I remember so well when I was a young mother, and my mum came to visit and help out. What a godsend she was – after 4 weeks on my own, I finally gave up and begged her for help! It’s very hard when you have so little experience with a baby, to all of a sudden be on your own with this small, squalling creature. My mother was wonderful – she didn’t have to do much, just let me know that I was doing ok.
One of her comments was that it was so much easier (in some ways) to be a mother than it was in her days. Cloth diapers, pails full of the things in the nursery, boiling them when you’re exhausted yourself. All baby clothes had to be ironed in those days – can you imagine the time that must have taken?
I was thinking of all this again over the holidays, because we had our daughter and family visiting. Baby Matilda is doing stunningly well and is almost always so cheerful!
My question would be this – has motherhood become ever easier (in some ways) with all the modern gizmos that are available?
For example. Any doubt or question can be researched on the web instantly – no need to ask your mother, sister or aunt, or read that pesky book to find out the answers to your questions.
And consider bedtime. There are baby monitors, so you can hear every whisper. There are special (very expensive) foam wraps for each individual slat in the crib (the old style bumper pads are thought too dangerous today, though millions of babies somehow lived through the trauma of bumper pads). You can’t have any toys in the crib (they used to be fine). Depending on your beliefs, it’s either 100% right or 100% wrong to let your baby cry, fuss, or sleep with you. You’re told: put that baby on its back, Mother, not on its tummy, or there is risk of SIDS. (a 100% turnaround from my day, when it was thought there increased risk of SIDS if put on their backs!! Come on, guys, make up your minds!!!)
Then the advice. There are health visitors, breastfeeding guidelines, developmental guidelines, nurseries, discussion forums (waaayyyyy too many to mention), and “mummy meet” groups for everything under the sun. There are back packs, front packs, slings, and wraps for the baby – again, depending on your beliefs, some are right, the others wrong.
Doesn’t it all drive you absolutely ’round the twist, young mothers? Don’t you find it serious overload?
My own opinion is that, although there are many more conveniences than in my mother’s (or my) day, motherhood becomes ever more confusing. There is too much advice, too much information, too much paranoia about everything. Common sense does not rule, or usually even count.
In our village in Spain, it is the norm for a new mother to live quite close to her mother and sisters, and maybe even to her grandmother. There is plenty of advice from a group of women who love you and have experienced the same worries. There are always hands to hold the baby when you are tired.
This wasn’t possible for me, and isn’t for most modern mothers. However, at least technology gives us the next best thing – advice and chats face-to-face via FaceTime, Skype and others. And young mothers? Believe me when I say that your aunt, sister or mum probably do know a few things about babies, and would just love to be asked questions or give advice – she is probably just waiting for you to make the first move.