I’m a little embarrassed to admit this, but I’ve spent the past couple days trolling my friends’ baby blogs for horror stories about their early days of motherhood: sleepless nights, napless days, excessive fussing.
It’s not that I’m taking pleasure in my friends’ pain, but these friends have beautiful, healthy, happy one (Violet) and two-year-old (Daisy) kids, and the moms are happy and healthy and well-rested. Reading about the challenges of their early mothering experience and knowing the positive outcome gives me hope in a way that nothing else I’ve read has. In fact, most of what I’ve read has made me crazy.
My mom friends and I spend a lot of time talking about all the different books out there: books on breastfeeding, books on baby care, books on developmental milestones, and, most importantly, books on sleep. We all know these books are not going to help our babies get through teething pain or learn to sleep through the night, but we read them anyway. Somehow, reading something in a book legitimizes our choices and methods. It makes us feel like we’re at least trying to make our babies lives better by using this theory or that routine. These authors have done the research and proven that their ideas work, and if we only follow their suggestions exactly as written, we would have success too.
Most moms know that one book is not going to have all the answers. So we read many books – each giving different, and often conflicting, solutions to whatever problem we’re trying to solve. It’s utterly maddening and ultimately makes me feel like I’m developmentally disabling my kid, or at least creating life-long bad habits by doing what feels right – or at least works for now and helps me get through the night.
So I want a new kind of book. Here’s what I’m thinking. It’s called “It’s Okay: A Mother’s Guide to Doing Everything Exactly Right.”
It’s pretty simple. Basically, it tells you that whatever it is you are doing is the right thing to do. Every chapter contains a list of things moms freak out about, followed by a positive affirmation from a voice of authority. For example, in the chapter on sleep, you would find the following list:
I rock/nurse/bounce my baby to sleep every night.
It’s okay! You’re doing the right thing.
My baby only naps in the stroller/sling/car/my arms.
That’s great! You’re doing a fantastic job.
I let my baby cry alone in his crib for 20 minutes at a time.
Totally fine! You’re doing what you have to do.
I bring my baby into bed with me at 1 am every morning.
Wow! You’re the best mom in the whole world.
Truthfully, most moms I know are doing exactly the right thing for their baby, and they only question their decisions because whatever book they’re currently reading tells them they should do something different. And then time passes and everything changes and they read another book which tells them to do everything differently and they feel bad and question themselves and get all stressed out and go against their instincts and then everything changes again.
I think what we all need is someone to tell us that we’re doing a good job, a really good job. Hearing this from our own moms, our partners, and our friends is nice, necesssary even. But it’s not the same as reading it in a book – a bestselling book. So c’mon Dr. Sears, Baby Whisperer, Dr. Weissbluth. Let’s have it.