I am a working mother. I vaccinate. I only breastfed my babies for six weeks. I started my babies on solids at four months. I didn’t let my babies self wean. I sometimes let my babies cry it out. I didn’t wear my babies. I sometimes rock my babies to sleep. We have a schedule. I let my babies have a bottle in their cots. I can’t tell what my babies are crying for when they are crying. Most of the time I have no idea what I am doing. Most of the time I don’t know what to do. I feel overwhelmed 90% of the time. I don’t have a mother’s “instinct”. I neglect my husband’s needs.
And I feel guilty about it all.
A few weeks ago, one of my boys was crying and he turned to his nanny for comfort and wouldn’t come to me. I was broken – it was one of my worst fears. You see I am a working mother of twin babies. I don’t have a choice; we need the money to pay for the bigger house, the food, nappies (diapers for my foreign readers) and a million sundry other goods that get us from day to day.
In an effort to find some comfort for my baby’s reaction, I searched the Web to find other moms that went through this. And what I found was lies, lies, more lies and judgement.
Comments like: “raise your own children” or “well it’s your own fault for not being there for them”, litter parenting forums. I was shocked, and my guilt just deepened. I have tried to console myself with the facts, but they never seem to cover the deep sense of shame I live with constantly.
Motherhood is hard enough without the judgement we pile on each other for the choices we make about and for our children. And I realised the other day that I am just as judgemental as other moms – but I am working on it.
At a playgroup Jon and I take the boys to, I overheard a conversation another mom was having with the teacher about being a working mom. Like me, she enjoys her job, but she feels guilty about working long hours. But she said confidently to the teacher: “A happy mom makes for a happy baby.” These are wise words – but my first reaction was: “who is she trying to convince?”
I know now, that my own thoughts on parenting are coloured by the judgements that have been hammered home for years.
It was probably a bad idea, but in an effort to test this theory, I looked around for some of the other issues I felt guilty about. What I found was the guilt we moms feel is because we lie to each other and judge one another for the choices we make.
We pretend that we know everything, when we really don’t. Well at least I don’t, and I find it hard to believe that I am the only one.
I can finally tell the voices of my twins apart when I hear them on the monitor, but I have no idea why they are crying. That old adage that says you will learn to tell what your baby needs, when he needs it is quite frankly a crock. Another lie developed to make mothers feel inadequate.
I wasn’t suddenly blessed with the “motherly instinct” that so many mothers talk about. Forums are plagued with statements like “you know your baby best”, and “I just knew there was something wrong”. I don’t have that – and I am starting to wonder if it even exists.
For the most part, we twin moms get off slightly lighter than moms of singletons. Breastfeeding twins, after all, is a feat that most singleton moms can’t wrap their heads around.
But thousands of moms of multiples (yes triplets included) get it right. I was unlucky. My milk was so low that I couldn’t have even fed a single baby, let alone two. And after six weeks of feeling like a milked cow with the double pump and its horrid mooing noises, I decided to pack it in. My boys are healthy and happy, but I still wonder if they wouldn’t have been “better off” if I had persisted.
On top of that I have had the boys on a schedule since the day the arrived home from the hospital. And last week on a forum I read for multiple moms, a mom to be of twins asked whether people thought a schedule was good or demand feeding better. The responses were astounding. Moms that scheduled their babies were generally ok with whatever worked. But moms that demand fed were so militant. They posted comments like “if you don’t demand feed, your babies will be undernourished.” More guilt to add to the growing pile – my boys are under the 50% mark for their weights – they are not unhealthy, but they are small. I don’t believe it was because I didn’t demand feed – but I can’t help but wonder.
Add to all that the contradictory so-called “professional” advice out there that makes for a minefield for parents. Many of you will already have read the sleep advice article, which hit the Internet by storm last week. The reason it has become a meme, is because it’s so true.
The harsh judgement between moms I can sort of understand. We have found what works for our babies and we may feel like we have hit on a winning formula that can be used elsewhere. But as my hubby aptly says: “even with our boys, what works for one doesn’t work for the other, and they are twins.”
But why do we lie about what we have right and what we don’t? Why do we feel the need to present to the world this picture perfect scenario that certainly doesn’t reflect reality?
One post on the multiple forum really hit home for me. A mom asked if other people had experienced difficulties in their marriages after their twins were born. What a refreshing post to see someone admit to the not so pretty joyous and wonderful side of parenting.
When the boys turned nine months, everything started to go downhill. They didn’t sleep, they didn’t eat, they cried almost constantly – when changing the nappies, when changing their clothes, when eating, in the middle of the night. Jon and I had so little sleep and I became a mad woman. Constantly angry, constantly irritated, and I took it out on Jon. The boys have settled somewhat over the last two or so weeks, and I am heading back to normality, but my madness took its toll on our marriage. It was so good to know I wasn’t alone – so comforting to know that other moms also went through the madness. But these kinds of truths are so few and far between.
If we were honest with each other, moms and dads would be far better prepared for parenting. Sure people say parenting is hard – but no one ever clarifies what it means and the perpetual lies and judgement only makes the truth harder to cope with.
So for moms (and dads) that are feeling inadequate – you are not. You are like millions of other parents out there struggling to find the answer to the questions: “what is the best way to raise my child?” And the answer is – “as you are.”