It only took me 364 days and 13 hours, but I finally figured out what the hardest part of the first year of parenting was for me.
It wasn’t the sleep deprivation.
It wasn’t the loss of freedom.
It wasn’t the disruption it has been to our marriage.
It wasn’t the financial expense.
It was the lack of verbal encouragement and support.
Reflects On The First Year Of Parenting
I’ve been thinking for a number of months about the posts I would write as I reflect on the first year of being a parent. I’ve thought about all kinds of things I could write. I could write a post on each of the “It wasn’t” statements above. And I may write about them at some point.
But it wasn’t until the evening before Caroline’s first birthday that I had my epiphany. It was like the proverbial light went on. It had to be the Holy Spirit because I don’t know how else to describe it.
My parents were here, helping us get ready for the birthday open house. I was feeling inadequate in terms of not being able to do everything in my life perfectly with excellence very well well enough. My mom said to me, “You’re doing fine.”
Now, I’m sure my parents have said things to us like this before in the previous 364 days. But as I was thinking about that comment from my mom, I realized that this is why the first year has been hard.
It is because we have received almost no positive verbal affirmation from any other sources.
Yes, we get lots of comments about how cute Caroline is and such. And we have gotten the very occasional comment about the fact that she seems like such a happy and contented baby. So it isn’t like we never heard anything positive.
But mostly it seems as though we’ve had a lot of people questioning our parenting decisions and being generally non-supportive of our choices. The two biggest areas have been the church nursery thing when someone said Caroline was our idol and the fact that Caroline is home with us all day.
Others Questioning Our Parenting Decisions
I don’t want to write much about the church nursery situation since this is a public website. But we have received a lot of passive aggressive comments about not putting Caroline in the nursery. We’ve obviously offended some people because we haven’t used the nursery. It has been bad enough that we have dreaded going to church for several months and have started the process of changing churches to a situation where this will not be as much of an issue.
We also get a lot of questions about the fact that Caroline is home with us all day and if she is afraid of other people. It’s like people think she never leaves our home or interacts with anyone else in the world. I suppose it is a lot like the questions homeschoolers get about socialization and whether or not the children will be able to function in the “real world.”
I know that not everyone is going to agree with the choices we make. But I would expect that people would have enough faith in David and me and our relative intelligence and spiritual life to trust us that we are making the best choices we feel we can for our family.
But it hasn’t felt like that a lot of the time.
Honestly, I’ve gotten a lot more support from women on here that I’ve never met and probably will never meet this side of heaven than I have gotten from the people who should have been there for me.
And that has been a bittersweet blessing and also a reminder of how alone we feel in our journey as parents.
A Difficult First Year of Parenting
It has been a hard year for a lot of reasons. And maybe if I had realized this primary reason sooner, we could have made adjustments and salvaged a bit more of the year. Hindsight is often 20-20 and we’ve done the best we could.
But I will say that this experience has opened my eyes to the need to look for ways to encourage other new parents who cross my path in the future. I don’t ever want another woman I know to be approaching her child’s first birthday and realize she’s just gone through one of the toughest years of her life and there was almost no one there cheering her on and pointing out to her all the things she was doing so well.
I am so sorry to read about this. It saddens me to know that this is probably the reality most new moms face.
I appreciate the reminder to seek to verbally encourage new moms especially more often.
People truly are obsessed with socialization. With my first child, I did lots of Mommy & Me Classes and playgroups and all of that, but it was really just for my needs more than my baby’s. With my second, I don’t have the time or need, between meeting the needs of my older child and keeping naptimes regular and keeping the house and all of that. Now, I think of myself as someone who would know better, but I do catch myself feeling badly once in a while, as if baby should have a social life already at the age of one. The trick is, she does have one, with her family, where it should be.
I believe that all of this ties into our “Earlier, earlier, earlier” theory of child rearing. I see dance lessons, sports, music, all starting earlier and earlier, things that our parents didn’t even think of until we were at least 6 or 7. Socializing going right along with that…
Thanks for the reminder to encourage a new mom when I can.
Isn’t it a sad comment on society today (and among CHRISTIANS?) that they think a BABY can spend too much time at home? Sheesh… Yes, we heard a lot about the “socialization” thing from people, especially those who do not support homeschooling (and because we were teaching only one child).
Christopher recently did a project for the college english class he is taking. Our church serves a meal after the service each week and he watched homeschool teens and public/Christian school teens during the meal for three weeks. The biggest difference… the homeschooled teens were far more likely (okay, about 99% more) to sit with other people than their peers. They were also the only teens who would sit and talk to adults. So much for lack of socialization skills.
It wasn’t that any group of kids were right or wrong, it was only that the homeschooled kids WERE actually very social.
I know other moms who don’t put their kids in the church nursery, especially as infants. Most didn’t want to because of the risk of catching a bug.
