Dealing with crying babies and adjusting your expectations... You are NOT a bad mother.

Dealing with crying babies and adjusting your expectations... You are NOT a bad mother.

Posted by Corryn Barakat on 2nd Apr 2015

“Sometimes it’s about accepting where you’re at and making a plan for a better tomorrow.”

This is a painful admission, but I am TOTALLY not the parent I thought I’d be when I was imagining my life after kids. Hands up if you have had the same experience?

If your hand is not up, please don’t read any further.

If your hand IS up, you can put it back down and carry on - hopefully you will understand this article. It was a difficult one to write, and one I wasn't sure whether to post. However I think it's important to share our experiences and normalise the hard times as well as the good.

Parenting is a totally different kettle of fish to my expectations. I was lucky enough to have a blooming pregnancy and relatively complication free birth with both of my boys. However what I was not prepared for with a newborn baby was the crying. I had read about African babies who never cried. I had thought that between breastfeeding, baby wearing and co-sleeping that we would always be able to calm and settle our baby. I imagined a calm, peaceful and loving family, and myself being an endless source of calm and giving (not that I have ever been like this before motherhood, but I think I thought something might change when I gave birth!).

Our baby had very different ideas.

I have distinct memories of handing my crying baby to my husband and leaving the room in tears because I couldn’t take it anymore.

I also have crystal clear memories of walking along the beach, with my baby in the baby carrier, with tears running down my face behind my sunglasses because it was so much harder than I had imagined.

I am also somewhat scarred (even after 4 years!) by nights spent pacing the floor every 40 minutes to calm my distraught baby, and then falling asleep propped up in bed with him on my chest because it was the only way he would sleep.

Here is my realisation. All babies cry. Some babies cry more than other babies. Some babies may cry due to physical reasons (such as reflux, or other medical issues), and other babies may cry for no apparent reason (often called ‘colic’, this could be sensory sensitivites or being overstimulated or overtired, but the reason is difficult or impossible to diagnose).

In the end I used a visualisation that I would bring to mind whenever I was holding my crying baby. I imagined that I was a steady rock and that my baby’s crying was the waves crashing over and around the rock. My job was to be present and calm. To listen to my baby and understand that they were having a hard time, without taking it personally. My job was to understand that I wasn’t a bad mother, and that my baby just needed to express how he was feeling and feel heard.

Some days this meant sitting with my crying child for a long time. It is a visualisation that I have continued to use as my children have grown. I try not to distract or negate their emotions. I aim to witness. To listen.

It isn’t ever an easy job. It still isn’t an easy job. Some days I feel so tightly stretched by all of these strong emotions I bear witness to that I end up yelling, stomping around grumpily, or just sitting with a cup of coffee (ok, or wine) while everyone else takes care of themselves. I often forget to look after myself and my own psychological needs. I think it’s a common job hazard of parenthood.

Coming back from being a grump will often mean that as I lie next to my little boy as he falls asleep, I apologise for being grumpy. I say ‘I’m sorry today was a grumpy day. Let’s make tomorrow better.’ Then I go and schedule time in for myself to go to the gym (I’ve found boxing classes to be very therapeutic!), or I do an online yoga session in the living room after bedtime. I might also try to come up with better routines or schedules to avoid problematic times – lately that’s meant springing out of bed to take the dog for walk to the park at 6am with my two boys so we don’t butt heads first thing in the morning (coping with 2 boys bouncing off the walls at home at 6am is not my strong point). 

Sometimes I get stuck in my grumpy funk for days. Sometimes I just can’t see the good any more, and get stuck in a negative cycle, often involving yelling, TV in the evenings, and lots of negativity. After a while I shake myself out of it and realise that actually, my little boys are only 5 years old and 1.5 years old. They’re not manipulative or out to defy me. They just think differently to me. I need to pull up my game and re-prioritise.

Sometimes it’s about accepting where you’re at, and making a plan for a better day tomorrow.

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About the AuthorCorryn Milk and Love

Corryn is mum to 2 gorgeous little boys who have turned her life upside down and roundabout. She wonders whether things will ever be straightforward again. This blog post was published courtesy of bucketloads of coffee and a desire to share the deep dark parts of parenting that don't get shown in social media feeds. Read more about  Corryn and Milk and Love here.