Hello!

As a parent no one ever really tells you that you are doing a good job. It’s the only job in the world that carries so much responsibility yet you receive no monthly, quarterly or even annual performance review of what you are doing well or some constructive criticism around what you could do better.

I remember when I was handed our first born in the hospital. After the initial gushes of love and sheer amazement at this tiny human we had created, the reality that she was ‘ours’ suddenly hit us. She didn’t come with a manual and there was no receipt to send her back when she didn’t do the things we had thought babies were meant to do, like ‘sleep like a baby’ for example.

I was lucky enough to have my mum over from the UK for the first 10 weeks of her precious life. This meant I was given a huge head start in comparison to many other new mums. She taught me the basics such as, bathing a tiny baby, how to deal with newborn flaky skin, what to do with explosive yellow poo when it leaks all over everything, she encouraged us to get a routine started and helped us soothe the baby when she was screaming and we had no idea why. She supported me incredibly through those initial, toe curlingly painful breastfeeding days when I was so close to quitting. After having three breastfed babies herself, she knew that in time, the pain would ease and the reward I would feel for persevering would be worth it (this was the case for me but I totally respect and understand this is different for lots of other women).

When my eldest was 10 weeks old, mum returned to the UK.

My husband and I were on our own to care for our baby.

We fumbled our way along, reading various books and haemorrhaging Google whenever we came up against anything unknown to us. The experience, whilst one of love and happiness was also filled with hundreds of questions, self-doubt and worry that we were doing it wrong.

When she was a new-born we worried if she was too hot, too cold, hungry, full, tired or breathing! We constantly checked to see if she was breathing, at times she was so still we were convinced we’d lost her.

As she grew bigger (age 1-2) we worried about the things she did more such as: Why does she keep hitting herself? Why does she play with buckles all the time? Why does she walk on tip toes? Why hasn’t she started talking or walking yet? Why is she throwing her food on the floor? Is that behaviour, dare I say it… NORMAL? One occasion, when she fell off a climbing frame and banged her head, I managed to convince myself and everyone else that the climbing frame was HUGE!  I rushed her to A&E and she checked out fine. Since then I’ve returned to the playground and am embarrassed to admit it really is not that high after all.

Now I have a 14 month old and a nearly 3 year old I still continually question and doubt myself in my role as a mother. I am what people commonly refer to as a ‘worrier’ so  this will come as no surprise to anyone who knows me reading this. However, I have been surprised to see that some of the strongest women I know, who are full of self-belief and confidence in other areas of their lives, have been affected by the same self-doubt and insecurities as me since becoming mums.

I was prompted to write this blog because a friend of mine contacted me the other day, upset and angered by an encounter with a stranger. She is one of these women I would identify as being strong in character and self-confidence.

The encounter with the stranger went like this:

My friend was in good spirits, doing the weekly supermarket shopping with her toddler in the trolley. Her toddler wasn’t quite so chipper. She was crying and objecting (as toddlers do) at being restrained in the trolley.

As my friend reached the checkout she was approached by a woman who proceeded to tell her that she was a child psychologist and the fact that she was allowing her child to cry and not comfort her was damaging her child. My friend was shocked. Of course she wasn’t enjoying seeing her child upset but she was trying to deal with it in her own way.

That was all it took,  all her self-belief went out of the window and she began immediately doubting herself. No matter how much all of us outside of that situation can say the stranger was clearly a nutter/busy body who had no right to make such a statement, it doesn’t matter. All my friend could hear in her head for the rest of the day were those words, questioning her ability as a mother.

I had a similar incident after having my second child.

I honestly thought, “second child, easy peasy- I know what I’m doing this time, it’s going to be fine.”

Someone once told me the definition of ‘fine’ is:

F****d up

Insecure

Neurotic

Emotional

I can confirm that since having my second child I have been all of the above at certain points.

My second baby was diagnosed with severe reflux, much worse than our first daughter. Reflux is distressing for all involved. Immediately I looked to blame myself for why this was happening again.

“It’s because I was so sick through the pregnancy, I didn’t eat much dairy so I’ve made her intolerant’’

“It’s because my milk is ‘bad’”

“It must be something I’m eating”

“My milk flow is too fast”

“IT’S MY FAULT”

I joined a Facebook reflux support group and went to see a paediatrician. He made me realise that medication was the only thing that may help her and wasn’t convinced that changing my diet would make a significant enough difference. I was relieved. After 9 months of nausea I couldn’t bear the thought of completely abstaining from all dairy. I’m so selfish, such a bad mum not prepared to quit breastfeeding (which I loved) or change my diet. Constant self-doubt and questioning ensued.

