As any new parent knows, having a baby opens you up to a huge range of emotions, and the greatest of these…is guilt. Some of my top guilty moments include:
-Feeling guilty I didn’t look after myself during pregnancy: urgent c-section and baby’s time in NICU clearly my fault…
-Feeling guilty I didn’t invite family to the hospital enough to see their grandchild/nephew: traumatic birth, baby’s seizures and MRI shouldn’t have taken priority over cuddles, surely…
-Feeling guilty I made my son bleed the first time I trimmed his nails: a lifelong nailcutting phobia will clearly follow…
-Feeling guilty that the first food I ever gave my son was omelette: egg allergy obviously my doing…
-Feeling guilty I let him fall off the bed…and the sofa…and the sofa again: if he wasn’t brain damaged before, he certainly is now…
I’ll stop there, but I could continue!
I thought it would be useful to compile a list of things YOU should be feeling bad about, in case the parental guilt hasn’t reached you yet…
- You’re bottle feeding.
Breast is best, as you will know as it will have been well-meaningly rammed down your throat since your first midwife meeting. So, if you’re feeding your baby some powdered rubbish from a tin then you must surely be a bad parent, right? Yes, you struggled through a traumatic birth, enduring general anaesthetic and an emergency caesarean section. Or, your baby had an undiagnosed tongue-tie. Or, you bled from cracked nipples and wept with the pain each time your baby latched on to feed. Or, your baby failed to thrive through breast-feeding alone. Or, your baby spent the first few weeks of its life in an incubator. So what?!
It is time that we appreciated the many and varied reasons that women are unable to breastfeed, and support their carefully thought through decision to use formula. Formula, which is highly regulated and packed with all the vitamins and minerals your baby needs. Unlike the diets and lifestyles of the women who choose to breastfeed, I might add!
2. You breastfeed…in public! *outraged emoji*
I have never been more shocked than one time when I saw a woman adjust her top in the corner of a café and allow her small baby to feed from her exposed breast. Well, I mean, I suppose it wasn’t technically exposed as the baby had the nipple in its mouth (clue: that’s how it works). And I suppose she was sat quietly in a corner, and not shimmying round the room. Anyway, I was still shocked. Much more outraged by that than by the glut of semi-pornographic advertising images and music videos I see on a daily basis.
Side-boob is fashion. Transparent dresses in a perfume advert are chic. Nipples in a magazine are there for the enjoyment of all (but particularly men, as you know what they’re like). Cleavage is no big deal. Sunbathing topless is fine if you’re on holiday. But god forbid a woman should have the temerity to expose a small amount of her breast (and potentially momentarily her nipple too), in an attempt to feed a hungry baby the way that nature intended. If you ever see a woman do this, make sure you go and chastise her – a friendly smile would certainly be an inappropriate response.
3. You comfort your child when he cries.
Fool, how will your child learn independence if you’re always mollycoddling him with hugs and kisses? He ought to be left weeping in a darkened room, preferably cold and definitely lonely.
Experts such as Gina Ford have made big bucks selling us advice about raising our children, and it involves lots of words like ‘training’ and ‘controlled crying’. My understanding of much of this type of advice is that if we leave them to cry for long enough, we teach them the enigmatic ability to ‘self soothe’. Call me a cynic, but I don’t want to teach my child that when he cries I will not come.
4. You co-sleep.
If you allow your baby to sleep in the same bed as you, you must be a terrible parent. After all, when he turns eighteen and it’s time to head off to university or time to move to another city for work, how will he cope without you there? Oh, wait, there isn’t a generation of young adults struggling to cope with separating from their co-sleeping parents? They stopped co-sleeping many years ago, you say? Of their own accord?
Sarah Ockwell-Smith tells us in her ‘Gentle Sleep Book’ that there is no evidence whatsoever to suggest long-term damage to the psyche of co-sleeping children. They will, in their own time (or yours if it becomes a burden) move to their own bed in their own room.
It doesn’t take a genius to work out that co-sleeping has been taking place for infinitely longer than the concept of a baby moving to his nursery at the magical age of six months. Your closeness offers warmth, safety, comfort and potentially food. Why wouldn’t your little one feel happy cuddled next to you in bed? Unless you’re slouched on the sofa or drunk or drugged up to the eyeballs, you are so in tune with your little person that there are no safety issues. So bundle on in as you wish!
5. You feed your child JUNK.
What do I mean by junk food? Anything other than kale, quinoa, fruit, or organic meat from a farm where the animals are massaged to the sound of whale music. If a speck of salt, sugar or empty calories has passed your child’s lips, then you are most certainly a terrible parent. Your child is doomed. They will be fussy, they will be sickly, they will be obese.
I recently read a conversation on a Facebook group where a mum asked others when they allowed their child to first taste chocolate and cake. I know we will all have slightly varying opinions about this, but one particular woman stood out to me because she was trying so very hard to keep her son from tasting sugar that it made me feel bad for her. His birthday cake was going to be made from banana, the icing from cashews, and he was going to be permitted one mouthful (no icing of course) and that was it! How exhausting for everyone involved. I absolutely respect the lady’s right not to feed her child sugar, but it seems so very extreme to go to such lengths, and you know that child will be mainlining Skittles the second he’s at a friend’s party! My personal feeling is that a taste of this and that will allow your child to form a balanced palette and will help to avoid your child putting treats on a pedestal, but that’s just me.
6. You feed your baby puree.
If you’ve read my post about the Baby Led Weaning Brigade, you will know my thoughts on weaning. A lot of people feel VERY strongly that feeding your child purees will ensure they grow up fussy and with an unhealthy attitude to food. Well, both my sister and I (like most eighties-born babies) were fed purees from 4 months. I am an extremely fussy eater, I have textural issues and my weight fluctuates. My sister eats anything, is a very healthy weight, and thinks, quite rightly, that I’m weird.
7. You DON’T feed your baby puree.
It is so very cruel, you will be told, to withhold puree from your baby. Even though their main source of nutrition in the first year is milk, even though a baby’s growing ability to chew, manoeuvre and swallow food matches his growing nutritional requirements, the long history of puree feeding will have grandparents horrified that you won’t lift a spoon.
I have tried to provide as many reasons to feel guilty as I possibly can, I do hope you’ve found something to feel bad about. In many cases, you will have noticed, I have offered reasons to feel guilty about both sides of a coin. This is correct, and it’s so that EVERYBODY can feel bad or smug about different things.
Welcome to parenthood! 😉
What parenting issues have brought you the most guilt? I’m not the only one chopping off my son’s fingertips every time I cut his nails am I?!