Every mother is without a doubt familiar with the feeling of Mum-Guilt...my kids only have to look at me in a certain way and the feeling washes over me, they have an uncanny ability to make me feel as though I'm not trying hard or I'm doing something wrong over the slightest little thing.
And mum-guilt can effect me in a lot of different ways - it makes me want to cut my work days shorter because I feel bad when they're complaining that I'm not spending time with them, it makes me want to home school them when they're complaining that they don't to go to nursery, it makes me want to cash in all of our savings and book tickets when they're complaining that they've never been to this place or that - and of course I don't act on most of these feelings but still, the urge to give in to their every whim is real.
One thing I have discovered recently, is how much my own mum-guilt interferes with my mothering - in particular with my ability to trust my own instincts and do what I know is best for me and my child.
Last month, we headed off to Disneyland Paris for a second trip - on our initial visit in October last year we had only taken our eldest son with us, as we'd never visited before and didn't really know what to expect and so had decided to leave the babies with their grandparents.
When we returned, we were in two minds about whether or not to take our middle child Noah with us. He was 21 months old at the time of our trip - the kind of age where it's difficult to judge what they will and won't like.
Every child is very different at this age - my eldest son at 21 months would have LOVED Disneyland and all it had to offer. He's always been outgoing, he has always loved characters and people in costume, he's always been up for going on rides, he's never been the kind of child who needed a fixed routine or a nap at a set time - he's always been a very "go with the flow" kind of child. I'd even go as far as to say he was a straightforward and easy child to raise, and certainly to travel with.
But his brother is a completely different story. Noah is very set in his ways - he knows exactly what he wants, and when he wants something then he must have it NOW and not a moment later. If he wants to sleep, then it must be NOW. If he's hungry, he must eat NOW. There will be no waiting, no patience, no understanding of the fact that we're almost at the end of a 40 minute queue and will only be 2 more minutes.
He wants what he wants right this instant or else he will SCREAM bloody murder.
He is headstrong and, even at this young age, throws tantrums far above and beyond anything his older brother could do - he lies on the floor, makes himself a deadweight and refuses to move. He kicks and screams, he makes a break for freedom the second he feels your grip loosen slightly on his hand and he runs blindly away without a care for his own safety.
He throws his food (and his plate!) during meal times if he has to wait longer than 10 seconds for anything, and he HATES anybody in dress up costumes. Infact he's not currently a fan of people in general and will give strangers the "death stare" without any hint of a smile no matter how much they try to entertain him.
We also happened to be planning our trip during a very difficult sleeping phase, when Noah was struggling to sleep for more than an hour at night without waking and was screaming endlessly at all hours of the morning no matter what we tried.
And so, when deciding whether or not to take him with us to Disneyland, every ounce of my maternal instinct screamed "NO!"
I knew he would hate it. I knew it was going to be very cold and that he hated being outdoors in cold weather. I knew that he wouldn't like seeing the people in costume, I knew he would hate any fuss and attention from the Disney characters, I knew that he would have no patience at all when it came to meal times in restaurants and I knew that he would probably be up screaming at all hours of the morning and disturbing other hotel guests.
I knew all of these things were probably going to happen - but still, I took him with us.
Because of the mum-guilt.
And because not only did I worry that maybe he'd be sad if he went without him (even though I knew he'd love to visit his grandparents house for a few days and would no doubt have a great time being spoilt rotten!), but I also worried about what other people would think.
I worried that people would think I was a bad or mean mum for not taking him with us.
And when I posted an Instagram photo mentioning the situation, comments about how I should definitely take him and what a "poor baby" he was that I was thinking of doing so made me feel all the worse.
And I know those people didn't mean for me to feel bad...I know they were only thinking about the situation based on their own experiences of kids his age and were only trying to help...but it didn't matter, it made the mum-guilt stronger.
So...I took him.
And every night at 1, 2 and 3 am when he was screaming at the top of his lungs and nothing I did would calm him down....I cursed myself for not following my instincts.
And every day when I had to apologise to his brother and explain that we couldn't meet the character he wanted to because Noah was upset and we had to go somewhere to calm him down....I cursed myself for not following my instincts.
And on the Eurostar back home, after hours of travelling, when an overtired Noah was laying on the floor of the train carriage refusing to let me move him, kicking and screaming, with every eye in that train on me...I cursed myself...and I wanted to scream at them all "Don't judge ME! I knew he'd be like this!! Judge everyone else who said it would be fine!"
But it's not anybody elses fault...it's my fault.
Because Mummy-Guilt won out again...it made me second guess myself, and everything I knew about my child.
It wasn't all bad of course - there were moments that he thoroughly enjoyed, and I'm sure that soon the memories of those awful nights in the hotel (which were truly some of the worst moments I've had as a parent so far, hour after hour of sleep deprivation, endless screaming and simply not knowing what to do next...) will be replaced only with the memories of his lovely little giggle as we rode the teacups.
But it's taught me a valuable lesson...when it comes to parenting, mum really does know best. I know my child better than anyone else, and it's my responsibility to do what's best for him regardless of how it makes me feel....From now on, I have to remember to follow my own instincts.
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