help me build parenting confidence
April 12, 2016 9:03 AM   Subscribe

still not feeling the self-confidence I hoped I'd have by now; looking for anecdotes. how do I not feel like a shit parent all the time? I'm NOT looking for parenting advice, because it's precisely that advice that sends me into a self-doubting tailspin. I want to know how to feel confident and natural as a parent instead of riddled with anxiety, self doubt and impatience. I want to feel like I know my kid and what I do is "good enough" mothering. Then I want to let. it. go.

My kid is 9 months old. He is a very easy going baby and maybe that's the problem? His signals still aren't terribly clear to me. He can go long time between meals, doesn't cry in a dirty diaper, basically only cries if he's tired or really hungry. But sometimes he follows me around the house moaning and so many times I don't know why. Hungry? Teething? I try what I think will help and nada. It makes me feel like a shit parent. Or when he doesn't feel like eating or napping according to his usual schedule. And then I'm so anxious I feel like it's my fault and I did something wrong if he doesn't want to eat / sleep / play as usual. Or he suddenly bursts into tears for why? and then I comfort him and he's back to playing but ??? How come he is 9 months old and i still can't tell if he's hungry??? Like I think he should be hungry by now, it's been long enough but he doesn't want what I offer him but he's acting hungry-adjacent so ???

Basically every other day I feel knot-in-my-stomach anxious about something. I read a comment "how your kid eats now sets him up for life" and I was depressed for a few days after. My kid just eats apple sauce. I am a failure. I worry that he should want textured solids by now. I keep offering and he keeps looking at me like wtf lady. I worry that he's too friendly with strangers (smiles at people so long and so forward-leaning until they look like they regret engaging him in the first place) and will grow up needy because me and my husband smiled at him too much and now he expects it. You get the idea.

My husband says I'm doing great, he's a healthy happy baby and that I am too hard on myself and I catastrophize over little details.

I also hate that I have such little patience sometimes. I am sick and tired of having my hair pulled, being bitten, boogered on, whined at, fighting a diaper change or a coat jacket. The only thing that makes me feel OK is that he definitely does the play and come back for the brief snuggle and then play again thing. So I'm some kind of secure base.

So what is wrong about my thinking? How can I not fall apart due to tiny little imperfections? Just say: the day is done, he's still breathing, I'm sure he will grow up fine. I can't go on obsessing the details like this.
posted by serenity soonish to Human Relations (46 answers total) 8 users marked this as a favorite
Your thinking is part of post-partum depression. Have you mentioned it to your doctor?

I remember that our friends, after having their daughter for 6 months said, "It's like the longest game of The Sims ever."

Each little kid is a new entity. With their own way of communicating or not, and their own personalities, and frankly there's no book, or method or right way of doing anything. What's right is what works for you, your baby and your family.

But seriously, I can't tell you to stop worrying, because if that worked...HELL, we'd all be chipper without our drugs.

So see your doctor, talk about this and ask for help. You won't regret it.
posted by Ruthless Bunny at 9:08 AM on April 12, 2016 [14 favorites]

You come from an uninterrupted line of people who raised their children successfully to adulthood. You literally have it in your genes to be a good parent.

And yeah, what Ruthless Bunny said. Talk to your doctor.
posted by Etrigan at 9:09 AM on April 12, 2016 [5 favorites]

And then I'm so anxious I feel like it's my fault and I did something wrong if he doesn't want to eat / sleep / play as usual.

Basically every other day I feel knot-in-my-stomach anxious about something.

Oh, I would give you a hug if I could! This could very well be normal jittery nerves, but the effect it is having on you makes me wonder if it's something more. Having a new baby is hard -- it is so hard, even if the baby is practically perfect. Post partum depression can form any time in the first year of a baby's life, and if the thoughts I quoted above are regular enough that it's causing distress (which it seems to be), I wouldn't put it aside. I'd reach out to a mom to mom support group or therapist experienced with women's issues surrounding birth. PPD isn't just depression -- it can absolutely take the form of anxiousness too.

I also hate that I have such little patience sometimes. I am sick and tired of having my hair pulled, being bitten, boogered on, whined at, fighting a diaper change or a coat jacket.

This is okay. You are a person, too. You don't have to love what your kid does every second of every day.

Until you can get seen and supported by someone you trust, please believe what your husband says. Your kid is happy and healthy and you're doing a good job.
posted by zizzle at 9:11 AM on April 12, 2016 [4 favorites]

One of our little girls has had an overdose of affection and resources and we've been overly attentive to her needs, but she is pretty naturally disgruntled with life as her default response. Our littlest girl, it seems, will be happy no matter what her lot in life, even if (in theory) we forget to feed her. All that to say, how we parent matters, but sometimes kids are who they are, and they aren't always as malleable as we sometimes think, based on our effort or lack of effort.

Your primary responsibility is to be a constant, safe place to come back to, so that he creates a secure emotional attachment in life that will be the main thing (and I mean the main thing) that will positively affect him for the rest of his life.

Regarding being impatient, I think you might be surprised to find out that a very high number of people have to address this, unless they have a perfect child to begin with. Very few of us have had to deal with situations that are as constant and nervewracking as (understandably) needy children. I've started to see parenting as something of a life curriculum to develop virtues through practicing self-sacrifice and patience, when I can.

But at the end of the day, I'm reminded of something that my therapist friend once said to me that I've carried with me for awhile: Sometimes good enough is good enough. If you hold yourself to a standard of perfection, you will ironically become the kind of person who makes your child anxious (which is the opposite of good attachment). What a child needs is not a perfect parent, but one who is comfortable in their skin, dealing with their anxiety over life, and willing to be transparent before their children in their imperfections. I've found that being able to say I'm sorry to my children for falling short might be way more valuable at the end of the day than being a perfect parent in the first place.

I think you are doing really well, especially because you have such a high level of self awareness, and you care. If you feel that your anxiety might be a bit too much to regulate on your own, there are also good things to help deal with that. Good luck to you.
posted by SpacemanStix at 9:15 AM on April 12, 2016 [8 favorites]

I think you have anxiety. It's incredibly common with new parents. You should talk to your doctor about this. Talk to your baby's pediatrician if you need a referral.

