Saturday, 17 December 2011

When People Know Better

I'm a first time mum.  I have my "L" plates on.  I've never done this before, but I'm trying to do my best.  I don't take any of the parenting decisions that DaddyB-B and I have made lightly.  In fact, I've usually spent many hours labouring over most of them.  I don't expect everybody to agree with the decisions we have made, but I do expect people to respect them.  Even the mummy who knows better.

I thought most people were aware of the parenting style we have adopted.  In particular I thought our views on controlled crying/crying it out were pretty clear.  I've lost count of the number of times over the last seven months I have said that we do not leave BabyB-B to cry.  Recent events suggest to me that we have not been clear enough on this issue.

A couple of weeks ago DaddyB-B and I had a party to go to.  The invitation stipulated that babysitters were a must.  The thought of going out without BabyB-B filled me with some (ok, a lot of) anxiety.  It just was not sitting well with me.  However, DaddyB-B is keen for me to get used to the idea of leaving her in short bursts before I have to return to paid work next year.  So we enlisted a babysitter we know loves and cares for BabyB-B to sit with her while we were out.

I fed BabyB-B to sleep before we left for the party and settled her in to her cot.  I came out in to the lounge room and explained to the babysitter that there was a bottle of expressed milk on the counter that could be given to BabyB-B in her sippy cup should she wake while we were out.  DaddyB-B told me he had already explained everything so I didn't go in to anything further other than to say there was no need to heat the milk as room temperature was fine.  And so we left for the party.

It got to 10pm and I started to get quite antsy.  Although we had left milk for BabyB-B I much preferred to be home for her feed.  She doesn't take a bottle and we hadn't tried the sippy cup with milk before.  We'd had a great time hanging out with our friends in full Star Wars regalia (did I mention there was a theme?), but it was getting late!  We said our "goodbyes" and made our way home.

While DaddyB-B was parking the car in the garage I made my way to the front door of our building.  I could hear crying and knew immediately it was BabyB-B.  I impatiently told DaddyB-B to hurry up.  We came inside and I looked down the corridor.  The lights were out and I thought, "Ok, they've got her in the lounge room.  It's not the end of the world."  Then I looked to my right and saw the babysitter standing outside BabyB-B's bedroom door.  She gave me a look that said to me, "She's a fighter, but I'll get her to sleep."  It dawned on me that BabyB-B was in there, alone, crying.  I was stunned.  Even now I can see myself racing past her and in to the room, reaching in to the cot and cradling a sobbing BabyB-B in my arms.  I'm not sure who was more upset, me or my baby.

I immediately sat down and fed BabyB-B.  Her sobbing turned to whimpering and I sat quietly listening to the conversation taking place in the lounge room.  The babysitter explained to DaddyB-B that BabyB-B woke up, she let her cry for 10 minutes, went in and "shushed" her, let her cry for five minutes, gave her a bit of a pat, then left her again.  That is when we came home.  She commented that BabyB-B "really fights it, she waves her arms and legs around like she really wants to get out."  She started apologising to DaddyB-B who told her it was ok.  I slowly filled with white hot rage.

After I settled BabyB-B back to bed and the babysitter had left I went in to the kitchen to discover the full bottle of milk sitting next to an empty sippy cup.  DaddyB-B and I then debriefed.  He said that he didn't think he made it clear enough that we don't leave BabyB-B to cry.  I told him be that as it may, we had made it clear enough that if she woke to try to give her some milk.  It was late and we went to bed.  I didn't get much sleep that night.  I played our homecoming over and over and over in my mind.  I cannot explain how upset I was (and still am) by what we came home to.  I was at a complete and utter loss as to why the babysitter had decided controlled crying was more appropriate than some milk and a cuddle.

It finally dawned on me that the babysitter had taken the approach she had because she thought she knew better.  After all, she has raised three children "and there's nothing wrong with them".  How do you deal with the mother who knows better?

Although well meaning, a lot of the time the mother who knows better feels the need to impart her "wisdom" with a healthy dose of smugness.  There's the friend who told me when BabyB-B was only a couple of weeks old that by letting her sleep in my arms I was spoiling her.  Her own child was never allowed to sleep in her arms so I'm unsure what made her an authority on the issue.  Then there is the mother of two children.  She tells me that it's all very well and good to do what I'm doing with one baby, but when I have another I won't be bothered.  Or the mother of older children who cautions me to "just wait until BabyB-B can speak back".

Until now I have sat back and let these comments wash over me.  I nod while taking the opportunity to work on my enigmatic smile.  I spent my days before child advocating what was best for my client often against lawyers with far more experience than I had.  I wasn't afraid to speak up.  Why should this be any different?  I have now learnt the hard way that these moments are when I should be advocating for my parenting style and what I know to be best for my child and my family lest there be any misunderstanding that I know best.

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