Tuesday, September 13, 2011

Feel the Guilt and Do It Anyway

Is this my tentative theory of parenting, three months in? Maybe. My best friend shared with me some wisdom passed to her by a more experienced mother, who said, “You have to decide if you’re going to parent from guilt or not.”

Wow. There’s a choice?

I’m working on believing that we have choices in almost everything in life. Maybe not what happens to us, but how we respond to what happens to us. My choice today related to my son’s nap. I’m trying to encourage longer daytime naps. He seemed cranky, so I figured I’d try to put him down. After I swaddled him, as I’m walking toward his room, he turned on the full charm—big smiles, cooing, flirty eyes. Can he be this smart or manipulative at a few days shy of three months? Is it coincidental that he often shows his sweetest self as I’m trying to get him to sleep?

Of course then I didn’t want to put him down. But I had already swaddled him (does he spend too much time in a swaddle? Does he not like it? Is it inhibiting his spirit or enjoyment of life?) And I wanted him to nap this afternoon, so okay, I put him down. Immediately the guilt started. Was he lonely? Should I be spending every moment of the day with him? The answer to the second question is no. I like some alone time, and I think it’s good for him too. So why the guilt? Maybe because of some doubt I have of my competence as a parent. Some doubt of my instincts. Some fear—always fear is lurking—that he’ll be scarred for life by some mistake or series of mistakes that I make.

I took a deep breath. The thing is, I had to make a sandwich, and I’d like to do a little laundry, and maybe, just maybe, some writing. All of that is hard with him awake and in the same room. I am a better mother when I get some breaks. After some down time, I have genuine enthusiasm for him, an almost sickening amount, instead of the forced kind I feel when I don’t get a break. So isn’t it better that he be rested, and I be rested and happy? Undoubtedly yes. Sorry, guilt and fear. I hear you, but he’s staying in his crib. For now. Unless he really starts crying. I’m getting stronger, but I’m not made of stone.


Melissa said...

I read that cute smile before you put him to nap as "thank you, Mommy! You know just what I need!" :-)

Julie Owsik Ackerman said...

Thank you! That's a great way to look at that smile!

Mara J said...

Insight from Julie! I like this theory of parenting. Because the guilt is just always present, isn't it? It's not going to go away but people at least can choose not to give in to it. And recognizing it but not giving into it shows that you're taking care of yourself, too, which is important. <3

Julie Owsik Ackerman said...

Thanks, Mara j! I'm glad it says "I'm taking care of myself" and not "I'm a horrible selfish mother". That little voice in my head can be so mean. :)