Here's a couple things, though. Your baby is constantly going through phases and we as parents are sort of just bumbling around and figuring out how to react to these phases. Following you around moaning? Sounds like he's learned how to follow mommy and make a new sound. He'll be on to something else eventually.

Can you find a regular moms group? I found this invaluable. I'd be worried about something my kid was doing and these other moms would say, "Oh yes! I thought mine was the only one?!" Also, I'd hear about both more chill responses to what I was dealing with and more high-strung responses. And I would get some insights into how parents were dealing with things. Certain things my kid does would drive another bats. Certain things other people's kids do that don't bother them would drive me bats.

Seriously, find other parents. It's imperative for your sanity and your baby's happiness. Try your community center, the hospital where you gave birth, a doula or midwives group, your doctor.

Your baby is normal. Being a new parent is hard.
posted by amanda at 9:15 AM on April 12, 2016 [12 favorites]

I don't think it matters if your anxiety is related to parenting, work, relationships, or whatever. It's still anxiety that's interfering with your life and sense of well-being. Don't try to fight it on your own without the proper tools. (You wouldn't just chastise yourself out of an infection or a virus, right?) I'd talk to your doctor and see what he or she recommends.
posted by xyzzy at 9:17 AM on April 12, 2016 [3 favorites]

Many of us find parenting infants and toddlers to be crazymaking for all the reasons you describe. You are keeping the child alive and well and by God, that is success.

You can't do it perfectly. There will always be things that you can't know and he can't tell you. Feed him, clothe him, clean him, get him to sleep, play with him, love him, and you are way ahead of the game. It's ok.

Please remember that it won't alway be like this. It gets so much easier when they start to talk and when they can toilet themselves.
posted by Sublimity at 9:18 AM on April 12, 2016 [14 favorites]

I'm not a parent yet, but I've had this kind of constant knot-in-stomach anxiety before about other things and it is very not-fun. I'm sorry you're dealing with this!

As others have said, I'd definitely talk to a doctor or therapist in case it's PPD or even just normal-but-treatable generalized anxiety or something like that. For me, it's OCD, and meds plus CBT makes a huge difference in my daily life - it's like night and day.

If at some point you want a humorous take, a friend of mine is the author of Momfidence!: An Oreo Never Killed Anybody and Other Secrets of Happier Parenting. There's no specific advice in there - since, as Ruthless Bunny says, every kid and family is different - except to breathe and not worry so much. I find a lot of the anecdotes really hilarious, and, the last time we talked, all four of her kids were reaching adulthood and doing just fine, so she must be doing something right!
posted by bananacabana at 9:19 AM on April 12, 2016

Basically every other day I feel knot-in-my-stomach anxious about something. I read a comment "how your kid eats now sets him up for life" and I was depressed for a few days after. My kid just eats apple sauce. I am a failure. I worry that he should want textured solids by now. I keep offering and he keeps looking at me like wtf lady. I worry that he's too friendly with strangers (smiles at people so long and so forward-leaning until they look like they regret engaging him in the first place) and will grow up needy because me and my husband smiled at him too much and now he expects it. You get the idea.

The thought technology that helped me overcome this particular fear is thinking about tremendously amazing people I know who grew up in terrible childhood situations (abject poverty, abuse, etc) and pretty awful people I know who grew up with every advantage in life. The point being, there is more to who your child will become than your performance as a parent, and that "more" is so subtle and unpredictable that you cannot adjust your behavior to account for it. That isn't to say you don't try to be as good a parent as you can be, but just realize that even the "best" parents in the world don't produce the "best" children.
posted by Rock Steady at 9:20 AM on April 12, 2016 [1 favorite]

See your doctor, because yeah, there's no reason to suffer this much, but post-partum mental health issues are so common, and treatable. Treatable!

And for God's sake stay off the parenting blogs and Pinterests and the rest of that bullshit. Every time I get close to any of the women who I think of as Pinterest Queens, what's going on behind those screens is NOTHING you'd want any part of, and that includes their parenting. Seriously, there seems to be an inverse correlation, if anything. Just ignore it.

And your kid likes applesauce, dude, it's fine. Applesauce (unsweetened) is good food. My first kid ate everything and I thought I was such hot shit for teaching her so well. My second won't eat anything. And she's fine too. But it turns out my influence had nothing to do with either of them.

In sum: your kid sounds delightful as kids go, but parenting babies is hard and boring, and postpartum mental health is fraught with pitfalls, so see your doctor and get some help.
posted by fingersandtoes at 9:26 AM on April 12, 2016 [4 favorites]

The behaviors you describe from your baby, like the unexpected crying, not eating foods on the exact months set forth in some baby book, and signals you can't always read, are totally normal and happen to even the best parents. My eldest was a horribly difficult baby, which now seems bizarre because he is so sweet-tempered now, and it wasn't our fault (he was colicky). The next kid was a really easy baby, and we can't take much credit for that either. You love them and give parenting a good shot, with some mistakes along the way, and the results are frequently not what you expected because they are individuals. Try to trust what your husband is saying, and talk to your doctor about what you've been feeling.

Also, try to reduce the amount of parenting advice you read. Maybe pick one reputable source to keep up with, like the Mayo Clinic book or the American Academy of Pediatrics book, so you aren't missing anything critical, and then stop reading every other source. Books and internet advice from "parenting experts" can you make you crazy.
posted by Alluring Mouthbreather at 9:31 AM on April 12, 2016 [9 favorites]

My kids are 8. I'm still worried they're not getting enough from me, or that I'm too short-tempered, too tired, too easily annoyed. I'm anxious that they don't eat the right diet, and I'm not helping them enough with school work. That I'm not being as supportive or loving or that I'm failing to do, say, provide or be any of a hundred things they really need. Or that I'm responding poorly to any of a hundred random situations.

It is normal to worry.

Especially with a baby, since they can't communicate properly. So much of being a parent at that age is guesswork. They're crying. Why are they crying? Pain? Hungry? Gassy? Poopy? Just because? You could drive yourself nuts trying to figure it all out. Some form of that anxiety will probably be present in you even as he gets older. But it does get a little easier once they can communicate with you. The intent behind "Daddy, I'm hungry!" is SO much easier than random crying.

