When I became a mom for the first time 12 years ago, I was the first of my friends and family who lived near us. I really didn’t know what I was doing. In fact, the only thing I really knew was just how much I loved my sweet little girl.
Everything else was foreign waters each day as I stumbled through parenthood. And some days my stumbling had me laying face first on concrete.
I’m always amazed with how forthcoming people were with their parenting advice. One message I heard loud and clear, constantly, was, “Don’t spoil your baby. Don’t be that mom.”
Spoil, by their definition was:
Going to the baby too quick.
Not letting your baby cry.
Rocking your baby to sleep.
Nursing on demand.
Having a baby-led schedule.
Picking up baby every time she asked.
Letting your baby be the center of your world.
(Insert eye rolls and exasperated sighs)
One of my biggest regrets as a young mom was listening to these voices. My oldest daughter lived on my schedule and I remember the frustration that mounted when she did not. It felt unnecessary and strange. She was taught to wait momentarily for me to go to her. I didn’t pick her up every time her chubby little arms reached for me. I truly thought by doing so I would be spoiling her like everyone else seemed to believe I would.
It went against every instinct in me not to go to her in the middle of the night when she was struggling to fall back asleep because a doctor told me it was best to let her figure out how to self sooth. And in my heart of hearts I desired to be a good mom. So many nights I stood quietly outside her room, aching just to go to her, but feeling like I wasn’t allowed too.
I laid her in her crib at night when all I wanted to do was rock her sweet self to sleep, but I was told by doing so I was creating a habit that I wouldn’t be able to break.
I was intentional about not “spoiling my baby.” What I didn’t know was that by doing so I was intentionally missing out on moments I could never get back.
Thankfully not too much time went on before I grew a bit of confidence as a Mama. I learned not to take everyone and their sister’s advice to heart. I learned how to trust my own intuition when making decisions for my babies. I learned that each mama develops their own parenting style and there was no “one or right way” to parent. I learned that my heart already knew what my parenting style was. I just had to follow it. For my babies, and for me. Absolutely not for anyone else.
Twelve years later, I’m a much different Mama. I spoil my babies. I hold them until they let go first. I open the covers to them in the middle of the night and let them snuggle in. I make dinner and shower with a baby who doesn’t want to be put down. I forgo late night activities knowing my baby prefers to snuggle into her own crib by 8pm. Many mornings I’m up with her and the sun, sipping coffee and ironically reading, “It’s time to sleep, my love, my love,” for the 100th time just because it’s her favorite.
The frustration dissipated.
The guilt is gone.
The regret no longer exists.
I’m the mama I always was but didn’t know how to be or felt free to be.
So be free Mamas. Be who you are, not who you are expected to be.