“When I first brought my adopted son home, I went for it with local ‘mother and baby’ groups just to get us out of the house. I tried so hard to talk to other mums and make friends, but I struggled. I didn’t have a partner to talk about. I hadn’t given birth to him or been through labour; I hadn’t had the opportunity to breastfeed. This is the kind of support that ‘regular’ mums need and I’m not knocking that, I just felt like I had nothing in common with them.
“I joined online groups too and remember commenting on a post about teething. My son’s foster carers used an amber teething anklet and I continued with this and I swear it worked. So, I recommended this, not realising how controversial this subject was! Things like this knocked my confidence. I thought I was helping my baby, yet there were people telling me that it was wrong, posting links about children dying after choking on them, and all kinds of scientific research telling me how rubbish they were.
“My little boy is 2 now and I look back and get annoyed about how hard I tried to please others. We can all be cruel and judgmental towards each other but most of all we can be cruel to ourselves. None of us are perfect, we do things our own way, we’re mostly winging it and we all make mistakes. Now that I’m feeling confident as a mum the only advice I give to others is to only ever judge yourself by looking at your children. If they are healthy and happy, well mostly happy (or as happy as a 2-year-old who knows his own mind can be!!), then you are doing a grand job.” Jennie
Whether it is losing weight, changing your hair colour, or buying a new car, most people will have an opinion on it. They will want to know why you changed and they will tell you what they think of this and what they predict is going to happen next. This is natural and out of your control. However, how you choose to react to it, is in your control. I like the phrase, ‘stop, think, then react.’ But I’m human too, so this doesn’t always go to plan!
Sometimes what other people think won’t sit with your own morals. For me it hit home when I was put off breastfeeding because I was told it was very time consuming and I had two older children to think about. I understand that breastfeeding can be difficult for some mothers, but I would never judge or question another woman on how she was preparing to feed her baby.
It’s healthy to want the people who surround your children to be on the same moral wavelength as you. It doesn’t mean that you think you are above or below the people in your life. It just means that your priorities as a parent have influenced your decisions.
This is a vital part of building on your identity, as you are seeing things from a different view, a mother’s view. Go with your heart and don’t worry about what everyone else will think. You know what’s best for you and your family. This is the healthier option than the alternative, where you allow yourself to drown in other people’s morals, living their beliefs and being untrue to your own.
Social media can be a key area. I have mentioned before that you need to use it in the right way and find the right communities. The ones that I am involved in now add positivity, encouragement and balance to my life. These ladies make me feel like me again. We have conversations about us as women and also about our family life. It’s important to surround yourself with like-minded people who you can turn to for support on a ‘not so good but I don’t want to talk about it’ day.
Joining a pregnancy group in your area, or online can be rewarding, but can also have its downside. It’s too easy to get swept into conversations regarding birth, health and education. Although anecdotal advice can be very useful, you should still consult your community or hospital midwife with any worries or problems that may be causing you concern. I’ve been given advice around sleep routine for the last three years for my youngest child and most of it I found very rewarding but the rest, well it didn't suit my situation. I mean how can I put my daughter to bed every night at 7pm when some days my son attends football sessions until 8pm? It’s okay giving out and taking advice but please remember everyone’s situations are different and what works for you won’t necessary work for everyone else.
It’s so easy to think that you are taking up your midwife’s time by sending her a quick message or booking in an extra appointment. But your midwife is there for your wellbeing just as much as they are there for your baby’s. Talk to them openly about how you are feeling. There is nothing embarrassing that you can say that I’m sure they haven't already heard before.
One conversation with a friend, family member or professional can make a massive difference to those first few years of motherhood.
But one of the many questions that repeatedly crosses my mind is, do we act differently around other mothers to get their approval? My answer ten years ago would have been yes, but now I've broken free of this mindset. I almost lost my identity trying to be like other mums. I can now say that I don’t try to be anyone else. I’m happy with who I am, and I would never want to change anything about myself, especially to please others.