Dear world, I have a frustration that I need to air.
As a new parent, and I speak particularly as a new mother but this also happens to dads, you get a lot of ‘at leasts’. There are a lot of people, (and sadly, they’re often other parents), who want to play top trumps with your experience as parents. If you had a sleepless night, theirs was more sleepless (yes, this is tautology, but you get my drift). If your baby has been an absolute nightmare all day, theirs was the Kim Jong-Un of the baby universe with fists of fury and the voice of a wailing cat.
Why are we doing this to each other? Pregnancy, parenthood and everything that comes along with this life changing experience, is hard enough as it is. Do we really need to make it a bizarre competition that no-one can win and stress ourselves out even more? Here are a few ‘at leasts’ I’ve personally experienced:
On my c-section: “At least your vagina is still intact”…Well yes Betty it is but they sliced through six layers of muscle and I couldn’t get myself off the sofa for about 3 weeks so there is that.
On my struggle to breastfeed (which ultimately brought me one step away from clinical madness): “At least you had some milk. Mine never came in and I still kept trying until my child was basically wasting away”.
On having a child who sleeps through: “At least you get to sleep. I can’t imagine what that’s like. My child is 30 (OK I may be exaggerating) and they still wake me up 5 times a night.”
On my daughter getting her top teeth before her bottom ones (I kid you not, people have opinions on this): *Adopts weird, patronising, pseudo-sympathetic face* “At least she’s got some teeth”
I could go on but my point is not simply to rant, it’s to make a plea.
Parents, we’re all in this together. Instead of one-upmanship, how about we exhibit some compassion and solidarity? Might I suggest the following amendments to the above situations:
On birth experiences: “You’re a legend. There’s no easy way to give birth and your body just did an incredible thing. Here’s a hug and a giant bar for chocolate for your efforts.”
On feeding: “Even when it works well, breastfeeding is hard work. As long as children are fed that’s all that matters. You do what’s right for your family.”
On sleeping: “It’s all relative. You’re doing a great job, this is a phase. It will get better.”
On teething: “I can’t imagine all of my teeth starting to puncture through my sore, swollen gums all at once. The poor little mite. How has he/she been feeling through it all?”
And the most important one of all: “You’re doing a great job. How can I help?”