One warm sunny day I was waiting for the bus at Bondi Junction. I had my newborn in the ergo carrier, my toddler was having a melt-down because she wanted a ‘whole’ biscuit but when I’d opened the wrapper it was broken. I should mention that the lead up to this day was, as any new mum may relate to, severely sleep deprived. I’d been functioning on about 3 hours of broken sleep a night for the previous few weeks and hadn’t been able to master the art of getting 2 kids under 2 to sleep at the same time in the day.

Finally my toddler stopped screaming about her broken biscuit and I heaved a sigh of relief as she began quietly sucking away on her dummy (this is what dummies are for).

Everything was calm.

Next thing I know, a random passer by stops and shouts at me,

“You are killing your baby!”

Horrified, I looked up to see a lady, around my mum’s age, staring at me in disgust.

“Excuse me?”I could barely speak but managed to force the words out.

“You shouldn’t have your baby in that outfit or that carrier, I know these things. You are killing her. I know what I’m talking about.”

I looked on in amazement, like a startled rabbit. I’d half expected someone to say something when my toddler was having her tantrum, but this was so unexpected. I froze.

“I don’t think that’s any of your business actually ” I managed to comeback at her with.

She stormed off ranting under her breath that “I was killing my baby”.

I was gob-smacked. When you’ve had no sleep for weeks and something totally bonkers like that happens you start to question whether it was real or not.

Suddenly I felt someone’s arm wrap around my shoulder and heard their voice saying angrily,

“What an idiot. Who the hell does she think she is?”

The tears poured out of my eyes and down my face with such force it was like a dam had just burst. I could barely breathe, let alone speak.

Immediately I believed her – this stranger who had shouted at me.

I must be doing something wrong. I’m a terrible mother. I don’t know what I’m doing.

All those self-doubting and negative words buzzing around my head making me feel dizzy.

A few other people at the bus stop came over to say how sorry they were at what had happened but it didn’t matter, the damage had been done. She had questioned my ability as mother, and I was hanging onto her every word. What she didn’t know was that I’d spent ages procrastinating about what to dress the baby in before leaving the house. Aware that it was a hot day, she was too young to wear sunscreen but also that I would only be outside for a few minutes whilst waiting for the bus. The rest of the time would be in the air conditioned shopping centre. I’d deliberated for a good few minutes and carefully selected a special summer babygrow so there was no risk of sunburn and she wouldn’t get too cold. Oh my Godness – I’d obviously got it wrong. I’M A TERRIBLE MOTHER!

Of course as time has gone by I have moved on from this upsetting day. I do know that she was just a strange individual and that I was of course not killing my baby by dressing her that way or by using a baby carrier. As I continue on this journey of motherhood I know that there will be many more occasions when I will doubt myself and be affected by the words of others, especially if they get me at a time when I’m feeling particularly vulnerable.

Recently social media has been campaigning to remind us to treat other people with respect and thoughtfulness as you never know what battle they may be fighting. I wholeheartedly support this campaign.

Being a parent is wonderful and challenging in equal measure.

We must be kind and not judge others on how they bring up their children. We don’t know the personal struggles they may be fighting.

And if a stranger takes it upon themselves to question what you are doing, don’t allow that self-doubt to swallow you up.

Instead, remember it’s:

YOU your child asks for when they are sick or upset.

YOU they cry for when you leave them.

YOU they jump into and wrap their little arms and legs around so tightly in excitement and happiness when they see you again – even if you’ve only been apart a short while.

Whilst there may be tough days, tantrum days and downright dire days….for every smile, kiss or cuddle we get from our children, let’s take that as the best and most constructive performance review we could ever ask for. This is our childrens’ way of telling us that we are doing a great job and whilst we may not be perfect,  they love us.

Either that, or we should adopt the self-belief of my toddler, who will not be swayed once she has made up her mind she is right.

They aren't on the wrong feet Mummy!

They aren’t on the wrong feet Mummy! Case in point. It was an argument I was never going to win.

Have you ever been upset by a comment from a stranger? Please share in the comments below.

Image courtesy of Shutterstock.com

  • My 2nd daughter was 2yrs old. She had never thrown a tantrum and was always a happy little kid but she had just been released from hospital the week before where she had been very, very sick and the Doctor had told me that her brain had been affected and it was like certain parts of her memory had been erased where she would float in and out of this kind of fog. hard to explain. We were at the Supermarket and I was very stressed, dealing with lack of sleep and this child that was dealing with her ongoing health issues. We were at the checkout when she freaked out and started screaming in panic. She kept yelling that she wanted her Mum. I got down on my knees and tried to cuddle her but she pushed me away. I remained calm and just talked to her gently. This couple walked past and the man commented loudly “That child needs a good spanking”….. I was so angry but I was also so exhauted that instead of blasting him to mind his own business I just burst into tears. Ive never fogotten that man or how he made me feel.

