A Matter of Expectations

Adventures of a Subversive Reader: Expectations

“Is he a good baby?”

I am asked this question constantly. I’m asked it by friends, ex work mates, complete strangers. It’s the ‘do you know what you’re having?’ of early motherhood.

The easy answer is yes. Occasionally I adjust it to ‘he’s an easy baby’, or ‘he’s a good sleeper and good feeder’. I’m incredibly lucky to have a healthy baby who feeds well and sleeps well most of the time.

But sometimes I wonder – is he an easy baby because he just is, or is he an easy baby because of my own expectations?

I’ve been lucky in my journey into motherhood that I’ve fallen in with a great group of parents, mostly online. A lot of them have children older than Squirm, and the parents have real life experience, and are happy to share. And one of the things that they share is: Almost everything babies do is normal.

Babies cry. Babies have completely strange sleep patterns. Babies feed differently at different times. Babies achieve things then don’t do them again for ages. Babes do things in their own time.

These parents have taught me that the most predictable thing about babies is that they’re rarely predictable at all!

There’s a lot of baby experts and authors out there who sell tonnes of books telling us exactly what we should expect from our babies. And if our babies don’t meet those expectations, we’re told how to make them conform. If that still doesn’t work, we’re encouraged to stress out, to be upset about our failure or to believe that we have a difficult, child who isn’t ‘good’. (Not to say babies can’t be difficult – I was a shocker, and I think my mother is still recovering 30 years later)

Pre-baby I used to stress out about everything. But since Squirm was born, I’ve been strangely calm. I’ve (mostly) handled the late nights/early mornings/sleeping patterns continuously changing. I’ve handled the feeding (after some minor freak outs in the hospital – though a lot of that was baby blues inspired). I’ve handled a couple of nights of gas pains (thanks to the help of Mr Pilot) and I’ve even handled vaccinations all on my own.

I can’t help but think that my lack of expectations helps with this strange calmness. I don’t refer to a book or a website to find out what Squirm’s supposed to be doing. (I rarely even get his weight checked.) I don’t follow the advice of one ‘guru’, though I do read parenting books on a range of topics that interest me, including breastfeeding, positive discipline and baby led weaning. I consider the ‘shoulds’ thoughtfully, and decide which ones are important to follow – I should make sure Squirm is correctly restrained in his car seat, I don’t need to worry so much if he drinks the bath water.

In my mind, having expectations thrust upon us – whether they are about how long a baby should sleep, or what behaviours make a ‘good’ baby – make this parenting job so much harder. Instead, we need more support to understand that our babies are all different – just as we adults are all different.

None of us are really that predictable at all.

Where do you get the best parenting support from?

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4 comments

  1. Of my three babies, my 1st was super tricky, chronic reflux, never slept etc and I was pretty depressed but then as I got through to No.2 and now No.3 before I realised that if I stopped labelling their behaviour eg, good baby, hard baby, etc and just dealt with whatever I was going through it made it heaps easier. Sounds like you’ve already found your inner calmness – go you! Emily

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