Anyway, knowing that anxiety is normal, the important thing here is how you handle it. Keeping those worries in perspective. For me, that is a learned skill. It hasn't come easy, and I don't think I'm always great at it, but I keep trying. Because I think parents who worry but can keep things in perspective are great parents. They care. They're engaged. They try not to over-react.

So I close my eyes and try to breathe and take a mental step back when something is bothering me. This way I can assess a situation calmly. With babies, parents like me can get so used to reacting instinctively, rather than seeing the big picture. I was especially bad at that. So I had to learn to mentally put myself outside a situation. It wasn't easy. But as my kids have gotten older, it's helped.

How can I not fall apart due to tiny little imperfections?

I hate to sound like a fortune cookie, but I think you're going to need to get used to the idea that life with kids is imperfect and that's okay. That the kids themselves are imperfect and that's okay. Part of being a parent is learning things by trial and error and understanding that kids represent a loss of your control. You're presumably not psychic and can't instantly divine everything. That's okay! It's part of the experience. So he cries. And you try to figure out why. Beating yourself up for not being perfect won't help you or him. All it will do is make you miserable.

Your child is relatively health and happy. And he's not going to be harmed if he's a little hungry or fussy every once in a while.

It's okay to be kind to yourself.
It's okay to cut yourself some slack.
Listen to outside observers like your husband, who can see how you're doing and tell you.
You're doing a good job, and you're not a failure.
posted by zarq at 9:37 AM on April 12, 2016 [3 favorites]

The way to tell if you are a shit parent is to ask yourself "am I a parent?" If your answer is yes, then yes you are a shit parent. Welcome to the club. We are all shit parents. There is no such thing as "good" parenting. Look at kids whose parents read every book under the sun and parented with all the newest child-rearing theories and made a bunch of flash cards and shit. I bet more than half of those parents' kids are fucked up six ways to Sunday. You can't do this job good. You can only do it good enough. Hug him, feed him, take him to the doctor when he is sick, read him a book every once and a while, and if he is still alive and has all the parts at bedtime that he had when he woke up then you are doing good enough. Don't read the parenting articles or comments or whatever that nonsense you were talking about was. Its like advertising. It makes you feel imperfect so that you will buy something in the hopes of being perfect once you have it. The thing is, you are never going to be perfect. Do you think you may be fucking your kid up somehow? Let me put your mind at ease. You are definitely fucking your kid up. A lot. In a ton of ways. You know how you, me and everyone you've ever known is fucked up? That is, in part, cause our parents fucked us up. Its what parents do. Anyone who tells you otherwise is lying to you. Now, try to do the best you can as much as you can, but know that even if you drove yourself crazy and did all the best things all the time, you have just as much of a chance of fucking your kid up as if you did exactly the opposite. They are all individuals and there is no "right way" to do this. A parenting approach that makes one kid grow up to be president will make another a serial killer. It is all a total random crap shoot. You might be able to put a thumb on the scale by making sure he knows he is loved, giving him boundaries, and feeding him a vegetable every once in a while. Maybe that might help. Beyond that, anything you do has just as much a chance of hurting as helping. Don't drive yourself crazy trying to be a good parent. None of us are good. This is a job that cannot be done good. On your best days you might be good enough, and you have to be willing to accept that if you are going to stay sane.
posted by ND¢ at 9:39 AM on April 12, 2016 [5 favorites]

So, I have a kid that as a baby would only eat cereal and pureed prunes for the first six months of solid food-eating. He's always been a tremendously picky eater, and now's four and eats broccoli and spinach of his own volition. This is not due to any great parenting on my part at all. It's largely the luck of the draw, and it's OKAY to roll with their eating habits when they're little. I wouldn't take anything your child does or doesn't do at age 9 months as an indicator of long-term issues. He smiles too much at strangers now? In 6 months he might be burying his face in your shoulder every time someone looks at him. So much is not down to anything you do.

On the other hand, I don't think this is very helpful: Let me put your mind at ease. You are definitely fucking your kid up. No need to become cynical or pile on the self-blame even more. You know what makes a good parent: love, attention, consistency, balance. I echo what others have said: your obsessive thinking and worrying sound like issues to talk with a therapist, and also to mention to your doctor. I don't think you can "awesome-parent" your way out of this kind of perpetual anxiety.
posted by daisystomper at 9:56 AM on April 12, 2016 [1 favorite]

I echo everyone else's comments about seeing a doctor, and I think therapy might be helpful to you.

But I glanced through your askme history, and it looks like maybe you didn't have the best family situation growing up. I wonder if that's related - that maybe some of your anxiety is because you don't feel like you have a good idea of what good parenting really looks like. If that rings true to you, just recognizing it might help.

I also have a couple of close mom friends who have very similar parenting philosophies to me - it is very helpful to talk to them, it gives me someone to bounce ideas off of and get an idea on what's "normal." Is there anyone like that in your life? I even ask myself sometimes what they would do in any given situation, and it helps me.

Lastly, recognize that modern motherhood is an absolute pressure cooker of wildly unrealistic expectations that aren't even internally consistent. Seriously. I stay far away from pinterest and most mommy blogs and frankly, get very pissed off about everything that society tells us about motherhood.

(As an aside, everything you describe sounds extremely normal and expected for a kid that age.)
posted by pallas14 at 9:59 AM on April 12, 2016 [3 favorites]

Here to second what Amanda said. I think you need help from your doctor first, and then you need to find mom buddies and/or a local moms club. Finding and hanging out with other moms to discuss things like baby food brands, nap schedules, and where the good kid clothing consignment shops are, will take you out of your own head where all you do is spin with anxiety about every little move you are making. And there are lots of other moms out there, feeling what you are feeling, and needing that connection, too. You are not alone.
posted by molasses at 10:11 AM on April 12, 2016

You're not a perfect parent. Be glad for that. Nobody is but lots of people expend massive effort on the appearance of perfection. Letting go of the need to be perfect will go a long way towards being more at ease with the job.

