There’s a lot of guilt that comes along with parenting a child. There’s guilt about how you feed your baby, how you diaper your baby, how your baby sleeps, what your baby wears, even how you transport your baby. In fact, anything about your baby can lead you down a long path to feeling guilty, especially when you bring your choices up to other people.
I’ve finally decided that I will not be bound by guilt for the next 18+ years of my son’s life. I’ve decided that I am going to unabashedly parent the way that I feel is necessary. I will do what’s right for my family, whether that is bed-sharing (we do proudly), breastfeeding (also do proudly), disposable diapers (because rinsing poop is not for me), baby-led weaning (mixed with purées—and they’re not organic, the horror) and babywearing (#wearallthebabies).
When people ask about his sleeping (which is not their business anyway) and I tell them that he sleeps great, snuggled up next to me, they look at me like I have three heads! “Don’t let that become a bad habit.” Exactly what bad habit am I creating? Is he going to nurse to sleep until he’s 12? I highly doubt it. Will he still want to be in my bed every night when he’s 8 years old, or 10, or 25? Probably not. Am I creating bad habits by not teaching him to use a spoon at 8 months old? Will he eat with his hands for the rest of his life? No, he won’t.
These things that people are trying to make me feel guilty about last for only a very short period of time, so why do we tell mothers that the babies who need them are manipulating them? Why are they told that their babies are going to learn to cry to get what they want? Isn’t that what being a baby is about? How exactly are babies supposed to communicate with us before they learn to talk? I don’t know about you, but I have a lot of things to say and a lot of things that need to be done during the day. Luckily for me, I’m 30, I have a mouth and a large vocabulary at my disposal, and I’ve got two good legs and two good arms. I can do things for myself—with the exception of getting the crock pot off the highest shelf. I still need my husband to do that. But I can ask him to do that and he will and I don’t have to scream at him (most of the time). And until my baby learns to say, “Mommy, I want cuddles. Can you please pick me up?” I’ll deal with the fussing as it won’t last that long.
Imagine having a really bad day at work—terrible—your coworkers were jerks, you messed up on a project, maybe your boss yelled at you, and all you want to do is talk to a friend, have them listen, give you a hug, eat some ice cream. Then imagine someone says to your friend, “Don’t listen to her right now, she’s just trying to get what she wants. If you take her for ice cream now, she’ll always need you to take her for ice cream when she’s having a bad day. Do you really want to set that up?” That thought process doesn’t work, so why would we put that same mentality towards an infant who can’t say, “Hey guys, I’m having a really bad day, I just need some extra love”?
Imagine being tiny in a world where you don’t speak the language (don’t even understand the language), you can’t lift anything, you can barely get anywhere on your own, and no one will help you. The people that are supposed to be taking care of you are not, because they’re worried that you will rely on them. So until my child is old enough to do it for himself, he can rely on me because that’s my job. As his parent, it is my purpose to help him with his emotions, to help him get the things he needs and wants (within reason—nobody is buying him a pony for Christmas).
So I’m not going to be guilty anymore. I’m not going to let anyone tell me that I’m creating bad habits, because at the end of the day the consequences of these “habits” are mine and mine alone, and frankly I’m okay with them. I’m okay that my son will love me and need me and want me to help him. I’m okay with my son knowing that he can come to me and say:
“Hey Mom, I’ve had a really bad day, can I snuggle with you?”
“Hey Mom, I’m really angry, can we scream it out a little bit?”
“Hey Mom, the dark scares me, can you hold my hand?”
“Hey Mom, I just miss you, can you hold me?”
“Hey Mom, I hurt myself, can you make it feel better?”
Because right now, those are all the things he wants to say, but he doesn’t have the words.