Dear Bad Mommy,
I'm talking to you, Mommy who lets her baby sleep with a blanket, Mommy who lets her baby sleep on his tummy, Mommy who doesn't breastfeed, Mommy who lets her baby watch TV, Mommy who fed her baby solid food before 6 months old, Mommy who gives her baby a paci, Mommy who doesn't give her baby a paci, Mommy with loads of dirty laundry and/or dishes, Mommy with a not so clean house, Mommy who always makes time for a shower, Mommy whose baby doesn't always get a bath everyday, Mommy who let her baby cry for a few minutes so she can poop, Mommy who gets excited about her baby growing up and doesn't cry at every milestone, Mommy who has left a dirty diaper in the diaper bag for more than a day, Mommy who has left her baby with a realtive or at daycare on her day off, Mommy who forgets to take pictures every 3 seconds, Mommy who has ever wished the baby would just shut up, Mommy who works a full time job, Mommy whose baby has bumped their head when she wasn't looking, Mommy whose baby sleeps with her, Mommy whose baby sleeps in another room, Mommy who rocks her baby to sleep, Mommy who doesn't rock her baby to sleep, Mommy who gained too much weight during pregnancy, Mommy who didn't gain too much weight but still can't get it off after several months, Mommy whose baby is 6 months old and you haven't blogged the first thing about him, and Mommy who has committed a multitude of other "Mommy Sins" against your baby.
You are not alone.
Ever since I brought my little one home from the hospital, I've struggled with feeling like a bad mommy. There are so many things that I've done (and haven't done) with him that mommy society says I shouldn't (or should) have done. Most of the "sins" above I have personally committed, but it wasn't because I didn't have a well thought out plan for most of it. Josiah slept with a blanket for the first 2 months of his life because he was 3 weeks early, in the middle of December, and had no body fat. He cried more at diaper changes than he did at having his foot pricked just because he was naked and cold. Warm footie pajamas alone did not do the trick to keep him warm. We tried breastfeeding for 6 long weeks of actually just pumping and bottle feeding because he had so many things going against him with breastfeeding. He was early, had a rather traumatic birth, was jaundiced, etc. etc. When I reached the point that both of us were sitting in the bathroom floor crying, I knew something had to change.
As an only six month old mommy, I don't claim to have the answers to all of the mommy problems out there. Actually I claim to have very few answers. I can't tell you to do this or that to be a "better mommy." I surely won't tell you that breastfeeding makes the baby weight melt off for everyone. When I pumped, if I didn't eat enough for a small army, my body didn't sacrifice itself to make more milk, it sacrificed the milk. I won't tell you that if you follow all the guidelines in all the parenting books/magazines/websites that you will have a happy, healthy baby who won't die from SIDS (mostly because if you read enough parenting books/magazines/websites they will all contradict each other on most issues). I won't tell you to let your baby cry it out, nor will I tell you to attachment parent. I won't give you any concrete advice, in fact.
But I will tell you this. I read something in a parenting magazine (go figure) before Josiah was born that stuck with me. I apologize for not remembering which magazine, much less the author, of this wonderful article. It said something to the effect of, "The simple fact that you are worrying about being a bad mommy makes you a good mommy."
Good mommies want the best for their children. Good mommies want to do everything right. Good mommies would give up anything if it would be better for their child. But good mommies are also human, and as humans have needs that should be tended to. And good mommies also beat themselves up when things go, not necessarily wrong, but not according to plans. And good mommies go looking for answers on the internet.
So my answer, the best solution I've found for turning "bad mommies" into "good mommies:"
Happy Mommy = Happy Baby
All the while remembering that good mommies aren't selfish. Do what you have discovered is best for your little one. If you let your baby sleep in the same bed with you because she will sleep all night and won't sleep anywhere else, by all means, sleep in the same bed with that baby. If your baby sleeps in a separate room all by himself in a crib, sometimes with the door shut (but with some way of hearing distress) because he decided somewhere around 4 months that he doesn't want to sleep in the Pack N Play in your room, by all means, leave him by himself. If your baby latched on to the boob two minutes after he was born and still wants to breastfeed even when society says it's socially awkward, let him after it. If trying to breastfeed, and failing, has driven you to postpartum depression (and I'm convinced that kids can sense the depression), break out the formula. If you can hold a kid in your lap and poop, good for you! If you need a few minutes to yourself to poop, and maybe breathe, I promise your infant won't say when he's older, "Remember that time you let me cry in the floor when you had to poop? Yeah, I probably won't succeed in life because of that."
The beautiful thing about mommies, is that God made each one of us as different as He made our babies. If everyone was the same, the world would get boring quick. But because He made us all different, we will all raise our babies differently. What works for one may not work for another. And what works for the other, may still not work for another.
The only ones of us out there who are truly bad mommies (Mommies, now. Being a mother and being a mommy are two different things.) are those of us who are setting a bad example for our children by judging, and sometimes even berating, other mommies who aren't doing things our way. Yes, some of us went from "Mean Girls" in high school to "Mean Mommies" at preschool. I realize not everyone reading this is a Christian, but Ephesians 4:29 says, "When you talk, do not say harmful things, but say what people need—words that will help others become stronger. Then what you say will do good to those who listen to you." (NCV). And even to someone who is not a Christian, this is good advice.
So chill out, Bad Mommy. You really aren't that bad after all. Go get you a big piece of chocolate, or a new pair of shoes, or do some yoga, whatever makes you happy (because we are all different, remember) and enjoy that baby. And if you must hang out on parenting message boards, please remember to say only helpful things. If you must criticize someone, unless they are doing something dangerous, please just keep it to yourself.
I'm pulling for you, I believe in you! Here's to raising our children in happy homes where they know they are loved. Even if they do have to cry in the floor while you poop.