Also, accept your reality as it is. You are 100% the best parent you can be today. If you could do better today, you already would. That makes you good enough, right now, because it's not possible for you to be more, yet. Tomorrow, you might be better than today. That's what we strive for. But tomorrow isn't here, so you are good enough today.

Do you show love to your kids every day? Then they are miles ahead of millions of other kids, even many with "perfect" parents. If you do that, you are always good enough.
posted by trinity8-director at 10:12 AM on April 12, 2016

I feel this post so much. I have a 5 month old and sudden crying for reasons that aren't apparent (or hunger, diaper, or sleep related). I'm also the least patient person who has ever existed and my new mom super patience is wearing out. Here's how I cope on an average day:
1. If excessive crying starts before my husband leaves for work, he helps.
2. Leaving the house with the baby helps sometimes. Mostly this is for me to experience more than our living space
3. I tell myself that I'm being the best parent I can be at that moment, which includes needing to set the baby down and have 5 minutes to myself or on the free extremely bad days, ask my husband to come home
4. Let my husband do afternoon/evening playtime
5. Make plans to do things without the baby

A doctor visit may also help. I'm going in this Friday to see what they can do to help mood problems I've been having (I detailed them in an ask post last week) which are in the same vein of what you're describing.

Oh, and definitely cut back on it eliminate parent blogs or other things unless they are recommended by a childhood development expert (which is how we found a useful book on sleep) or very specific well-vetted medical articles.
posted by toomanycurls at 10:14 AM on April 12, 2016

The first one is tough - my wife and I didn't sleep well for a while, because he made these weird little gaspy sounds while breathing. Why? That's what he just did apparently. He's 4.5 year old, a fit little guy. Now we have a second, and he's similar but different, so different.

My personal calming phrase for when I freaking out with the first one was to look out at passing cars and people and think "everyone was a baby once, and they all survived to become adults who are living their own lives now."

Regarding baby diets - our first one was easy, he'd eat so many things. Now he's a weird, picky boy about messy foods that you'd think kids would love (spaghetti sauce? too messy, says the boy who rubs strawberries on his face). Our second one (15 months old now) is a picky little bugger, and isn't shy to throw things he doesn't like. But we keep pushing food on him, trying to get him to eat a more balanced and varied diet.

If diet is freaking you out, talk to your pediatrician for tips and ideas. You might find luck blending things up so more foods are like apple sauce. But it's likely just another phase.

Speaking of which, another personal mantra for frustration with little people: "this, too, shall pass." Even the screaming at bed time (seriously, little dude, what so bad about taking a nap? You fall asleep in 15 minutes and sleep well, but always with the shouting!).
posted by filthy light thief at 10:42 AM on April 12, 2016 [1 favorite]

One thing I read that has helped me a lot as a new mom was something about, when your baby is upset and the basic needs are met, if you try to comfort them and cannot, the act of TRYING is good for your bonding with your baby. It's like when you've had a crap day and you tell your partner how crap it's been, your partner doesn't have to fix the crap stuff for you to love them and be helpful, even just the sympathetic faces they make can help you feel cared for and bonded.

My new moms group was a great help to me in terms of feeling competent. It reminded me of the hurdles I'd already overcome and how short certain phases were. Other moms will say "Your baby is so open and friendly! Mine is terrified of everyone. How did you get your baby to be so comfortable?" That kind of stuff feels good, and then you can say, "Why won't my baby eat textured solids?" and other people will say things like "One day something turned around and she wanted all the new foods." Or "Have you thought about feeding him at this particular time of day or circumstances" and it just doesn't feel so dire and alarming when you have other real people to share with.

Babies, though, they are a mystery. It's ok to be mystified by them.
posted by vunder at 10:52 AM on April 12, 2016 [3 favorites]

When I was pregnant with no. 1, a midwife gave a lecture about pregnancy and mothering. She told us that genetically, we are not very different from the people who evolved on the African plains several thousand years ago. We (as a species) have managed to give birth and raise children on plains filled with dangers and empty of hospitals and books. My husband hated that lecture (charmingly, because he didn't see me as an ape), I loved it. It guided my pregnancy, delivery and the whole first year of mothering. It gave me the power to trust my instincts and emotions. If I was bored or annoyed, I was OK with being bored and annoyed. If my kid didn't fit the books, I was OK, because books didn't exist in Africa thousands of years ago.
Another inspiration at the time was Inuit mothers, who carried their children on them at all times, but did not spend time being "motherly". They went on with the work necessary to survive. (Well, I was working with anthropologists at that stage in life…)
With no. 2 child there were some issues, and suddenly I got caught up in all the worries the doctors and nurses and family provided. Very much in the way you are worrying: in reality, there is no problem, but there might be. Today, no. 2 is 6 feet tall and absurdly healthy and smart, and I was just this morning telling a younger colleague to stop worrying unless something is really going wrong. If I had followed my instincts like with no.1, I would have had a better life, and so would everyone else involved.
An intelligent 9 month old baby will have opinions. Very often completely unreasonable opinions, since they know absolutely nothing about anything. Your job is to redirect their understanding towards something reasonable. Like it is good to eat at mealtimes, and sleep at sleeptimes. Obviously, that means you need to be the smartest person in the room regarding these important questions, which is simple because you are the adult and he is the baby.
At 9 months, there is also an interest in learning - he wants to "talk" and hear you talk. This includes playing with stuff. This is in my view very boring, and it helped me to plan for it, so I knew it would end.
Since I was really bored with that type of caring, I got both my kids into excellent day care institutions with pedagogues who all loved playing with small kids and teaching them. I have no regrets and my children have never found fault with that decision. I am the best mother on the globe, according to my kids, but also according to several of their peers.
posted by mumimor at 10:55 AM on April 12, 2016 [6 favorites]

Please don't beat yourself up. As everyone above said, what you go through is totally normal. Thinking back on the time when my son, now 7 1/2 years old, was 9 months, I sometimes wonder how I made it all. It is hard and difficult and you do the best you can and your son is fine. It is hard to find out what they want before they become verbal, and after that also because maybe he can tell you now what it is he wants but it might not be what you can do or want to do.

