I am tired. I am really really tired. And the reason it’s taken me a few days to write this is because I’ve been trying to figure out why.
I am not a particularly political person, but recent events have made me feel like finding myself a little spare Ocado crate and nudging myself up alongside some of the more polished soapbox dwellers putting their views across to have my say. I’m tired because I’m scared of what this world is becoming, and I feel powerless to change it.
This year I have made no secret of the fact that I was overwhelmed by the oceans of choices and decisions for each and every milestone my baby went through. I was kind of prepared for that though. What I was not prepared for was the level of external judgement around the decisions I made for my child and my family. Week after week there is a new stage, a new decision, and the opinions are everywhere you turn: further afield and surprisingly close to home. I took these ‘shoulds’ on board and I went round in circles, beating myself up, until I wasn’t sure what I’d decided or why.
We struggled with feeding: continue breastfeeding or move to bottle-feeding?
B wouldn’t sleep: controlled crying or co-sleeping? or wait it out?
B needed solids: baby-led or purées?
Back to work: full-time, part-time or not at all?
My latest dilemma: B going to nursery. 2 days or 3? Do we get the hippo backpack or the penguin one?
Enough already. It doesn’t actually matter.
Because a fortnight ago 49 people were killed in a US nightclub, just for expressing who they are. Because a week ago, one amazing woman was killed in a UK street in broad daylight for just doing her job speaking up for her people. Because this fortnight has made me realise we have bigger fish to fry.
Breastfeeding your baby? Bottle-feeding? You are both absolutely incredible because you are both feeding your babies and helping them grow.
Co-sleeping? Or burying your head in your pillow for a week as you count the minutes to help your baby learn to sleep alone? Do whatever works for you.
Whichever path you have taken, no doubt you have scanned the internet for advice, you have internalised all the unsolicited opinions and you have agonised over your choice regardless. (Most likely you will continue to do so until your child is at least 40.) And you have done all this because you care. Because you care that your baby grows up to be an adult who is strong, confident and responsible. Because you care that your baby grows up to be an adult who knows that they are loved and what it is to love, whatever form that love may take. To know how to be caring in turn, to be compassionate and open-minded.
So now let’s forget the minutiae of precisely how you are achieving that, because, in the larger context of the bleak reality of the past fortnight, it really is minutiae. You are doing an amazing job. If we really want to worry about a ‘should’, let’s unite in a shared sense of responsibility for a common should.
Our children should be able to grow up in a safe, tolerant world.
Our children shouldn’t be afraid to stand up for their beliefs for fear of being killed in the street.
Our children shouldn’t have to live in fear that someone will walk into the public place they are in and open fire, because that individual should not have the weapon in the first place.
Because that individual should not think to do that in the first place, because compassion and tolerance for our individual differences is taken for granted.
We have a joint responsibility to make these ‘shoulds’ a reality for our children. Let’s stop beating ourselves up over the fact that we care, and instead focus all that energy on a wider mission to raise a generation of compassionate, responsible humans with the capacity to shape a brighter world.
*steps down from aforementioned Ocado crate with a quiet but determined “ahem – thank you” and hopes someone somewhere heard*