So if any of you follow me on social media, you will probably know that I try to be as “real” as possible. (Especially if you watch my Instagram videos where approximately 99.99999% of the time I am looking bedraggled and have hair greasier than McDonalds chip fryer).
So I thought I’d do a post about “mum guilt”. I feel it. DAILY. Maybe every time I leave him to cry when I need a shit? All the time. It’s an awful feeling.
I’m all for spreading love and trying to spread positivity but I was NOT prepared for how awful this mum guilt thing is! And it’s so difficult to not be hard on yourself, not compare yourself to others and not look wistfully at other people with their seemingly “perfect” babies sat on their knees giggling away while your wrestling your beast of a baby to get a burp up whilst he screams and kicks and scratches you with his nails which you really should of cut but it’s so bloody difficult to so you just left them. (Have you ever tried to cut a wriggly baby’s nails? It should be a task on I’m a celeb).
Which is why I also wanted to touch on social media and the affect I think it can have on your first steps into parenting – if you let it.
Social media is amazing. I mean without it, I wouldn’t be able to write this blog, and share it with whoever wants to read it. But it can also be very dark and also makes you put unnecessary pressure on yourself, make you compare yourselves to others, you make these friends and follow these people, some you might not even know, and yet you feel like you do know them. I know I have. You follow everything to do with their lives, seeing seemingly intimate snapshots of people’s lives and feeling privileged that you are able to share these moments with them. I won’t lie, I have met a couple of people from social media who I feel like I could call a friend, someone who I do ask for advice when William is playing up, or if I’ve seen something on their feed that I am interested in I have no issue with messaging them and I’d like to feel they didn’t mind me messaging them. (They may think I’m a complete fruitloop but hey ho I’ll be blissfully unaware for now). But that’s not to say that I still don’t look at these people and don’t feel a pang of jealousy.
Id be lying if i said I don’t compare myself to them. Or anybody, for that matter, whether I know them or not. When you see these pictures of their beautiful babies, all smiley and happy, or see statuses: “mama feels refreshed – baby slept through for the 4th night in a row 😍 #blessed.” It’s enough to make you feel a bit..well..low. Or sick. When you are sitting there, looking like a dogs dinner at 3am rocking your baby to sleep for the 100th time, because every time you put him down in his cot his eyes automatically ping wide open again, (yet he seems to fall asleep no problem in your arms – funny that), and scrolling through Instagram or Facebook, seeing all these “blessed” posts, mums with their make up flawless, wearing lovely outfits not covered in puke, hair washed and styled, not 6 days in to no washing and half a can of dry shampoo residue on your roots, babies seemingly beaming and being such a “happy, good baby”, and of course happy posts about how awake and refreshed they feel after a full 8 hours sleep. When you see these posts, and you are sat there, your baby crying in your arms for a reason that you cannot seem to find, and you feel your own eyes start to prickle with tears, or you catch sight (or in my case, smell) of yourself, with your dark grey circles and bags under your eyes, reminents of mascara you wore 3 days ago, hair in a bun that hasn’t been brushed that day, or the day before, and wearing the same clothes you’ve been in for 5 days and a questionable smell coming from your arm pits, you start to get the mum guilt, and start to compare yourself to these people. All sorts of questions go through your head. You drive yourself insane.
Why can’t I be like her? Why is her baby sleeping through the night and mine isn’t? Why isn’t my baby making more babbling noises? Why isn’t my baby rolling over yet? Why can she get up and get dressed and put make up on and I don’t seem to have the time to? Why does their house always look so tidy? Why is her baby so good and mine cries all the time? Why doesn’t my baby take a bottle and be winded and go down to sleep within 30 minutes?
What am I doing wrong? Am I a bad mum? Why does my baby not love me like hers loves her?
All these questions and thoughts go through your already exhausted brain. Most of them irrational. I mean of COURSE your baby loves you. I know William loves me. It’s just sometimes hard when you see all these photos of mummy’s with their little bambinos in ‘candid- ooh I didn’t realise you were taking a photo’ photos looking all slim and fashionable and effortless and natural, not to compare yourself to them.