And, as some have suggested, find someone to talk to. For me, this was a counsellor at a mother child center, they offered weekly play dates and moms were able to see the counsellor during that time. she is a trained therapist but really it was not therapy in the strict sense but helping me cope with every day life.

I personally never found linking up with other moms easy or helpful, but maybe give it a try? One of the few moms I did link up I met when my son, who was then about 18 months old, bit a younger child we had never seen before in the cheek. We are still friends 6 yrs later.

Also, leaving the house was one of the best things back then, I went to parks, malls, museums, cafes etc, which is all still very doable at 9 months. Later when he will want to move independently it will change so use the time now to get about.

Also- yes stop reading the parenting blogs, etc., you don't need it. When I was racked with fears, our pediatrician told me something that carried me a long time: your baby trusts you implicitly and will not judge you. If you put the diapers on his head as a hat and wrap him in a t shirt to poop in he will think it is normal. You are his mom, and know best. I would add today: best enjoy this while it lasts.

Anyway, I came in to say what you describe sounds totally normal and familiar. You are doing fine and one day you can look back and call yourself a survivor of the toddler years. And it iwll not be important if you won gold (and by whose definition anyway?), only that you made it.
posted by 15L06 at 10:56 AM on April 12, 2016 [2 favorites]

Please stop reading about babies and parenting. That place where you read about babies and their diets? That place is stupid and wrong and harmful. You're baby is going to learn to eat, sleep and move around. When you have questions about baby, write them down and save them for the pediatrician. Give yourself a timeline like once a month or once every two weeks, and that's how often you can call or email doctor with questions. But really, the chat boards or mom blogs or wherever you're getting info is anxiety-producing. Maybe if there's one big topic that is concerning you (and you don't want to ask dr. for some reason), you could ask husband to research the topic for you.*
Applesauce is basically a perfect baby food. That's great your baby will eat it! When baby is bigger, you can take him to an orchard to pick apples and tell him how when he was an infant he loved applesauce so much! It's cute. The crying and following you thing is stressful. I hear you. Try to remember, babies communicate with crying. He wants your attention, but that doesn't mean he's in pain or trouble. You could make a check-list and post it. Something like "Hungry, Tired, Diaper, Teething." If you try to address all those and baby is still fussy, then you know you have tried and he's just being a baby. Babies are gonna baby!
Get outside every day. Do talk to your dr or pediatrician. This is a hard time and you deserve help and support. Also, 9 months is prime exhaustion time. Husband can hopefully help you get a few nights of good sleep. All the best to you.

*I have one baby book I read, and I ignore all others. For me that book is "healthy sleep habits, happy baby." If it's not in that book, I'm not worried about it. I also have one mom friend I really respect and she is my parenting sound board. I like mom groups for socializing, but I kind of hate when they get into "advice mode" or comparing the kids. Be careful with that.
posted by areaperson at 11:15 AM on April 12, 2016 [2 favorites]

My daughter is now five and I recently had a bit of a nervous breakdown, where my parenting was one of my main sources of obsessive worry. So these feelings are definitely not limited to parents of babies. And they are not at all abnormal, but when they get to a level that is truly distressing for you, it's time to seek help. In my case, it turns out that I had some major anxiety that wasn't being treated properly. Now that I'm adequately medicated these worries are at the level of an occasional (but daily and I think that's normal) whisper, not a constant scream.

I went to see a therapist about it, and this therapist happened to be trained in child development. She showed me this educational image about what's called the Circle of Security. It really helped me to see what's most important in parenting. She also said that the parent really only needs to be doing this 30% of the time for it to be 'good enough' parenting (don't ask me where she came up with that number), but since I pull it off at least 80% of the time (and I'm sure you do too) I feel a lot better.
posted by kitcat at 11:19 AM on April 12, 2016 [4 favorites]

Honestly, a lot of the time when mytwo kids cried at that age, I shrugged and rotated through all the options: kiss and hug, change diaper, offer food/boob, offer naptime, regardless of what time of day it was. It never occurred to me that I was supposed to know what was wrong automatically! And yeah, I did think that maybe I wasn't teaching them healthy eating habits, but on the other hand it wasn't going to stay that way. Kids change, parenting changes, too.
Things like that won't fuck up your kid.

Nothing you do at that age, provided you show them love and not violence, and provided you get illnesses and vaccinations properly cared for, will mess up your kid for life. Nothing.

You can't fuck up your baby for life by misreading his needs from time to time or by teaching him bad habits.

The most likely result of "bad" parenting is that you make life a liitle more difficult for yourself (for instance by teaching him that mommy needs to be there while he sleeps.) but that's ok. You can deal with that when you've personally decided it's time to deal with it.

You have time, lots if time.

You are the mommy the baby needs. No baby needs a perfect mommy. Your baby is your baby and it needs your special kind of loving, no matter what mistakes are included. You are the best mommy for your baby. Always.
posted by Omnomnom at 11:27 AM on April 12, 2016 [5 favorites]

Actually, I know you said no advice, but here is my favourite piece of advice for moms:

Do whatever works now. If it stops working, do something else!
posted by Omnomnom at 11:33 AM on April 12, 2016 [1 favorite]

My kid just eats apple sauce. I am a failure.

I don't know what that makes me, with my eight year old and her lifetime filled with an endless trail of dinner time chicken nuggets.

My daughter was nine months old before I even floated the idea to myself--at all--that I might like some aspect of what I was doing. I felt guilty and inadequate all the time.

This continued to be my dominant way of life for a very, very long time.

Take care of the post-partum depression and ease up on yourself. Focus on the first part, the second will follow.

It will help when you start to see it as funny, because I promise, it's funny. And when you give yourself genuine permission to suck at it sometimes and be good at others, the pressure will lift.

It is okay.
posted by A Terrible Llama at 11:42 AM on April 12, 2016

My kid is also nine months old! :)

I don't know that you necessarily have post-partum depression or anxiety because of what you're describing. Gah. It all sounds pretty normal to me.

