Far too many times, I have heard of new moms being undermined! Their thoughts being questioned and their parenting ways tossed aside. I don’t understand how anyone can doubt the abilities of a mommy or daddy, for that matter. If you are a first time mother, then everyone and their aunty have pearls of wisdom to share. Because of course, you have no experience but they do and so obviously they know better!
Everyone from the baby’s grandparents to various uncles and aunties have “advice”. Some even go to the point of forcefully doing things for the baby – because, well, even though you are the mother, you are new to this so you don’t know anything right?
What makes it worse is the fact that this undermining comes from family, not strangers. And what complicates matters is the fact that you know it comes from a place of care. It is because they love you and your child that they do it. They are trying to help but honestly, everything will be much better if they just let the mommy – yes, even a first time mommy – parent the way she wants to.
Why is it so easy to brush away the rights earned by a mother! How can anyone even imply that a parent does not understand or care enough about their baby? How can it ever be okay to undermine a new mom or dad?
A Vulnerable Time
The thing is almost all new parents are in an extremely vulnerable spot. Especially the moms. She just gave birth. A humongous feat – physically, mentally and emotionally. They are in recovery. Yes. I did say they. Because both the new mom and dad are in this together. Both are dealing with a live human child. Learning how to cope. Lack of sleep. Hormones. Mood swings. Medications. And in a lot of cases, even baby blues or post partum depression – something which affects mommies primarily but something that needs the attention of both parents.
They are learning. Slowly but steadily gaining confidence. Keep in mind that the baby is teeny tiny and doing anything at all – even the supposedly simplest task – is scary enough.
How then can anyone raise questions that will make them doubt themselves? Questions that will – subconsciously at least – chip away at their confidence? It is definitely wrong and completely unfair to add that pressure onto them!
Since moms are primary caregivers especially when it comes to feeding, they are usually the ones questioned the most. “You don’t have enough milk” or “you are not feeding enough” is something almost every mom has heard. And you’ll hear questions about how the baby is fed regardless of how you feed. Breast or bottle – you just can’t be doing it right!
You Can Do This!
But you know what? You’ve got this, momma! You’ve got this under control 100%. Even when the baby is crying. Even when you or dada or bubba haven’t slept a wink. Even when your home looks like a tornado hit it. Even when you are completely overwhelmed. Even when you feel completely underprepared. Even when everyone is doubting and questioning everything you do as a parent! You’ve got this! You are truly incredible and you are in charge!
Always remember – YOU conceived, created, developed and grew a human baby within you. YOU carried the baby for nine odd months. YOU went through the highs and lows and everything in between during those nine months. YOU gave birth. Natural/C-section whatever. YOU went through the pains and traumas of birth. YOU are incredible. YOU are strong. YOU are powerful. Don’t let anyone take that away from you.
The only other person who has an equal right to your baby is the child’s father, who stood by you and nurtured and supported you throughout this journey.
Think about it – you are so amazing. You did all of that. So of course you are capable of taking care of your child. You are the mom and your child is obviously your priority.
Why is it so difficult for the baby’s grandparents to sometimes understand that? Yes, their thoughts and concerns and help (even unwanted at times) are well-intentioned. They come from a place of love, concern and caring. But I only wish that they realize that there really is no one who will love the baby more than his mom and dad. (Of course exceptions exist).
A Message to Grandparents and Other Family
If you are a grandparent or relative, please don’t overwhelm the new parents. Please don’t undermine their efforts. Offer advice, offer support, offer help (if you want to), but let the baby’s parents make the call to accept it or not. If they are not accepting it, it is not an insult to you, but their need to do this on their own. Respect that.
I think it is important to tell new excited grandparents this –
“What you need to do is – take care of your child and let them take care of their child! You don’t need to protect and care for the baby; that is the baby’s parent’s role. What you need to do is to be there for your child and empower them to become strong confident parents.
“After all, you raised your child to be strong and independent individuals, confident in themselves, ready to face the challenges the world will bring. You have done your work, you have prepared them enough – now let them take the lead. Have faith in the skills and knowledge you gave, and trust your child to do the best for his.
“You did the best with the knowledge you had. Now let us do the best with the knowledge we have. “
Times are changing
I truly feel it is important to point out to grandparents, relatives and other “experienced” well wishers that the world is continuously changing and evolving. Every day, science brings something new. New parents, unlike what they would like to think, do read and learn from the data they have access to. A lot of new parents also talk to doctors and friends and even Facebook support groups to have the latest most up-to-date information. So trust us and let us parent our way.
