Friday, 24 June 2011

Where did our confidence go?

As I sit here, girls in bed (without too many tantrums), one hand on keyboard, little finger of the other in M's mouth (makes typing tricky but keeps him quiet), I feel, for a brief moment, like I know what I'm doing.

Which is clearly enormously tempting fate, so watch this space for news of an epic disaster (along the lines of the deer that jumped out in front of the car on the A1 last weekend - necessitating a lot of explaining to Direct Line about why offering us a fiesta to get home in wasn't going to work).

That aside, as I have a fleeting moment of confidence, I've been finding myself wondering: as a species, where did our confidence go?

This is my fourth baby, so you'd sort of expect me to know what I'm doing wouldn't you? I certainly expected that I would.  But, while I definitely do have more confidence than I did with L, and more time than I did with A and S, I still find myself at a loss more often than not; asking for reassurance, checking the baby bible, reconfirming to myself that if I feed him again, or leave him to cry, or take him out for dinner with my mum, or let him roll off the sofa at three days old (a real low point), I'm not going to doom him, or destroy him, or ruin his chances of getting a proper job in twenty-odd years time.

But if I were a zebra I wouldn't feel like this.  If I were a chimpanzee, or a kangaroo, or a mouse, I'd have my baby, or my multiple babies (and wouldn't having fourteen make twins feel like a walk in the park on a sunny day?), and I'd just get on with it:  I'd know how he latches on, and that I'm doing it right; I'd know how to keep him warm without letting him get too hot or cold; I'd know, instinctively, how to keep him safe.

So why can't we? Why is there this huge industry around telling us stuff that every other animal knows without asking? 

I mentioned this to my sister-in-law the other day, and she said it was about the information - because the information is there, we become insecure and we rely on it. She said if we weremembers of an undiscovered tribe living in the jungles of Papua New Guinea, we wouldn't feel like this; we would still have that instinctive certainty.

I'm not so sure.  I suspect that for all a Papuan new mum may not have Gina Ford, or the baby whisperer,  health visitors, community midwives, the co-parenting lobby, the nanny state or the breastapo, I bet she has a mother, a granny, an aunt or a neighbour, all regaling her with their stories of dreadful deliveries and breast-feeding nightmares, and all telling her, "We didn't do it like that when you were young" or, "Oh, no, we do it like this now".

I think it's something to do with being human. As a species we no longer have confidence in ourselves.  But I'd love to know when it was lost.  And I'd love even more to know how to get it back again.


ps Once again I feel like Cinderella.  I am not off to CyberMummy tomorrow, due to new babies, small children, builders and the late and not at all lamented deer.  Instead I will be heading back up the A1 to home, hopefully in a car which will fit us all.  I will however be wishing I were there and sending a big hello to everyone.  Have fun for me.


  1. I don't know when our confidence was lost but I think it is largely to do with losing our instincts because of constant comparison to others, to information available, to false ideals etc. How to get it back - tust ourselves more, stop comparing so much....but will we?

  2. I like Tanya's comment 'false ideals'. I think you would be fine if just left to get on with it. You are fine :) All babies should fall off something once! Well maybe not, but you know what I mean!

  3. I think you underestimate the supportive nature of that familial group - what I've found incredible is my parents ability to tell me frequently I'm doing well, yes to say when they disagree with things but to respect my choices. That sort of supportive framework is worth so much because it gives you space to learn to trust your instincts and work out what works for you and your baby (and gives you space to occasionally hand the baby over so you can get a break!)

    Sadly there are a lot of people out there less supportive and peddling their own views without respecting other ones

  4. I think I may have come across a bit too whingy then! Sorry! It's not so much that I, personally, feel at a loss, although I do from time to time, more that I think the whole thing is interesting anthropologically, or evolutionarily, or something. The health visitor said to me the other day: "Just because you know how to breast feed, doesn't mean M does. He's learning and you need to help him". Which I'm sure is true, but why doesn't he know? No-one teaches lambs, or kittens... (Or maybe they do? Or maybe that's why our infant mortality rate is much lower than in animals, if it is...?).

    To Muddling Along, though, you are right, I am not giving the supportive advice enough credit - especially given I am typing this at my parents' who have been utterly wonderful all week - it's half past eight and I've only just got up....

    I do think though that Tanya's "false ideals" probably do have a lot to do with it - and is that all about the information with which we are surrounded? Is my sister-in-law right? If I didn't know that Gina F wants M to be in a routine of whatever it is, would I be worrying (which for the record I'm not, but I'm sure there are new mums who do) that he's not complying with that routine...?

    And as for the fall off the sofa - well, Kelloggsville, that I really was worrying about, but I am assured he is fine, and if he doesn't remember it, I am going to try to make sure that I don't either....

  5. For all we know the animals are getting advice from each other all the time. The programmes showing herding elephants with the big mama in charge of everyone?
    I think a lot of it is, as you say, down to us not living in such close proximity to our families,not having granny in the corner proffering advice.

    I'm not going to cybermummy either and didn't last year. Terrible really as have no excuse but I'm going to have a lovely weekend at home instead.

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  7. The most hilarious spamming comment above. Please leave it for me to return to when I need a laugh!

    Anyway. Great post. I don't think you are whinging, I think you are reflecting and that is entirely different. I totally understand feeling confident and perfectly competent but then realising how many options and opinions are being foisted around us about EVERY.LITTLE.THING. to do with parenting. It's enough to make your eyes melt isn't it.

    So my advice is to do what you are doing. You sound like you are doing a marvellous job to me.

    MD xxx

  8. With my first I was lacking confidence and depended on advice where I could get it - books, friends, family, tv.....then, with my second (18 years later) I just felt so laid back that I just knew everything would work out ok and I just got on with it. Mature viewpoint clearly - it has some advantages being a mature mum!!! However, once daughter reached 10 and became slightly hormonal....that's when I've found that I'm lacking confidence to cope!

  9. I do think that one of the fourteen little mice will die, if not more. And other animals also just have to hope for the best. At least all our information makes it much more likely that our babies will make it to adulthood.

    And about dropping the baby - I did it again this time as well, off a high step. I wonder why it is that every parent, with every child, needs to see for themselves that they WILL roll off and hurt themselves before they will believe it.


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