Here are some thoughts that help me through the day, from the doc:
- You cannot spoil a child who is less than 18 months old. It isn't physically possible.
- Parents usually only get their responses right on the first try about 40% of the time. This does not matter. Kids only care that you're trying to figure it out. If you got it right the first time every time, how would your child learn to improve his communication skills? If you're giving it a good, honest try, you're doing great.
- If you're going to regular checkups and his growth is fine, you're doing great.
- If you care enough to post this question, you're doing great.
- If when he's pulling your hair while you're trying to get his goddamn coat on you can breathe in and out long enough to set him down before you start around the house screaming, you're doing great.
- If you give him those snuggles, you're doing great.

Last year I read an article in National Geographic about a study showing that the biggest common denominator in children who grow to be healthy adults is being in a loving home. Love beats out breastfeeding, sleep hygiene, organic food, daycare vs. nanny vs. stay-at-home-parenting, dual language immersion, early swimming lessons, every parenting fad out there. Love beats them all. Just hug your kid and tell him you love him and let it go.

You're doing great!!!!
posted by Pearl928 at 12:22 PM on April 12, 2016 [4 favorites]

I think most parents with a child under age two are freaking out, stressed and short of sleep. Fretting about the kid is part of how we make sure they survive.

When mine were little, I learned to take care of me. I learned that a ten minute nap (for me, not him), a tall glass of water and/or a bite to eat was often the difference between feeling completely overwhelmed and like everything will be okay. I also set the precedent early that if you aren't sick or something, your little butt will be in bed by 9 or 10 pm (even if you do not sleep -- here, have a toy and leave me alone) so I can have an hour or two of time to myself to clean up in peace and then read or watch TV. If there is no crisis, I went "off duty" after a certain hour.
posted by Michele in California at 12:25 PM on April 12, 2016 [2 favorites]

Thanks a lot for asking this question, as I can relate! I'm very interested in the other comments, but before my baby wakes up, let me quickly type what has helped me:

- a one-time drop-in parenting support group let me see both that kids can be very different (so I can ignore lots of the internet and written advice I see) and that out of that groug of parents, someone else was dealing with something I was experiencing, generally using the same strategies (making me think that a lot of parenting is in reaction to your kid, and that my instincts about how to react weren't that different from others').

- a mantra: "being a mom is all about..." "...doing your best." "...worrying you're making a mistake." "...having nothing to go on but your instincts." How I fill in the blank changes, but I try to picture legions of practical, tough mamas doing their best for their kid by trusting their instincts and figuring things out as they go along. Then I feel in good company if I make a mistake, but like I'll ultimately do things well enough.
posted by slidell at 12:47 PM on April 12, 2016

I think 9 months was one of the hardest ages for me. Not much before that, the kiddo didn't do much and didn't eat any solids and didn't have any opinions or nuances other than needing to be fed or changed or held. But at 9 months, they start to have opinions. We had a nursing strike on my first mother's day ever and my kiddo was 9 months old at the time. You have to start giving weight to this person who wasn't very person-y before, but not TOO much because they are still a baby. It was such a hard dance for me to do, and the feedback you get from the child is so vague or nonexistent. I also think I had undiagnosed post-partum anxiety, which certainly didn't help.

It gets better. Please know that it gets better, as hard as it is today for you. I found a lot of solace in going to my local La Leche League meetings so that I saw kids of various ages and moms of various ages and stages and I could get a lot of my anxieties out in a safe place. Is there a local mom group near you? Or some other group setting where you feel safe and supported - even if it is just one person and not a group?

So many of the diagnose-yourself PPD questions didn't relate to me at all, and so many places put PPA under the PPD umbrella with little other information about it, so I went untreated. If you have the means, I would definitely bring it up to a medical professional.
posted by jillithd at 12:59 PM on April 12, 2016

Hoooooo yeah. Babies. They are little fleshy boxes of mystery. My first was, apparently, never tired because he never showed tired signs. We freaked out about his sleep daily for the first 3 years of his life. My second didn't eat food until she was almost a year old. We also freaked out about that. I loose my patience with both of them and immediately feel like crap about it. Parenting, especially as practiced in modern America, is really hard.

Do your best, talk to people, try not to judge yourself (not judging other parents is a great way to start), and love your kid. Things will be ok.
posted by that's candlepin at 1:03 PM on April 12, 2016

Another place that helped me build parenting confidence was joining the KellyMom Breastfeeding Support Group on facebook, as, again, they have moms and children of all different ages and stages. Reading the responses to different moms' questions helped me see things better and helped me get a bigger picture. (Plus Thursdays are picture days.)
posted by jillithd at 1:07 PM on April 12, 2016

One strategy that might help is to consider the advantages of moderation and the disadvantages of anxiety. I sometimes fall into seeing "trying to be a perfect parent" as a good thing, as something I should maximize, and "going easy on myself" as bad or lazy. But the truth is that if I go easier on myself I can better be a moderate, calming presence for others, and I can make better decisions (not rush us to the ER unnecessarily). There are many advantages of relaxing and many downsides of anxiety. I look for those and use them to build my own desire to let go of the worry.
posted by slidell at 1:39 PM on April 12, 2016 [1 favorite]

Nthing the "See a doctor" advice.

Mom-of-two here, with long-term anxiety issues. I'm a big believer in cognitive therapy, i.e., finding the right way to think about/not think about the thing that is causing me trouble (like "Am I a shitty parent?"). So I totally feel for your attempt to frame this problem as one of perspective.

That said, my first and most pressing question for you is: HOW MUCH SLEEP ARE YOU GETTING?

There is NOTHING that will take you down faster, especially as a new parent, than sleep deprivation. Even a little lost sleep can cause problems and the losses can snowball super-fast with a kid. Add in anxiety, which tends to keep you awake, and you can quickly start to feel unmoored from reality.

Sleep deprivation can also worsen depression. It makes everything worse.

See a doctor. Log how many hours you've been sleeping. Take that info to the doctor with you. Any discussion of depression, anxiety, meds, etc.--make sure sleep gets discussed.

