I don’t know how it happened, but new mothers have ended up on everyone’s hit list. It seems we can’t do anything right, and even when we do something we think feels right, there’ll be somebody out there who has a problem with it. So poor Megan Fox admitted she gets a night nanny to watch her baby a couple nights a week, and suddenly she’s being branded a bad parent. Are you kidding me? A night nanny would be very welcome in my house.
Meet my three-year-old: Generally she’s a good sleeper but lately she’s been having nightmares. Last night a unicorn was trying to bite her toes. Sounds cute, right? If only she could wait till the morning to tell me about it and not 3am. Then there’s her brother – he’s one, and prone to screaming at a pitch that has the potential to break glass – think Mariah Carey covering AC/DC. At times, just for fun, he’ll do that scream in the middle of the night. It’s like being jolted out of slumber with an electric shock. I love my children to bits, but I would certainly not turn down the opportunity to have someone else deal with their night time ramblings for a change, so I can go and sleep and sleep and sleep...Well, a girl can dream.
We live in an age where there is certainly no lack of parenting information. We all know what’s best for our baby. We are informed of it well before that baby is even a cluster of dividing cells in our uterus. Yes, breast is best. And yet when they’re not latching on and screaming for hours at end because they are hungry, surely a bottle is called for? Yes, a cot is the safest place for a baby to sleep. And yet there’s nothing like snuggling with your child in the middle of the night, especially if that’s the only way they’ll fall asleep. And yes, we’d all like to live in a world where a mother can devote her unfettered full-time attention to her little darlings for as long as they need her to. But if that’s at the cost of her sanity, who’d want to live in such a world? All you’ve got to do is enter Mothercare on the first day of the sales and you’ll get an inkling to what a crazy mother look like. It’s not pretty.
When I look at celebrity mothers, not for an instant do I think I can be like them. I’m aware they’re surrounded by nutritionists, stylists, personal trainers, and general hangers on (someone to hold their bag, someone to fan them in the heat, someone to sneeze for them when their nose itches...). Not for a second do I think our lives are in any way relatable. I think most mums are like me. Celebrities are mere distractions; instead the pressure we put on ourselves comes mostly from within.
Most women I know hang on to the illusion that somehow they are going to live the same sort of life they had pre-baby, after giving birth. The frustration arises when we realise that there is no way that we can. And that’s when the juggle comes in. Juggling our ambitions for a career with the care of our children; juggling our desire to look like we once did before our belly was stretched to previously unimaginable proportions, with the reality of a post-partum body; juggling with how to maintain our personal relationships – be it with partners, friends, family – with the demands of babies who need us wholly and completely. And the reason we do all this is the love – gosh the love you feel for your children is hard to put into words. Yes, it’s a cliché but I promise if you don’t have children, there is no love like it.
We may be attachment parents, or free range parents, or helicopter parents or just parents who are a jumble of many things and not a fan of labels, but as long as we love our children, we provide for them, and look after them and do our utmost to make them healthy and happy then who is to say we are bad parents by the choices we make? No one. Bad parents exist, and they are bad for a number of vile and inexplicable reasons that I won't go into here - putting someone into the same camp as them for wanting to sleep a couple of nights a week is incredibly irresponsible.
Mothers are their own worst critics. We are constantly trying to suppress guilt over a number of things from allowing our kids to watch TV to eating fast food on occasion (both them and us!). No one has the right to add to that guilt. At the end of the day it doesn’t matter how we get there, if we end up producing happy, healthy, well-adjusted individuals then I say, it’s a job well done.