Let’s face it, the first days of parenthood are far from plain sailing. You’re learning how to completely look after another, very important, human being who cannot tell you what they need, while healing from an often arduous physical feat and dealing with the many changes to your daily life that come alongside. Completely at sea, thrown between moments of ecstatic wonder and total terror, you wouldn’t be surprised if someone told you that even your name had changed.
And in amongst these waves of novel, crazy change there are moments where you actually feel normal, like you’re getting a handle on things, like maybe just maybe it’s all going to be ok.
And then. You share one of these moments with someone, a midwife, a mother, a friend… and their response?
Or worse ‘…..OH?!’ (Accompanied by puzzled frown)
It goes without saying now that parenting, and parenting choices, are a boiling, churning stew of potential conflict. News articles pop up daily critiquing and criticising each and every aspect of modern parenting. Somehow it becomes socially acceptable from the moment you start showing for perfect strangers to judge the size of your bump, and comment on what you ‘simply must do’ as a parent. We get used to facing blatant judgement as we go about our new daily lives.
But somehow that ‘oh’ can feel so much worse. With it’s unspoken disapproval and silent condemnation, that ‘oh’ can completely deflate a new mum’s fragile confidence.
In that ‘oh’ (or sometimes it’s a ‘really??!’ Or just an ‘ur, right then’ or even a long and uncomfortable silence…), a new mum hears echoed back all of the judgement she is heaping on herself. That voice that comes at 1am when she’s woken already for the third time saying ‘who are you kidding, you’re not cut out for this’, at 3am when she’s pacing up and down holding an inconsolable child saying ‘you’re going to mess up this beautiful little creature’, at 5am when she realised her day has already started saying ‘you’re failing, you’re not good enough, and you’re on your own’. That voice hides behind the ‘oh’ and tells her ‘you’re just not getting it right’.
We all make our parenting choices, for our own reasons. Sometimes they aren’t choices but just happen, sometimes they’re conscious decisions that we have researched and discussed. Often there are tears attached. And when they are shared, they should only ever be met with one response. A big, wide smiled, resounding ‘Oh!’