Why addressing our own needs as a Mother is so difficult and how aligning our own needs with our babies needs can lead to smoother days and more peaceful nights.
As you may have already found out, it's not as simple as 'sleep when your baby sleeps', to truly synchronise our needs as a parent with those of a baby requires courage, faith and trust.
Whenever I'm asked about the hypothetical rights and wrongs of parenting, my usual opinion is that every child is of course different. We all know this really, but what often seems to slip out of focus is that every mum is also different. I see this daily when I welcome amazing women into my home each morning.
I hear about the ups and downs of the previous night, we talk about behaviour and bedtimes. And, like my days here, these conversations are child focused, child-centric. And if we stop for a minute and talk about what's right for us as mothers we switch off or change the subject because we don't like looking at our own needs. I don't like talking about my own needs either. I think because this lifestage, (abundant though it is) is also incredibly intense, exhausting and depleting.
Addressing our own needs is like peering over the edge of a cliff, at night. It's huge, empty, a bit scary. Much safer to just plod on, nurturing, giving, caring. Mothering.
I recently read an article about the rights and wrongs of lying down with your child until they fell asleep. The thinking behind it was that children and babies like the security of falling asleep with their parent. The comments below the article were polar with some parents arguing that it would lead to problems in the future with bedtimes and boundaries.
It triggered the usual mix of feelings that I'm sure many mums experience when they read parenting articles. "Am I doing it right?" "Am I doing it well enough?" "What's the right thing to do?" That sort of thing.
I had my own internal dialogue with the writer and after a few minutes was hit with the clarity to hold on to our own views and values of parenting and not compare them, analyse them or criticise them. For me it wasn't about the rights and wrongs of co-sleeping. It was much more far reaching. It's about taking courage to be the parent we are, not the one we want to be or the one we don't want to be. Being present with our children and to not feel pressured into following advice is hard but at the same time very simple.
In comparison to my very placid first born, my second child was colicky, cuddly and busy. Evenings were the worst. Unsettled, whingy and exhausting. Gone was my regular bedtime routine with my three year old. Relentlessly, I was juggling a grizzly baby and a needy toddler. One July evening, with my three year old tucked up in bed and partner just back from work, desperate for peace and to reconnect with myself, I tied my baby to my back and walked the fields as the sun set. This became a regular solace for me. We were both happy, on the move and at peace. Often I would return home with a sleeping baby. Plenty of parenting manuals would be criticising the lack of routine or the perils of rocking your baby to sleep. The truth is, I was happy and my baby was happy and with that at the centre what more matters?
Let's listen to what we need for a minute and line that up with what our children's needs, we may be surprised that they are not all that different. Often, we are so bombarded by mothering advice we lose sight of our own intuition and needs. I'm particularly aware that in those first few sleep deprived, hormone muddled years of mothering we are very vulnerable to being told what's right and wrong, by our own parents, by our friends and by the internet.
Re-mothering is about meeting your emotional and physical needs as a person, caring and nurturing yourself, your ideas and beliefs. This year might be your first year as a Mother. You might hope for a break, a rest, a treat? But this Mother's Day, I invite you to gather your own needs, values and opinions and nurture them, protect them and mother them. That way, I believe, we can resolve to forming our own framework of mothering based on being a contented, confident mum. Like I always say, happy mums happy babies. And isn't that what it all comes down to?