And another thing you must never do is compare the parent’s abilities with anyone else. They are doing the very best they can. Mom and dad are being the best parents they can based on their own values, beliefs and ideologies. And that really is all that matters. No matter what you think the parents should, you should leave them be. And never compare because honestly – it serves no purpose!
I also find it hilarious when grandparents say but our babies didn’t cry so much, or our babies didn’t do this or that! It is funny because I, like most other moms, struggle to remember what happened in the first week of the baby’s life. The first month. The first year. And my baby is not even two yet. The only way I track is through my blog, and my notes and my apps on the phone. Nature is an incredible thing that way. With time, you tend to forget the tough times, and the number of times you stayed up and cried about little things become fuzzy and unclear So no, there is no way anyone remembers exactly how much their baby cried or fussed or ate 10-20 years or more ago..
And new mommies, please learn to put your foot down. This can be done gently and politely (or not) depending on your circumstances.
Tell your parents and in laws and everyone else that you appreciate their advice and support but you need to do this your way. That you know it is coming from a place of love and for that you will be eternally grateful. But. You are the mother. You are the parent. How you parents us completely 100% your decision. Yours and your husband’s.
A lot of new moms keep mum because they are worried about hurt feelings. But please don’t let that come in the way of your parenting. Tell them you are sorry if they feel hurt; that is not your intention at all. Your intention is only to get what is rightfully yours – your right to be the parent you want to be to the child you birthed. They need to respect you as the parent and trust your parenting intuitions and abilities. Most definitely, that is not too much to ask.
Here is the beauty of families – even if there are a few hurt feelings, they will come around. Because they want what you want, and you want what they want – the best for the baby.
Baby is priority
But in the pursuit of what is best for the baby, there are many who unfortunately think they know better. I’ve even spoken to moms whose baby was taken away from her arms while breastfeeding (cuz the grandmother decided baby is feeding for long because of a lack of supply, duh!) or when grandparents or others offered semi solid and solids to babies as young as three months old. Even these come a place of love and care – no doubt – but with the knowledge we now possess, we know that both these scenarios are wrong, and may even harm the child. But yes, they are only doing this out of care and it us based on the knowledge they possess.
Especially in such cases, there is a definite need for the mom to stand up for her child. The baby cannot speak or defend himself, and it is up to the mother to be his voice and guardian.
Being polite is the first step. If that does not work – be harsh. Slowly but steadily, assert your authority. Baby comes first. Your baby, your rules. And despite the lack of experience, you and your husband are fully equipped to take care of the child.
Be clear about it. Either they respect you and follow your parenting or they don’t get access to the child. Remind them that there is no way they care more about your child than you! Maybe – or most likely, there will be some hurt feelings. But that is okay. But an adult’s feelings does not trump a baby’s health.
I also feel that it is important to have an open line of communication and to nip these things in the bud before you get relegated to a backseat parent, while everyone else takes decisions for your child. It just is not their place.
I personally was not even comfortable with anyone – my mom in law or my mom – changing my baby’s diaper in the initial days. Attending to my baby was my task. Mine and my husband’s.
It takes a village..
The way I look at it – a baby is truly fortunate to have grandparents and aunts and uncles and other relatives to love and care for him. To play with him, and to cherish him. To make him smile and wipe his tears. For the good times, for the fun times and even in the not so fun times. I feel truly blessed to have that for my son.
But respect for the parents is non negotiable. At the end of the day, any decisions pertaining to the child need to be made by the parents. Whether it is about milk or a biscuit, or diaper or sleep, or anything really. Mom and Dad decide. Not anyone else. And everyone should give the parents the space and trust to do just that. It does take a village to raise a child, but the head of that village is the child’s mom and dad!
And it is perfectly okay to make mistakes too. You and me, just like everyone else around us are just humans and are not infallible. Such is life. Mistakes happen. That’s okay. We get up again and continue. That is how we learn and grow. And become better people and better parents!
So please, my dear mommas! Don’t be afraid to stand up for yourself and your baby. Even if its from your own family or in laws. Please do not doubt your parenting abilities! No matter what, you can do this! All you need to focus on is beingvthe best parent thst you can be. Your only competition when it comes to parenting is you. You are strong and incredible and wonderfully powerful. You’ve got this mommy! Trust yourself and don’t ever let anyone bring you down.
More power to you mommy! Don’t let anyone doubt the abilities of a mommy!
For more on how to handle unsolicited advices, read http://mommydil.com/2016/08/09/handling-the-unsolicited-advices/