You've made it nine months and the first few are the hardest. You've got this.
posted by helpthebear at 1:47 PM on April 12, 2016 [5 favorites]

One thing that helps me as an anxious parent is to remember that everything is going to change. When I start to obsess about a decision or a failure or a sniffle I can sometimes close my eyes and remember how important it seemed in the first week to like, clean their little umbilical cord stump. But then, that shit falls off on its own. You can clean it a lot or a little, but it will still fall off and it will be on to a new set of issues. Now that your kid has a past, take a look at some old photos, realize how much has changed that you had basically nothing to do with, and marvel at the miracle of development.
posted by Potomac Avenue at 1:58 PM on April 12, 2016 [2 favorites]

If you have time, listen to the podcast One Bad Mother. It's basically two moms with totally different approaches to parenting talking about how hard this all is. Sometimes they have a guest. But the takeaway at the end of every episode is: "you are doing a good job". No matter if you feel like you're failing in every aspect, at the end of the day your baby is safe and warm and cared for. MeMail me if you want a sympathetic ear.
posted by Night_owl at 3:57 PM on April 12, 2016

Just chiming in to say that all of this is totally normal. Parenting small children is boring, frustrating, messy, and crazy-making. I stayed home with my kids for three years and just went back to work and it was so FREEING. I get to solve problems that stay solved and when I cross things off my to-do list they don't magically get undone during the ten seconds it takes me to go to the bathroom. I thought I'd feel a lot more mommy guilt, but I know deep in my heart of hearts that me being at work is better for my kids than me being home with them. They have a good childcare situation, and I get a break from them, so when I'm around them I can be patient, happy, fun mommy which I just could not be when I was with the 24/7. And having that distance has actually given me the ability to say at the end of the day, well, we're all alive, hurrah, mission accomplished! When I stayed home I nitpicked every decision I'd made all day and felt guilty that the house wasn't clean and dinner wasn't on the table and milestones weren't being exactly met and what the heck was she crying about anyway. I guess now it's more like, eh, I don't know, maybe the nanny would know but I'm not her so if you don't want a cookie I guess you're not hungry, let's go read a book. I really thought I'd be more of an anxious basket case by going back to work, and have been pleasantly surprised that it's the opposite. Being so busy kills my chances to ruminate on crap, I guess.

So, all that to say, do you get a break from your kiddo on a regular basis? Are you able to get some childcare during the day during the week so you're not trying to squeeze in a token trip to Target by yourself after bedtime just to say you had a "night out"? Is going to work full or part time in the cards for you anytime soon?
posted by peanut_mcgillicuty at 5:30 PM on April 12, 2016 [3 favorites]

The least useful thing I learned before becoming a mom was that my baby ought to be doing things on a certain schedule. That is an incredibly unhelpful concept in parenting. That is to say, I believe that schedules are absolutely key for infants and toddlers, but NOT strict ones! I wasted so many tears and so much time trying to figure out what ELSE my baby could be wanting since they just nursed 30 minutes ago and babies this age are supposed to eat every two hours so it's not "time" for that yet! Wow, so wrong. Babies can go without nursing for 6 hours and they can also nurse for 6 hours straight. Babies are not predictable beasts.

All you can do is what you're doing right now, try all the things they might need and then try them all again until you either figure it out or they cheer up or fall asleep. There is no secret code. There is no mind reading trick that other moms know that you don't!

In case you're wondering why folks jumped to the conclusion there might be something clinically concerning going on here, try to forget being a mom for a moment. See if you can go back, in your mind, in time to the days when you were just a wife and a daughter. Then picture your very best girl friend with a baby, coming to you in tears. She says "I worry that he's too friendly with strangers...because me and my husband smiled at him too much." Dude. Do you not just want to give that friend the biggest hug and take them out for a margarita?? What if she tells you that her kid's penchant for applesauce means that she is a Failure?! I really hope you'd be telling her exactly what we're telling you - there's no way that is true, nothing you do at age 1 or 5 or 10 that is loving and caring 'sets them up for life', and that you'd be worried about why she's thinking that way.

Trust me, stranger danger will come. Foods other than applesauce will come, and then your kid will turn 2 and get picky and they will want to eat only applesauce again. That is the normal nature of babies and toddlers - fear of new things served them well in the wilderness. Your husband is so right and you should let him take care of baby so you can get out and do something relaxing. Take care of yourself, go easy on yourself, and please do take the advice to see your doctor, and tell them how much obsessing about details is getting in the way of you being able to enjoy taking care of your child.

Side note: you might enjoy this article "The Over-Parenting Trap" even though it's really about older kids, I think the concepts are useful from day 1 (i.e. stop worrying that you need to engineer the 'best' possible existence for your child so they can 'excel for life').
posted by treehorn+bunny at 5:39 PM on April 12, 2016 [3 favorites]

Look, infants just suck. Some moms are like "ooh newborn smell, every moment is a joy #Ilovemybabysomuch #fullheart" blah blah. Those moms are really lucky or entirely full of shit. I love my toddler and 6 month old to bits, but come on. Mothering is exhausting and mostly thankless for the first year, it is not magical and wonderful all or even most of the time; it's more like moments of magic and wonder bookended by hours of drudgery. Caring for someone who can't communicate with you is terrible. Baby smiles are adorable, and baby laughs are the best. That doesn't mean the baby screams and baby cries are somehow not stressful and terrible and nervewracking. Being upset and stressed is normal, and I'm very skeptical of anyone who acts like mothering isn't the hardest fucking job they have ever done.

