Rethinking failure

I’ve been having a lot of feelings lately. I’m not sure if they are more guilt or sadness but little things keep happening that make me feel like I am failing at motherhood.

Mostly it is comments that other people make. Good or bad sometimes they are taken the wrong way by me. These are things that I rarely confront but often stew on. I’ve been surprised because when I am with my child I know I am doing a great job – yet these things have been knocking me down.

The first is weaning. Gus is fully weaned. He has not had breastmilk in a week, I have not pumped for about a week and a half. He did remarkably well with this transition and while he is still up a bit more than normal in the night that is starting to get better, too. We were planning on weaning slower but a week and a half ago I got what I thought was food poisoning (now think was norovirus) and I didn’t pump or nurse him for two days. When I pumped again after that I got an ounce and a half after two pumps and just gave it up. He was already not taking a bottle to go to sleep for us and we planned on going strong at that over the four day weekend last week so it made sense. I’ve had a hard time with this because I had planned on nursing longer. I’m in all of these online breastfeeding groups and now feel like a fake. It’s hard to remember that this has nothing to do with his relationship with me. He loves me, is attached to me, but we were both ready. He has never been a comfort nurser and it makes sense he is done but a nagging part of me feels like he’s not attached to me and because I work I ruined everything.

With him not nursing he has also been sleeping in his crib all night. Before he would go to bed in his crib at night, wake up and be put down there again one or two more times, and then come to bed with us and nurse and sleep somewhere between 2 and 4. Before I had Gus I said I would never cosleep. Once he was born there was no way in hell you were removing that baby from me. Lesley took to putting him back down in the weaning process. If he came to bed he’d expect to nurse. What I’ve come to admit is what Lesley has long been telling me – he sleeps better in his crib. In bed with us he tosses and turns and is just not settled. He’s up half the night but in his crib he sleeps. He sleeps well. He’s up often, sure, but easy to go back down and not restless when he is sleeping. We are cosleeping failures. He loves me, is attached to me, but sleeps better in his own bed. Gus is easily stimulated. When putting him to sleep I cannot look at him because it excites him too much. Seriously. I have to close my eyes. It makes sense he sleeps better on his own but a nagging part of me feels like he’s not attached to me and because I work I ruined everything.

With all of our daycare drama a friend of a friend has watched him twice (today is the second time). When I picked him the first time the woman said that she used to be a nanny for years with different families and it was the easiest first day she has ever had. Gus and her 17 month old played great, he didn’t cry, he napped easy, and was a ton of fun. We hear this all the time when someone watches him. He’s easily adaptable. This is a great thing – in reality I know this. But I look at other kids who want, no need, their parents. Who need their comfort. Who need them close. And that’s just not my kid. I know that this means he feels safe and secure and knows that he can do whatever and we will be back. But a nagging part of me feels like he’s not attached to me and because I work I ruined everything.

I’ve got to get rid of the nagging part. In reality, I know it’s not true. Our kid is happy and healthy and beyond thriving. Last night someone in a facebook group I am in said they want to be a stay at home mom because they don’t want someone else raising their kid. This exasperated all my self doubt. Lesley and I raise our child. He loves us, is attached to us, but adapts easily. He rolls with changes and that’s something I need to be better about doing. There are so many expectations I had, either before him, or after he was born, that have changed because my child is an individual and those expectations are not realistic. When I think about it, the things that were my hopes that have nothing to do with his personality have all stayed true. The way we feed him, the way we diaper him, the way we take care of his health – I was able to do all those things while being a working mom. It often means staying up late washing diapers, making food for him while he naps on the weekend, and extra time off work to go to extra doctor appointments but we make it work. We are two parents who work and take care of our child – part of taking care of him means tailoring our plans to his needs. These aren’t failures. I am not failing at motherhood. I’m doing what’s right for our family.


Posted on December 30, 2015, in Uncategorized. Bookmark the permalink. 19 Comments.

  1. I grew up with two working parents. My hometown was mad up of a lot of working-father-at-home-mother situations, and my mom was undoubtedly hard on herself. But I think life is just messy and to listen to every criticism of parenting can get exhausting. Self sacrifice is not the answer, stability and comfort are more important. You do you. Stay away from dogmatic parenting. Happy holidays to you and your family!

