GUILT - we all feel it and it seems to me that Mothers feel it more.
I've come to realise that my guilt stems from the pressure I had put on myself before I actually became a parent. I had all these grand ideas about how I would parent when I gave birth to my child and to be quite honest, the reality was extremely different. I had numerous big ideas about what was right and what was wrong about parenting. Most of these ideas were due to the ENDLESS do's and don'ts and the should's and shouldn't's that get drummed into us when we decide to have children.
A few examples of controversial ideas include the following:
- Birthing: Natural vs Caesarean? and with or without drugs?
Before we even give birth to our child we are conditioned to believe that natural child birth is the only way and it is often insinuated that if you don't do it the natural way your child will not have the best start to life. How much of a guilt trip is that? A natural birth was 100% my plan, unfortunately it didn't work out that way and I ended up having an emergency caesarian. That's the thing with childbirth and parenting, even though we may plan for a natural birth we may be forced down other routes. These other routes are often perceived to be wrong however, they are often necessary for the safety of both the child and the mother. As far as I'm concerned the safety of my baby is my priority. The same goes with medical intervention or pain relief, we are told that having an epidural is dangerous and harmful to our babies. Every woman is different, some have a high tolerance for pain and some don’t. Either way, birthing is tough no matter what way you look at it. I had an epidural and a c-section, I was in labour for 24 hours before any of this and let me tell you, having a c-section is no picnic and the recovery afterwards whilst trying to deal with a newborn is not fun. My point here is that child birth is tough full stop. Why should women be made to feel like failures because they didn't "tough" it out and had an epidural or were forced to have a c-section, or even an elective c-section? Every women is different and it goes to say that every birth is also different. No way is the wrong way!
- Feeding your child: Breast is best?
This may be true but choosing to bottle feed doesn't make your decision wrong. Insinuating that your child may not develop as well as other children that are breast fed is wrong! Why is there the constant pressure to breastfeed? Some women can't or maybe some women just don't want to breastfeed. What is so wrong with that? As long as a child is being fed and nourished it shouldn’t matter how they are being fed. I felt so much guilt and felt as though I had failed when I decided to offer Ella a top-up with formula. Why? Because I'd always been told over and over again that breastmilk IS the best way to feed her. When I made the decision to bottle feed in addition to breast feeding, I felt as though I had failed her as my child and failed as a parent even though she was still going to be primarily breastfed. I felt awful.
- Immunising your child: To immunise or not to immunise?
This is a HUGELY controversial topic and I don't intend on starting a debate but the point must be made: Whether you choose to immunise or not that is your choice and I'm sure you've done your research into why you are or aren't going to immunise your child. Personally, I immunised Ella but after going through the 6 week immunisations I could seriously see the argument for not immunising, she was not a happy camper. Regardless of whether you do or don't immunise your child, the point I'm making here is that it's personal choice. Why should a woman be made to feel guilty for doing what she thinks is best for her child?
- To use Dummies or Pacifiers?
This may not be considered as something controversial, but the day I gave Ella a dummy I bawled my eyes out. Why? Because I swore I'd never give her one. There is so much negative press when it comes to dummies because of the apparent cause of teeth crowding and problems later on in life. I hate dummies but have reverted to using one for day sleeps.
The list of controversial topics goes on and on, swaddling vs not swaddling, the "cry it out" method, routine vs on demand. There is so much pressure on parents in every single facet of parenting that we end up placing so much guilt on ourselves when we decide to parent in a way that is seen as "incorrect" or "not ideal".
Parenting is stressful enough as it is. At the end of the day, what works for one child and their parents may not work for another. If your child is growing and happy isn't that what should be the important thing? Should we really be torturing ourselves just because our way of parenting doesn't fit in with what society dictates as right?
When I look back at my "before child" self I want to slap myself in the face. I was living in a naive little bubble where I knew how I was going to parent and the so-called "right" way to do it. I ended up putting myself under immense pressure so that when I actually gave birth and realised that it wasn't so black and white I felt like a failure. There is no RIGHT way of parenting, every parent and every child is different. What works for one may not work for another and just because society says its wrong doesn't mean it is!