The truth is, social media is a great smoke screen. You can share with people as much or as little as you want to. And you can choose to share the bad stuff or just show the lovely moments. I personally try to show all of it, the good days and the not so good days, but then when I look at my feed, I feel guilty. Why am I complaining so much? There are so many women who would give their right arm to be in my position, complaining about nappies and night feeds. Why am I being so ungrateful? Why aren’t I cherishing every moment, how dare I moan when this is what I had craved for? Is my baby really unhappy, why is he crying so much, why isn’t he like the babies on my Instagram feed, in their clean, not snot and sick covered, Ted Baker baby grows? What’s wrong with ME?!
I could go on. But I won’t. You get the picture. The truth is, everyone out there is struggling and dealing with some kind of battle or shit in their own lives, that nobody else may even know about. Just because these people post their seemingly easy perfect lives, it doesn’t mean that that’s the reality. I bet you any money more often than not they are having just as bad as day as me, covered in 5 hour old milk sick and rocking their baby back and forth sssh-ing them and wondering what the fuck it’s actually crying for now. Every new parent has those days. It just might seem that they don’t, because they choose not to post it. Basically, this is just a little reminder for all you new parents out there (dad’s as well as mums – dad’s have it hard too), to try not to compare yourself to others based on what you may see on social media. It’s hard, I understand and as I’ve explained I’m guilty myself of doing just that. But rest assured, when your sat there, elbow deep in the greenest sloppiest shite you’ve ever seen, using 4.6 million wipes to clean your cherubs arse, back, arms, feet, anything else that the substance has managed to contaminate, just remember, someone, somewhere out there, is doing exactly the same, and wondering what on earth they did to deserve it.
If your having a particularly awful and rancid day, I have a few people I follow on Instagram that are going through the same, they have just had beautiful babies and they are SO SO real and tell it like it is. I’ll put their names below, if you need cheering up or are wondering “does anybody else’s baby do THIS” whilst googling some obscure baby related thing, go have a look at their pages and sure as hell you will find that they are going through the same thing, day in, day out, and they make light of it, and are there doing the same Instagram stories as I am, make up free and possibly a screeching baby in the background.
There are a few more I follow but these are the ladies pages I check every day, and even though I don’t know them, I feel like I do and just to see they are going through the same shit I go through it a day makes me feel a little less like I’m doing a bad job.
Now, mum guilt. It’s not cool. But it happens. These lovely ladies above have all felt it I’m sure. It’s awful. Sometimes I wonder how I can feel so guilty about doing the simplest tasks. When your baby is crying and crying and crying, and your desperate for a shit, so you have to stop comforting them, lie them on a bed or on a playmat, then rush off before something sinister happens. Your sat there on the loo, your baby screaming blue bloody murder and you feel so guilty. I had this only 2 nights ago whilst trying to go for something other than a wee. Especially when they cry so much they go ultrasonic and do the SILENT CRY. When you hear them go quiet a wave of panic sets in. Are they ok? Why has he stopped crying? Has he choked on his own spit? Has someone come into my house and snatched him? Has he fallen asleep? What if hes stopped breathing? Why won’t this shit hurry up, I swear I was desperate 5 seconds ago!!??
And so on and so forth. The same applies for other things that we used to be able to do without a care in the world. Going to the loo, having a shower, getting dressed, putting on make up. I don’t know about anyone else’s baby,but I MUST be in Williams eye line at all times. If not a nuclear state of emergency is declared and he screams and screams. He’s so clingy. Then you think to yourself “nope, I’m not having him being a clingy baby, he’ll just have to cry it out, he’s got to learn that I can’t be with him all the time”. Well it’s as if they sense your new found empowerment. So they scream more. Louder, higher, sqwuarkier, until their little faces are brighter than rudolphs nose on Christmas Eve and their faces are wet with tears, and they start coughing. Then you feel really guilty. Your letting your baby choke. How dare you. All for the sake of a shower, or putting your eyebrows on? Bad mummy.
