Monday 21 October 2019

Going wrong: It's hard to always do the right thing

It's hard to always do the right thing when you're trying to raise your child, writes new mum Siobhan O'Dowd, but so far it's all working out

Siobhan O'Dowd with daughter Charlotte
Siobhan O'Dowd with daughter Charlotte

Charlotte is nearly 10 months old. When I think of all the things I did or almost did 'wrong' it's pretty amazing she has survived up to this point. Wrongness can be divided into several different categories:

Generational wrongness: When older people look at you like you have 10 heads when you say the words 'dream feed', 'baby-led weaning' or when you change a 'day' babygro into a 'night' one, even though it might not actually be dirty. Previous generations can be sceptical of baby monitors, purpose-built baby baths and other such 'nonsense' that weren't around in their day and yet they all managed to survive, didn't they?

Calculated wrongness: When you just need milk and a couple of other tiny things from the shop, and you know that if you take the Maxi-Cosi out of the car, you'll wake the baby and have to get a trolley as you won't be able to carry the basket and the car seat and the wallet. So you decide to leave the baby in the car for two minutes while you leg it into the shop like a woman possessed.

Survival wrongness: When you know that you should wake the baby up at 10am, but if you just leave her sleep for another half an hour you'll get a wash on and can have a shower for the first time in 48 hours or will have another 28 minutes of much-needed sleep. Although the flipside is she won't want her lunch on time as her breakfast will be late, and she won't go down for her nap at 1pm. This can also can be described as calculated wrongness.

Miscommunication wrongness: When it transpires your other half is putting her down during the dream feed without a Gro-bag on and has been doing so forever and because he gets her up and brings her into you first thing in the morning, you've never noticed. Or when he expresses surprise that puréed fruit is done without skins and cores and you realise that's why he can do it in a quarter the amount of time you can.

Food wrongness: When you give your 10-month-old chips to play with/eat when you're out for an early bird because you want to keep her quiet while you and your husband devour your dinners.

Competitive wrongness: When you are secretly delighted that your baby is walking faster/ longer/ earlier that anyone else's baby. Or doing high-fives quicker than next door's baby.

There are many more types of wrongness that we engage in. Most of it is harmless, and the guilt when something does go wrong is worse than any other form of punishment. I think most of my parenting is probably wrong by someone's standards - but then I look at how other people do it and realise what's right for them isn't right for us.

For us having a childminder while we go to work works. Having a lovely family dog and seeing how excited Charlotte gets when she goes downstairs to him in the morning is lovely, even if she's permanently covered in dog hair and and I once caught her sucking his tail. Charlotte needed the dream feed until she was nine months old, and if Gina Forde babies all denounce it at seven months, then give them a medal. If I leave her to sleep an additional 10 minutes to get myself organised, or we take a car trip which throws her nap times off, then it sorts itself out over time.

Our family isn't built to have a hard and fast routine because we need a little flexibility for our own sanity, so we employ the 80/20 rule and do it most of the time. Thankfully, we have a beautiful, happy little girl who is super-sociable, adaptable, flexible and healthy and who seems to be coping well with all of our wrongness. And the funny thing is, when we do get it wrong, she is the first one to let us know.

Irish Independent

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