I nth the suggestion to find some sane mom friends. I became very close friends with an acquaintance who had her first child 3 months after I had mine; being able to compare notes on what the kids are eating, doing, etc. is invaluable. It's the mom equivalent of soldiers bonding in war. It will keep you grounded so that you know that maybe her kid eats more fruit than yours, but her kid is also afraid of waffles, so it's a wash. My son is awesome and I can say with full confidence that I had very little to do with it; his personality is innate and his preferences are his own. Fretting over why he won't eat something is as productive as worrying about why his favorite color is blue. It just is.
posted by gatorae at 9:00 PM on April 12, 2016 [1 favorite]

I would suggest to focus on the joyous and fun aspects of parenting. That will make you feel more relaxed, and a more relaxed parent is ultimately good for a child because a more relaxed parent causes less stress for the child. And in my opinion, that's a lot more important than whether he's eating apple sauce or mashed bananas. How to feel more relaxed? Well just remember, like you, a child is not a machine, he will have ups and downs, good days and less good days, he will smile and laugh and he will cry and he will scream. Don't worry about every little change of state. Just do all the stuff a parent does - love him and give him attention and play with him and feed him and give him opportunities to nap and change his diaper. That's really all you need to do. And he's going to love you like crazy. What a deal!
posted by OCDan at 10:39 PM on April 12, 2016 [1 favorite]

I wanted to come back because I'm not sure if a glimpse at a potential future will help you, but my kids are 4 and 7 now. Last week almost every morning, I ended up having to yell. Get your shoes on, get your clothes on, stop standing around, it's time to get dressed, iswearifwemissthebusguys!, can we move along please?, offsleaveeachotherthehellaloneplease! It wasn't the best week (and also far from the worst week) of morning routine.

And yet, my four year old and I had an argument over who was the best. "Mommy, you're the best!" "No, you're the best!" "You're the most best!" "You're super best!" "NOOOO, YOU ARE THE BEST, MOMMY!" It was delightfully hysterical. My 7 year old says he loves us so much that he wants to stay at home when he goes to college, or he wants us all to move with him when he becomes a lobsterman so we can live in the same house.

And that's how I know I'm not completely sucking at this parenting thing --- even if I sometimes lose my ever loving goddamned mind. I'm finally getting feedback about my parenting that matters! I have also decided it's important that my kids see me do things for myself and that they learn that it's okay that I do. I started this early in their lives, and I have made a conscious decision to leave any guilt behind about not doing enough. If I ever say, "I feel bad because I didn't -----" my husband cuts me off, "The kids are fine! They're happy. They love you. Yeah, they might have missed you tonight, but they'll be okay. It's not a big deal." So I don't make every soccer practice because I'm at work, but I make the games.

Over time you will find a balance. And in a few years, this will all be a memory -- maybe not a rosy one, but in the past. And you'll have new adventures and the pure mental exhaustion does ease up. But until it does, please put on your oxygen mask.
posted by zizzle at 4:32 AM on April 13, 2016 [1 favorite]

This sounds like something I could have written. The only thing I can tell you is 1) talk to someone, a therapist, a friend (maybe a friend who has a child(ren) because they are more able to understand and 2) TRY to not be so hard on yourself. I have an 8 month old, and I still look at her sometimes and think what do you want? And if I sat there with those thoughts for a while I would drive myself crazy trying to figure out why I can't figure out what she wants...they are all different. Their basic needs are met by us, affection, food, play, sleep, and when all that is provided and they are still uneasy it's easy to blame ourselves for falling short instead of just remembering they are babies, the world is new to them, we are their everything. Maybe it's not that we are falling short and not giving them something they need, but they are just learning how to communicate. I think with time, and as they learn their independence it will be easier on us, but we have to repeatedly remind ourselves that we are doing a good job, we are good mothers/fathers, we are doing the best we can, and they will be okay as long as you are provding the above (love, affection, play, food, sleep, comfort, safety etc).

It really helps me to go to therapy when I'm feeling anxious, or to talk to other moms. You would be surprised at how many other moms feel these ways but don't say it, so we assume it's just us feeling these ways and that we are bad moms because of it- not true... it seems as though my friends who appear to have a "perfect" baby, family, and everything, actually dont, and have admitted to me, I just try to fake it until I make it. The first year is hard, I know easier said than done but be kind to yourself, when you have these fleeting worries or anxieties try to direct your energy elsewhere... go for a walk with him, or play a new game, get some fresh air and replace the thougths with something positive.
posted by MamaBee223 at 5:58 AM on April 13, 2016

Oh, and another thing about being impatient... oh boy, we all are, and I sometimes beat myself up over how impatient I am with my baby. I don't show it to her but sometimes I am short tempered and feel like I'm about to lose it when she pulls my hear out, or breaks my glasses, or wont drink her bottle even though I know she's hungry! At that point, I have put her down and just gone by myself in a room and yelled into a pillow or just sat to myself. Let it out, don't keep things inside, talk to your SO your mom....your pillow, haha. Sending ahug, your doing great!!
posted by MamaBee223 at 6:01 AM on April 13, 2016

Thank you for such support and perspective. The 30% and 40% numbers made me feel a lot better - I don't have to understand him perfectly I just have to try.

(And yeah for the longest time he gave NO tired signals either which made me feel like I was an idiot because everyone else's baby yawned/rubbed eyes/looked tired so I must be missing the signs? So I had to watch the clock and just make him nap... which meant I got caught up on how much he "should" be sleeping based on sleep tables, which turned into reading up on where he "should" be by now and then this divorced myself from my own common sense/instincts. I agree reading parenting blogs is not helpful and I've quit them now.)

Also he's learning to communicate; I can't take 100% responsibility for not being able to read his mind. Just having that bit of distance, it's not my job to make him 100% happy it's my job to take care of him and parent takes the weight off my shoulders when he's whining but I can't figure out why.

I feel a lot better having read all these, thank you.
posted by serenity soonish at 6:33 AM on April 17, 2016 [1 favorite]

Hey, sometimes I think a large part of this parenting challenge is being strong enough to stand the tears, the yelling, the anger (yours and theirs), the frustration and hurt.
Because whether they're nine months old or fourteen years old, sometimes (often! In phases!) there will be crying and you won't be able to do anything about it immediately. They will be miserable and you can't change that. They will be mad as hell, these people you love more than anything in the world; mad at you! Will say they hate you! And nothing you say will change that immediately.
But if you're strong enough to accept that this is just the way it is right now, and that you can't make it stop, and if you continue to try and do better, then it'll end up fine.
It may help to think of this nine month situation as practicing your acceptance of your inevitable helplessness! It won't be the last time you'll feel that way. That's okay. You don't have the answers. Nobody does. You still rock!
posted by Omnomnom at 1:34 PM on April 17, 2016 [1 favorite]

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