In reality they aren’t choking, they are just missing you , because 9 times out of 10 when you rush to them, sopping wet and hair dripping all over them with your shitty 2 in 1 palmolive peach shampoo, as soon as you pick them up, they stop crying and are all smiles. It’s what they do. But it doesn’t make it easy. Not at all. So whether you leave your baby to cry while you cleanse, tone and moisturise or literally splash some water under your pits and hope for the best, either way your not a bad mummy. Your a mother that is doing the best for you and your child. Any choice you make, is yours and you do what is best for yourself and for your baby.
One instance where I felt really bad mum guilt was one Friday, I had had a really shitty day, William was ratty all day, teething, spitting everywhere, getting a cold and just generally grizzly. He wanted me and only me aaaalllllll day. I hadn’t eaten, as everytime I put him down in his bouncer chair or on his matt he would kick off to fuck. I hadn’t showered, I think I’d managed one ice cold cup of tea, and it had been none stop all day. He wouldn’t take his milk, cried when I tried to give him a dummy, cried because he was tired but wouldn’t nap, cried when I tried to make him nap by rocking him on my lap, cried when I picked him up, you get the jist. It was just one of those days. By the time it got to 7pm I was done. I ended up losing my rag. He starting whinging again and I ended up shouting at him to shut the fuck up. Which made him cry even more. I ended up leaving him on the rug in the living room crying and went into the kitchen and poured myself a massive glass of pinot grigio. And I sat on the kitchen floor and cried. And cried and cried. So there was me in one room and William in another balling our eyes out. After downing the wine, Williams crying turned into a whimper. I felt bad. I felt REALLY bad. I had just left him. Crying. Upset. In pain. Who knew? But I’d just left him. And thought about myself before him. How could I?
So I got up off the floor, crawled through the rooms to him and scooped him up, promising him that I’d never lose my rag again and I was sorry for leaving him all alone.
This was us on the kitchen floor. We had gone back in and sat there while I drank more wine. And cried a little bit more.
Of course I hadn’t done anything wrong. He was just having one of those days. Babies have them. But it just so happened I had found it much harder this day. Lack of sleep, lack of food, lack of adult conversation..it all contributes to it. And let’s be honest, any mum who says they haven’t lost their rag or had to walk out the room and leave their baby crying for 5 minutes to calm their tits and not go completely insane is either a) lying or b) lying. Everyone has to take 5 minutes from time to time. But for some reason I just felt so guilty. I should be able to handle his tantrums and know what’s making him cry and soothe him. Surely I should. I’m his mum after all..but sometimes we just can’t do anything to help them, when you’ve changed them, fed them, winded them, played with them, rocked them, soothed them and they are still crying, sometimes you just have to ride it out until they get themselves together. But I felt so bad. “I bet other people don’t lose their shit like me” I was thinking. “I bet so and so doesn’t sit on her kitchen floor crying into a warm glass of pinot grigio”. I posted an Instagram video story about it and the response I got was lovely. People saying they had also had moments like that themselves, not to be so hard on myself, etc etc. And really, they were right.
Because at the end of the day, parenting, being a mum (or a dad) for the first time is a new experience . We don’t know what we’re doing. We’re all just winging it, wondering how the fuck we got through another day without anything going monumentally tits up. The time your baby is crying “the worst they ever have”, I’m pretty sure that the time before that was “the worst they ever have” cried.
So this mum guilt thing, I need to remember, as do any of you reading this who is thinking “jesus that was me the other day” or just having a bad day right now, or has had a similar experience, we need to remember not to be so fucking hard on ourselves. Yeah so we might be rocking 4 day old shit stained leggings and only eaten cold beans out of the tin for our breakfast 2 days in a row, and not look like the people in the magazines or Kim Kardashian in her slinky nude dresses and heels carrying her baby down the street with her hair flowing in the wind behind her, but we are doing the best we can, despite our circumstances, and yeah some days you cry into your beans and go to bed thinking it can’t get any worse, but then you wake up and your baby smiles at you, and is excited to see you, and you wonder what all the fuss was about.
I mean, nothing beats a gummy baby smile, does it? And that’s the reason why we’re doing all this, isn’t it? For them.