We hear all the time about the importance of engaging our Baby in play, to aid in their development. But when you’re just making it through each day and baby barely seems to be up long enough to feed and change, I often found myself thinking WHAT on earth am I supposed to do?
Life with a newborn is tough. It’s monotonous, exhausting, isolating and can feel like a massive boulder has just been rested upon your shoulders.
The idea of adding ANYTHING to the list probably seems both daunting and most days impossible!
This is how I felt when I had my first child.
I was at a loss as to how to fill my days with this little being, who I was supposed to ‘engage’! I knew a handful of nursery rhymes (or could scour my memory bank and dredge them up),
I could sing to my bub, but jeepers it felt weird singing to an otherwise quiet house.
I could talk to bub, but again there is only so long you can keep the one-sided conversation going before it feels just plain odd.
And then there are the ‘monkey mind’ thoughts…
Have I fed you enough?
Are you already tired?
Do you have wind?
If I play with you now will you then be overstimulated, they told me to watch out for that!’
And the list goes on…
Now, I already had what many friends considered a foot in the door… I was a trained primary school teacher who had loved all things children since the age of 15, but I have to say I floundered in those early months. It was hard to conjure up the enthusiasm to 'play' with my baby when all I wanted to do was crawl back into bed and rid myself of this sleepless haze my world had become.
I’m a talker and always have been, and so I wasn’t bad a chatting away to my bub but when you don't get a lot back at first- it can make for very lonely conversations.
The reason I found it so tough? Hindsight has me believe it is that as mums today we are inundated with information!
It’s almost impossible to see the forest for the trees AND the worst part is a lot of this information seems to contradict itself! Mums today have the benefit of hindsight... but in some respects ignorance would be bliss. In those early months I found myself wishing I knew less so that it didn't seem so daunting a prospect.
Then one day I went to a mothers' group session and they had a guest speaker who came to tell us all about 'playing' with our baby. Her underlying message I believe was good but two-thirds of the group left looking down-trodden, sad and on the verge of tears. Our ‘expert’ had talked at us rather than to us and left us all feeling like we had wasted the past 2 months and now needed to play catch up.
Each Mum alike left the room with that sick feeling in their stomach, thinking they weren't doing 'enough' for their baby and that they had already lost 2 precious months of learning.
But on reflection…
I had not 'lost' 2 months, I had enjoyed the ignorance and cuddled, kissed and fed my baby. More importantly I had bonded!
I got thinking about what all the other mums who attended must be stewing about. How dare this person make us feel unworthy, guilty and like incompetent mothers. We were doing our best.
I vowed that day that I would do my best to 'build up' other Mums and make them feel like they’ve 'got this!’ One day I thought I’m going to empower mums to feel confident they are doing the best for their baby, not guilty and like they don't quite make the cut.
The reality of it was that the underlying messages from this expert were not wrong. It IS incredibly valuable to talk to your baby, sing to them, look them in the eye and engage with them.
The problem was when it was delivered in a cloud of judgement, none of this good learning got through to any of us!!
Mums, You are doing an amazing job! Yes sing to your baby, talk to them, smile at them. But if you are having a bad day, you're exhausted and just plain not on your 'a' game... be kind to yourself. Tomorrow is another day! And no, take it from someone who has seem the end game, if you miss a day of solid baby-mum engagement you are not ruining their chances of succeeding in life.
So tired Mumma, here are 2x engaging, educational activities that you can do today with your Bub. Remember, you got this!