor, research, and storytelling into a light-hearted brew of encouragement on her blog, Incredible Infant.
Currently she’s giving away free copies of her babyproofing eBook, The Safest Home on the Block to new subscribers of her newsletter. You can check it out at http://www.incredibleinfant.com/subscribe
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