    Reply

  • You will have your good days and your bad days.

    Reply

  • It seems most little ones throw a tantrum out in public sooner or later. At supermarket checkouts I never criticise the Mum but I sometimes try to distract the little one if I think it is because they are getting tired and bored. most babies rub their eyes, but some rub their ears when they are tired.On a couple of occasions I have helped the Mums put their groceries etc on the checkout to help her get through quicker. I’ve had a few frowns from others waiting behind me but I just ignore them.

    Reply

  • I have never had a stranger tell me that I am doing something wrong. Instead I have had people who are involved in my childrens life imply that the way I do things is not the ‘right’ way. But I dont care because I am the person who is raising them, and teaching them right from wrong, manners, confidence, empathy – not the person who only sees them every now and then. SO I left them have their opinions, but I really dont give a flying f…….

    Reply

  • Lucy, it takes courage to tell such life experience.
    It is common that women always have that self-doubt, but as time goes by, you will gain confidence that enough is enough.
    You are doing the best to bring up your children, not some strangers.
    They are only right when you admitted what they said to you.
    Let go of that negativity and move on to a brighter day for you and your children :)

    Reply

  • I’ve also had busybodies tell me I’m doing things all wrong with my kids. It’s awful when it’s your first because it can easily make you realise you have no idea what you’re doing and poof, all your self confidence is completely gone. And just when you think you might have some idea what to do with the second, busybodies still feel the need to comment. I’ve learnt that being a parent is hard in lots of different ways, but also to trust my gut. It can be hard to shake of stares and whispers when your Mr 2 is throwing an epic tasty but I’ve learned you have to have a fairly thick skin being a parent. To all the other mummas out there – we’ve all been there and just remember that you’re doing the best you can (and your kids don’t know any different). Hats off to you all!

    Reply

  • I can’t believe these stories. They are just horrible and insensitive and judgemental and ill-informed people. We all do the best we can with what we have available to us at any particular time. We learn over time to trust our gut, to trust our instincts because at the end of the day, we know our child best. Cheers to the motherhood and doing the best you can.

    Reply

  • Words can certainly hurt. A topic much spoken about lately in our house as our kids need to do a speech about it. We have the motto to THINK before we speak in our house : T. is it True ? H. Is is Helpful ? I. Is it inspiring ? N. Is it Needed ? K. Is it Kind ? If it’s not then it’s better to say nothing. As we try to teach our kids that we don’t have to take everything what others say/think personally, we sure have to live the good example every day.

    Reply

  • All new mums feel this anguish of maybe not doing things right, and as you say, there is no manual to do it right. Guess that’s because all children are different and what suits one won’t suit the next. I always go by the adage ‘if you can’t say something nice, then don’t say anything at all’, so just can’t understand these women who have upset you and your friend. When you are vulnerable you take it to heart, and we are all vulnerable with a new life placed in our hands to rear and make a good person of with an even better life than we ourselves had had. You must just remember, that your children only want YOU to cuddle them and help them when they hurt and enjoy this part of their life – it will end too soon for you.

    Reply

  • Hmmm, as parents, it seems to be a constant questioning ourselves if we are doing anything right. I wish I could have been the helping hand this woman’s mum was. I visited for 10 days, and I was only a state away…..not a world away. I did nappy changing and bottle feeding and lots of cuddles and soothing etc. Answered lots of questions, not sure how many were right or how many they listened to. Really miss my fuzzy headed warm bundled baby smelling grandson :,(

    Reply

  • How rude of that person. Some people say terrible things without thinking. I’m so sorry. You are doing a fantastic job

    Reply

  • oh my – these words you have written here I have felt before – I’m sure everyone has felt them.

    I am so sorry that you and your friend have had stranger’s make you doubt yourself, that is a really nasty thing to do to anyone.

    Thanks for sharing your personal stories

    Reply

  • I think the lady shouting at you had some problems herself!! Being a mum of four I definetly have doubts and constantly have internal barrels with myself on whether I’m doing something right or if I can do it better but I think that comes hand in hand with parenting and the last thing any latent if caregiver needs is strangers making snide or truely stupid comments. People should mind their own business abd speak up only if a child is really in danger not whether ignoring at the checkout is going to damage them or not.

    Reply

  • I am continually amazed by the way strangers start handing out criticism.

    Reply

  • There will always be others that think that they havent done right, or are better than you. If you child is happy you are doing the best job!

    Reply

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