Before my son was born, I had a lot of intentions. Firstly, I was going to breastfeed. I read about it, understood the benefits, and couldn’t understand why so many women chose not to, or gave up. It was illogical to me. After all, breastmilk is free, no preparation or extra equipment is required, and it’s easy. Right? I went to a breastfeeding class. The midwife told us about all the benefits and the best feeding positions. I remember saying to her at the end as I thanked her that I thought it would be easy. She just smiled at me.
Not only would I breastfeed, but I would do so exclusively until my son was six months old, as per NHS guidelines, and he wouldn’t have anything else to eat before that point. After that he would only be given home-made meals with lots of vegetables and fruit, no pre-made sauces or packets, and certainly no junk food.
My son wasn’t going to be allowed to watch TV until he was much older. Instead, we would take walks together every day, do craft activities, and read stories. I certainly wasn’t going to the type of parent who hands their toddler a smartphone in a café to keep him or her quiet.
Furthermore, I determined that my son would never have a temper tantrum in public. He would be too well behaved and I would set his boundaries early on using the naughty step and toy confiscation. I would show other parents that you don’t need to scream at a child to get them to behave.
Reader, if you have made it through this article so far without wanting to shake my pre-child self, I salute you. I had so many good (and sanctimonious) intentions. And, then my little angel arrived – a bundle of flailing limbs and huge blue eyes. The first 48 hours were a chaotic blur of nursing, visitors, and very little sleep. Slowly, as the days, weeks, months, and first years crept by, my intentions crept out with them.
Breastfeeding lasted about six weeks, although I’d been supplementing with formula for about four weeks before that. My son was ravenous, and comfort ate for reflux. I simply couldn’t keep up with him. I began to resent him for wanting to be permanently attached to me and it affected my relationship with him, so I chose to stop. I felt tremendous guilt. But, the world didn’t end, he didn’t catch a horrible disease, and both of us seemed happier.
I weened my son at four months. He started reaching for my food at 13 weeks. I held off, determined I wouldn’t fail on this issue, but his appetite was insatiable and with everyone around me telling me to “just give him some food, look how hungry he is,” I gave in. He loved every spoonful and wanted more. He hasn’t developed any digestive problems. Like every other child in the UK he also has occasional sweets, chocolate, crisps, pizza, even the odd Chinese takeaway. Yet for the most part he eats healthily and doesn’t have any allergies. He’s doing just fine.
Needless to say, he also watches a lot of TV, especially first thing in the morning when his Dad and I really don’t want to get up at 5.30am and he is bouncing up and down on our bed asking to do something. We use an iPad to keep him entertained on long journeys, in waiting rooms, or at restaurants. It hasn’t caused him any delay in understanding or speech impediment. If anything, he’s advanced for his age. And, of course, he has had temper tantrums in public. I’ve been the embarrassed mother dragging a screaming, writhing toddler out of a supermarket. It didn’t do any lasting damage. He’s still fairly well behaved and showing no signs of becoming a teenage delinquent just yet. I think we’ll be OK.
Your Child Will Be Fine
So, to all the mothers reading this who had the best intentions, but for whatever reason, didn’t manage to keep them, I want to say that it’s OK. You don’t need to feel guilty. Like my son, your child will be fine.
It’s ok to give your child a bottle of formula because breastfeeding either didn’t work, couldn’t work, or you simply didn’t want to. Your child will be fine.
It’s ok if you don’t feed your child home-cooked organic meals every day. Some days just putting a pizza in the oven can feel like a marathon effort. You’ve been sleep deprived for years and you don’t have to be a domestic goddess. Your child will be fine.
It’s ok if your child watches television whilst you catch up on housework or simply enjoy a cup of tea. You need time for yourself every now and again. Your child will be fine.
It’s ok if your child has a screaming fit in the middle of ASDA. I won’t judge you. Instead I’ll feel a mixture of sympathy and relief that it isn’t my child this time. It’s ok if you raise your voice in frustration every once in a while. It’s human and your child will be fine.
It’s ok if you didn’t meet your best intentions for your child. You have nothing to feel guilty for and you are not a failure, because you are doing your very best. Your child will be just fine.