    • I had two working parents, too, and I actually think I am better off for it. I remind myself that we are able to afford Gus different opportunities by both working. Vacations, lessons, ect while also getting out of debt and paying off our house in half the loan length. No matter what we do people will think it’s wrong – it’s just hard to remember sometimes that they are the problem, not us!

  2. The transition from baby to toddler is hard on us mommas, I think. To flip the perspective a bit, you’re actually really lucky he goes with the flow! Can you imagine how awful it would be if he was all distraught about not nursing or if he was a wallflower kind of kid who couldn’t handle being away from you?
    And, people want to attach all kinds of weird stuff to nursing/cosleeping/otherhippyshit, but I think you should be insanely proud of your parenting when you get reports of how happy, well behaved, and easy going he is. Those are the real benchmarks of good parenting!

  3. I think both stay-at-home and working parents both have some ambivalence about whether they’re doing “the right thing”, and often this takes the shape of criticism of the other side – comments like the one you read on Facebook about other people raising your kid (which I’ve heard before – I think it’s a jerky thing to say). I’ve also heard dismissive comments about stay-at-home parents implying that they’re boring and unmotivated. It seems so lose-lose – either you’re ruining your kid by sending them to daycare, or you’re ruining your kid by being a bad role model. But of course, the kids aren’t ruined and most parents really do what is best for their kids and their families as a whole – we’d be better off not interpolating what’s best for others/ourselves based on data that is so contextual. There is no one best way, and is so hard to feel confident in one’s parenting when stuff like that gets into you head, even if you’re mostly sure that you’re a good parent.

    Gus sounds like an awesome, well-adjusted, and totally fun kid! Hope that you’re able to put the feelings of failure to rest, you and Lesley are obviously doing a great job.

    • I think there is a “grass is greener” mentality from both sides for sure. I for sure see the mentality against stay at home parents, too. I think people should do what’s right for their families but I sometimes get stuck between the rhetoric of “you’re missing out either way” and “women can have it all!”. There’s no way to be guilt free it seems.
      But you’re right. Gus is an awesome, well-adjusted, and totally fun kid. So maybe I’m both missing out on some things and have it all.

      • As a sahm, I can tell you the grass is definitely greener. I don’t regret staying home or anything, but my career has taken a toll as well as my mental health. I fairly often feel like ‘michelle’ has totally been swallowed by ‘mommy’, and there’s nothing left of her. That’s changing as my situation changes, but our next kids won’t have me home, I can’t do it again.

  4. First off, congratulations on weaning. It sounds like it was a smooth transition. He was obviously as ready as you were.

    I wish I had advice to offer on the guilt. Anytime I’m feeling like leaving the house to work is ruining everything, I remind myself that I was raised by a single mom who worked her butt off. I spent my life in daycare. I turned out just fine, and my mom is my best friend. (Although she is driving me up a wall at the moment!) I wish it was easier to take those sort of reminders to heart, though.

    • My mom worked too and you know what? I thought then and I thought now that we were all better for it. Gus is super social and I don’t think he would do well not in childcare. I think his new childcare, where he is with other kids, is going to be perfect for him and the best thing – even better than being with moms all day. Logic vs. hurt feelings though…

  5. It’s all so individual. Gus thrives with people and other kids, that’s why he does so well when away from his mamas. And he feels safe in the knowledge that you’ll always be there for him at the end of the day. He’s a lucky boy. I totally understand the feeling of guilt and/or sadness, though. I worry all the time that I’m not doing right by Declan by not having him in daycare or something, by not having him in more educational or social settings. I question how well he’d do given who/how he is but then I start to wonder if I’m just feeding into it by having him home with me all day. I often ask myself if I should be doing more and better with him and wonder if I’m truly doing him any favors by being a SAHM. I was in daycare from 6 week old on – my mom was essentially a single mom until I was 11 and then she was for reals a single mom and staying home with me or my brother was never once an option for her. Being a SAHM was super important to me and I resent feeling guilty and/or sad about it, even if financially it actually does make sense for us, so I try not worry too much. It’s hard, though.

