On good days, I know that being a parent is something that I am great at. I take pride in my ability to read my baby, to anticipate her needs. I see her squeal with glee at seeing me arrive at daycare to pick her up and I know that I am doing a damn fine job. The mornings make it so easy for me to know that I’m the shit, as far as mommies go. On mornings when I wake before her, I let her wake on her own and, once she has stirred, come in to find her quietly investigating her binky, turning it over and over, vetting its quality, usefulness, and tastiness but the moment she sees me, she springs into a beaming smile, extending her arms as far upward as she can muster as a request to be held RIGHT NOW because it’s been HOURS since she’s been cuddled by me. I scoop her up and devour her with kisses, gobbling her ears and chin and neck and those cheeks. OH those cheeks. And the mornings when she wakes before me? I wake to her soft coos as her tiny hands explore my face, and as I slowly open my eyes, I see her inquisitive gaze erupt into luminous, pure, unabated joy and exuberance. And I know that this is going to be a great day. And all I’ve done to deserve this is be a good mommy.
But there are also tough days. On bad days, it can be hard to quiet the doubts. Daycare had a chat with me today about how “she only naps for half an hour!” On a confident day, I would respond with “And I’m supposed to be able to do what about that?” But after 3 days in a row of no more than a daily 30 minute snooze, I start to question what I’m doing wrong. Should I cut out coffee? Switch her to formula? Somehow take her to work with me so I can shove her in the sling (a surefire nap inducer)? Tell them it’s okay to duct tape her to the mat? I start to run down the list of all the possible ways I could be getting it wrong, starting to think it really could be my fault that she sucks at napping. And then, when daycare learns that not only does she not nap well, she ALSO DOESN’T SLEEP THROUGH THE NIGHT YET, I can hear them looking up the number for Child Protective Services. But on bad days, even an innocent & simple passing remark can make me question my baby’s development. When they say that babies move up to the next nursery “when they’re crawling so she probably won’t be in there for at least a couple more months,” I immediately jump to my brain’s index entry Crawling, why ISN’T SHE DOING IT YET?
If my BFF were here, she would say that I’m being too hard on myself, that I’m doing my best, and that I’m being way too sensitive to daycare’s, uh, advice, and that baby is developing at a healthy rate on her own time, and that all babies are different. And on good days, I know that’s true, and I trust my instincts. But on those tough days, sometimes it seems like maybe daycare does know more about my baby than I do, because they get to spend more time with her. Hopefully the smile on baby’s face bright and early tomorrow morning will remind me that that can’t possibly be true…and that I’m damn fine at my mommy job.