We’ve all heard the comments about the lack of a manual when you take home your baby, so we know this is reality. We logically know that nobody knows what the hell they’re doing when they get that little baby home, and it is the ultimate ‘learn on job’ experience. However, what I wasn’t prepared for was all of the self-doubt that would come with this new chapter.
From the moment I get up in the morning, I am making decisions for another human’s life. One that is solely dependent on me to survive. Some of those decisions I can and do make confidently. What baby products to use is an example of this – I can research them, look at ingredients lists and decide. It is very black and white – wipes, cleaning products, anything that touches her skin. My criteria is constant and lets me easily make these decisions – free from chemicals, ease of use, and cost (not having to re-mortgage the house is always a plus), easy, decision made!
Other decisions are more difficult. Should I be introducing a bottle? A dummy or not? Rocking baby to sleep? Self-settling? What time to start the ‘night time’ routine? Baby led parenting or a routine? Should I introduce a dream feed? Am I overstimulating, or am I not doing enough? When should they go into care? What type of care? What about a chiropractor? The list could (and does) go on. This is where the self-doubt creeps in. We all want to do the best we possibly can to ensure that our child gets the best start to life, and it all falls completely on us. The decisions we make set them up. This leads me to question my decision making and can cast doubt on whether I am doing the right thing.
To make the best decisions we can, we rely on our support networks and their experiences, scientific research, blogs, health professionals, and of course, our own experiences and gut instincts. Unfortunately, it is very rare for all of these to line up perfectly in to the ‘golden answer’. Instead, we have to navigate through a range of possibilities and then make our own decision. In today’s world this means wading through an endless amount of information in which you can always find an article or opinion that advocates for every possible outcome. I like to research and to find reliable information. They really should be recruiting mum’s in to the FBI – we all know that there is nothing like a mum’s worry or concern to dig up every nugget of information out there! But when there is so much conflicting work out there, making any decision can be a stressful exercise.
What I am learning in my new role is that some self-doubt is inevitable, it’s part of being the type of parent who wants the best for their child. It tells me that I am doing my job well. That I want nothing but the best for this little life. But, I am also learning how to keep that self-doubt to a healthy level, a level that does not cause me to berate myself, to freeze in decision making or engaging in negative self-talk (being useless, I can’t do this etc). So far, I have found that aligning myself with other parents who have similar values and parenting beliefs is key. I think about what I want as my outcome then turn to my ‘go to’ parents. If their advice/experience/thinking matches mine, then I’m normally pretty happy with making that decision. If, however, it does not align, then I will spend more time doing research in the area. Of course, if it’s a decision that requires a health professional, then I will seek their guidance as well.
It has also been helpful having an amazing support network who do remind me that I am doing a good job. We all need reassurance at times, and when we’re doing such a crucial job and making decisions that we have never had to contemplate making before, it is so comforting to be told we are doing well.
So let’s make sure we’re encouraging other mum’s, and telling them that they’re doing a good job! Find other parents who’s styles and ideals align with yours, so you can reach out and talk about their experiences and ask for their opinions. But, most importantly, we all need to realise that self-doubt comes with the territory and it really is part of parenthood. Just ensure you keep those internal thoughts and conversations are kept to a level that is not harmful to yourself, or the enjoyment that comes with parenting.