    Congrats on weaning! We’re almost there, as well. It’s exciting.

  6. I wish I had gotten a picture of the look on Gus’s face when you and Leslie got home. He is content with others, but (and I know you know this, this is for the nagging part of you) he *loves* you.

  7. I’ve heard the “I don’t want someone else raising my child” bullshit from so many stay at home moms. It makes me cringe, makes me feel horrible inside, and makes me angry. I’m sorry you had to hear that, too. Working moms are STILL raising our kids. Eff those people.

  8. PS – I think it’s fantastic that Gus is so well adjusted. This is a good thing and of course he’s every bit as attached to you as he ought to be!

  9. If it helps at all, I’m a SAHM and I wonder all the time if I’m doing my son a disservice by spending the majority of our time one-on-one. We go to one toddler class a week, and have occasional play dates, but he LOVES other kids, and I feel like he’s stuck at home with me most days and doesn’t get the socialization that kids in daycare/preschool do.

  10. You are totally doing what is right for your family! Norovirus is no joke and I’m sorry to hear it sped up the weaning process a little faster than you had planned. Nothing ever goes as planned though, ha. I would love for you to stay in my bf group. We need more voices of parents who have navigated the parts you have. The sleep stuff totally makes sense. I would love for mine to sleep better in his own bed but that’s not the case for him. Maybe someday. I’m really glad to hear that the friend/new sitter is going well for now. That babysitter drama has been pretty intense. Maybe because I am on my own and don’t have much support to speak of, it is a fear of mine that it would feel like someone else was raising my kid if I had to work full time. It is a gut fear and is hard to explain (like the first time I had to give him a bottle and I feared he would then prefer it over me). I get both sides of this. People aren’t bad parents or not the ones raising their kids when they have babysitters or daycares. Hands down, you are a good mom. You are doing this right.

  11. It’s hard not to take someone’s comments about themselves and their family/parenting philosophies personally when it’s the polar opposite of those you espouse. We all fall victim to it. In reality, there’s not really a better or worse way as long as the kids are loved, fed, clothed, etc. People’s comments are almost always about themselves, not us (except when they’re judgey a-holes, then fuck them). If a kid isn’t being neglected or abused, in the end they will probably grow to be who they always would’ve been anyways, despite the choices we made regarding who cares for/raises them, who feeds them and what (nutritional substance) they are fed, where they sleep, etc. Humans are notoriously adaptable and have strong personalities from right out of the gate – I think that goes further in who they’ll ultimately end up being rather than anything we do or don’t do. I think we all as parents take way too much pride and guilt in how our kids are – like how it feels good to hear how cute or happy or courteous or caring your kid is for the millionth time, as if we really can lay claim to that aside from choosing attractive sperm and being consistent with love & expectations. But it’s natural to take all of it personally, the good & the bad, the pride & the guilt, the confidence & the doubt.

    I have totally said the “raising my own kids” line. Not to you, but certainly to judgemental family members who’ve questioned our family’s decisions to not use daycare/preschool and asked if we worried about our kids not getting enough socialization (yeah, no), not being prepared for school (ha!), or being developmentally behind (nope). In my own experience, it’s not a statement about anyone else but us and what’s right for our family. And honestly, it can easily come from a place of doubt/defensiveness, because 1) devaluation of caregivers/educators, 2) strong push from society for mothers to quickly go back to work after their babies are born instead of “being lazy” all day like they’re on living it up on vacation or something, and 3) the whole “aren’t you worried about holding your kids back” or “not building up their immunity” garbage.

    You do you beautifully. There’ll probably always be doubts, but hopefully the online and offline love helps reinforce your confidence in your rad parenting skillz. You two are awesome moms, and Gus is clearly thriving. šŸ™‚

  12. I never realized how cut throat the world of motherhood was until I had my own kid. I totally understand everything you said here, everything is dissected and people’s opinions just come out. It’s off putting and it’s usually not a nice feeling. I am sure you are doing a beautiful job, as all new moms are. We all do the best we can for the family we have. Hope you guys have an excellent new year!

  13. You guys are awesome moms, and Gus is an impressive kid.

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