I’m a stay at home Mommy. And I am not a Natural. I don’t ever really know what I’m doing. I’m winging it. I don’t have this overwhelming instinct that tells me “I must limit my children’s sugar intake” or “Baby hungry. Baby need Boobie.” Not that it’s a caveman concept to nurse but it’s certainly a concept that had to start out as primal and instinctual. Why else would women be like, “Hey! I’m alone in this cave, this thing just came out of me. (Ow. I may still die. And Ow.) It’s pretty cute. I think I’ll put my boob in its mouth and see what happens.”
I don’t have any of those instincts.
My kids watch TV more than they probably should. They eat syrup on their pancakes. Which are microwaved. I don’t get any sense of satisfaction that I am solely responsible for their well-being. I am totally ok letting other people watch them. I get no oxytocin release from nursing them. I did nurse my oldest, but my middle was a cruel, cruel nurser who flayed the skin off my nipples even when latched properly (she had a lip tie and no one knew anything about that). I did still want to make sure my child got my breast milk, though; if for no other reason than I save a bunch of money feeding my kids my own liquid gold than the formula.
So I pumped. And, honestly, that was a nice break. Because when I pumped, my husband took the kids for that half hour and I was mostly alone. Or I did it while they napped. That probably tells you all you need to know about my mothering, though, to be honest. Half a dozen times a day I got a 20-30 minute break from my kids. If I didn’t do it, it cost us money because we’d have to spend more on formula and it cost us sanity because post partum me isn’t exactly a pillar of calm. But hey, at least I recognize it, right? As long as I’m nursing/breast feeding/pumping, I feel less like an individual and more like my identity is Feeder.
Which is not a “natural mother” approach.
My kids are all just trial and error. I rocked my first to sleep every time she fell asleep, even in the middle of the night, until she was 10 months. Then we had a long (ish) deployment and my spirit broke. I let her Cry it Out one night. I turned the monitor down but not off and put a pillow over my head and watched the monitor flare a horrifying red to show she was still crying and I cried along with her.
My heart broke.
I went in and checked on her twice to make sure she hadn’t gotten a leg stuck in the crib bars or a demon wasn’t standing over her bed and hated myself more than I’d ever hated myself. And the next night she woke up, she didn’t even cry. She put herself back to sleep with a short whimper and I never even made it to her room before she’d stopped and was out again.
My second child didn’t say much until she turned two. I didn’t push or work with her like I did my oldest. She didn’t get the sign language training or sang ABCs every night and nap time like my oldest did. Because I didn’t think it helped my oldest that much. Now I know that even if I didn’t know it at the time, it did help her. And it probably would have helped my second child. But a few months after recognizing her slight sluggish language development, I’ve worked with her every day and she’s almost entirely caught up. No harm, no foul… I hope.
Trial and error.
With my first two pregnancies I played it completely safe: No caffeine, no cold lunch meat, no wine, no medicines besides the short doctor recommended list. And they were fiiiiiiiiine. So, rather than go through the caffeine withdrawal headaches… again, I said screw it. One coffee and one soda a day won’t hurt the baby. And so far it hasn’t. The doc says it’s fiiiiiine.
I never really know what I’m doing.
Thank God they don’t come out needing lots of complicated discussions about anything. I’m just starting to have those and I’ve been explaining little things to my kids for years now and still fumbling all over the answer to “Why doesn’t Santa give those angel tree kids more gifts?” I stumble and stutter. And I figure it out, somehow. It’s not always the right thing, but I keep trying. Everyone tells you parenting is hard, but I think it’s harder for some than others. Because I don’t know what to say and do to handle some situations. I have to research. So when my first kid, at 10 months old trips and falls and bloodies her lip, I don’t know what to do. I thank God my mom was there to take care of it. And that I didn’t have a bigger “Oh shit” moment first go.
The point is, when you see me doing my mom thing, it’s not something I knew to do right away. I screwed every single parenting thing up first go. The only reason I’m doing anything right is because I did it all wrong first. I literally did nothing with my first child until she cried. Then I tried everything in a random order until she stopped crying. This isn’t coming naturally. So please. Never ever EVER think “I can’t do this” with your kids.