When I was pregnant with my son my partner at the time’s mother said to me ‘you don’t matter anymore, all that matters is that baby, your child. You are no longer important’. This was a women who had also told me that I was unreasonable to expect financial help from my child’s father (a well educated man with a highly paid job may I add) and that I should move in with her, go back to work after a month whilst she looked after my baby and earn my own keep. As an advocate for independent women I was adamant that eventually I would do just that, but there was more chance of me letting Stalin look after my baby than there was of me allowing her to be his main influence throughout his first year. I was treated terribly by them, I was scared and genuinely fed the lie that I would be a crap mother and I was about to screw up my child’s life. On top of that; I apparently no longer even mattered. Needless to say I was very depressed.
There is a point to my story, and that’s that after becoming a mother and excelling on my own after dumping the boyfriend and his odd family, I realised that mums’ absolutely matter. The mere notion that we no longer exist after children is, in my opinion, the biggest parenting mistake because to me, it means you are living your life through your child and when eventually that child becomes an adult with their own life- to put it plainly -you’re f**ked. I spent the first few months still with this man, demonized when I chose not to breastfeed (he actually trashed my bedroom when he found formula), told I needed to lose weight and told I needed to start thinking about his private school education (when all his dad seemed to take away from it was that he was better than everyone else). But once I had left it became easy, and that was the first step to the absolute liberation I now feel as a mum to raise my kids and live my life how I want to and not apologise for that. I know a lot of mums feel the same; and some are still new, and I want to let them know it will be ok. I have listed some pointers on not letting what people think get to you below.
1. Baby’s weight – My son was 10.7lb when born and people would literally recoil when they looked in my pram. Despite the fact it was pure genetics (his dad was 6 foot 4 and born 3 weeks early at 10lbs), for some strange reason it made people uncomfortable to see how big he was. Some individuals still seemed to view his size with the same repulsiveness as they do with adults. Anyway, my son is now 6 years old and a (healthy) beanpole. The kid could eat an entire turkey and not gain a pound. He is athletic and healthy and the tallest in his class (something he is very proud of). A completely robust child; I doubt even the plague could take him down. He was the easiest baby in the world, slept like a grown man and has the most amazing temperament. So ignore the gasps at your naturally born bigger baby (or small for that matter), it has no indication of your child’s weight or health as they grow and shed the baby fat/gain it.
2. Going out and leaving your baby after Giving Birth – Here’s a good one; do it whenever the hell you want and let Bernadette stay in and slag you off after seeing your happy carefree pictures. Secretly, she wishes she could have a night off and glass or two of wine. Poor Bernadette. Bernadette needs to get laid.
3. Bottle or Breast – A tired debate with one clear answer; do whichever you want. I bottle-fed, I admire women who breastfeed and I literally could not care less which one anyone does, and neither should you.
4. The Division of Labour – Ahh the dreaded point scoring starts. People with new babies know this is shakey ground and it becomes so easy for resentment towards your partner to grow. As a woman, I felt obligated to do it all. DON’T. Get yours ladies. Take that nap, have that break and let dad do his thing. Single mums- it may not feel it but you’re winning, I found doing whatever I wanted with my first child almost liberating compared to the second one (with partner), which was far more frustrating and included a lot of compromise. No man, no compromise and no division of labour.
5. Unwarranted Advice – Aunt Mildred may have found that a dummy dipped in whiskey helped her baby sleep in the 1920’s but unfortunately it’s 2020 and you’d rather stay away from using alcohol as a sedative for your precious bundle. Don’t fight back at unwanted advice; nod, smile and forget it. Literally forget it. Then do what you were going to anyway. I trained as a midwife for 2 years and witnessed different midwives give different answers to the same FAQ’s, which proves there are no answers for motherhood, we are all blaggers.
6. Have a peaceful few hours to yourself or sleep? Motherhood’s biggest predicament. I would say do a bit of both but choosing sleep may reduce your coffee intake to nine from fifty the next day.
Generally speaking, you’re going to get unwanted advice, you will be tired and your life will change; your relationship will face challenges, your body may be different and you will find it harder to find time for you. You may even question your skills, or your decision to enter parenthood and that is ok. An hour later, your baby will smile or laugh or walk for the first time and you’ll forget it all. Every last frustration will melt away. You’ll wonder how you ever lived without them and Aunt Mildred’s advice will become a distant memory.