Thanks for the reminder to send that encouraging word out to new moms or moms in general. I wish I could tell you that words of encouragement become more frequent as our children grow, but they don’t. My husband and I have had several conversations about this as well. We do not live near our families and often feel all alone in many ways. A word of encouragement from someone can go along way!
It’s sad that the nursery thing is so bad that you’re going to change churches. We still aren’t putting our baby in the nursery, and we received some negative feedback at first, but not much lately. It helps that our baby is fairly outgoing and just about anyone can get a smile out of her. But overall it has become one more thing that I don’t have in common with the other moms.
I’m amazed that people are questioning your decision to keep your infant at home during the day! To my way of thinking that is the absolutely best place for her to be! I would say that my hardest lesson as a parent has been to do what felt/feels right and ignore those who want to give you advice! It took me several years to “get” that, though! Hope the birthday celebration went well.
I’m not a new mom but I know some choices I’ve made for my new baby are questioned by others — even things I did with my first two– and they came out of it okay. 🙂
I think one problem is that people have this idea of what is THE BEST WAY to do things. And they may even be correct to a certain extent. But they fail to see that there really isn’t a one solution fits all to raising a child and other issues in life.
I think whatever you do there will always be criticism. As long as we are at peace with God, and in the case of raising our children, hopefully at peace with our husbands too, we just have to do what we have to do.
I do hope more encouragement will come your way and I’m also making a note to self to make it a point to encourage my friends who are new moms.
Happy birthday a little late to Caroline! My how time flies! You had just gotten pregnant when I started reading your blog. 🙂
The same thing happened to us when we had our first a few years ago. The women in our church were very unsympathetic and really turned their back on me personally. We never recovered from it and ended up leaving the church – and still haven’t found a new one.
It was during that time that I became a blogger and agree – still get more words of encouragement and support here than in the real world. We get slammed because of homeschooling too – mostly by family.
Stand firm in what you believe Sallie – it will carry you through!
Wow, how sad this makes me.
I truly think it’s a generational thing.
Meaning, I know you’re not all THAT much younger than I am, but I had my first baby 26 (almost!) years ago (I was 23), and at that time, there were plenty of working mothers, sure — but IN THE CHURCH, it was accepted that moms were home with their babies ALL DAY.
And I OFTEN had my children out of the church nursery. I won’t say I never have left children in the nursery — though I have never left any of the last 4 in the nursery, without me, ever. (I have occasionally gone to the nursery WITH THE CHILD and stayed there — because that church we were in was not very friendly to babies in the sanctuary making ANY noise.)
And I will say that I have VIRTUALLY never left a sobbing baby in the nursery (maybe twice, with the first baby, once he was getting on toward a year). I just wouldn’t do that. And…it was fine. Most of the mothers did that.
So…it makes me sad that something like this has been a source of pain to you.
Susan (mama to eight in PA)
You little one is blessed to have parents who actually make a conscious choice about what is right for your family. You two and Our Lord are all that have to be involved!!! You are doing great! Mine are much older and I don’t get a FRACTION of what you do done! Keep up the good work. You might enjoy the post I’ve done about Mrs. Graham–skip the first part, you aren’t there yet in parenting–but the quote from her journal is well worth it. http://hopewellmomschoolreborn.blogspot.com/
I look forway to reading your blog each day.
I know what you mean about the lack of encouragement. I quickly found out after having my first child that mothers (and fathers) can be a competitive lot, and as a result, competitiveness makes them unable to express admiration, encouragement, support and even their own shared understanding/experience.
My mothering peers, at that time in my life, all seemed bent on appearing perfect and being the “perfect” mother. I still see this going on with the mothers around me. I personally had great difficulty with sleep deprivation and thrush after my firstborn. I tried talking to other mothers, experienced and new, to glean any advice that I could. Ninety-nine percent of the time, I received glares of I don’t know what you’re talking about or I’ve never had problems like that at all. When I shared my woes with other mommies, I found myself being ostracized even in some groups as if I was a real misfit. My experience with other newer moms was so bad that I found myself vowing that I’d always be “real” with other moms by commiserating with them if they seemed to need it, telling them that parenting isn’t a cakewalk, no one has it perfect no matter how hard they try to convince you, and that in fact, it’s in these trying times that God gives us the opportunity to grow more like Jesus.
The other thing I learned is to never talk to a new mother as if she is “beneath” me in motherhood just because I have been at it longer. Some moms use their experience to make other newer moms feel inferior. I also found that some women with multiple children will also make assumptions sometimes if they see you only with one child in public. . . as if having more than one makes them the more professional mother while they assume the other mother has no clue. (How many times I’ve been out in public with only one or two of my three and had a stranger mom of three feel licensed to talk down to me!) Of course, this kind of behaviour may just be a sign that the mother herself feels as if she receives no encouragement or appreciation.
Moms can be a prideful lot, and it’s this pride that prevents us from saying encouraging things, putting others first, feeling a sense of entitlement and all that.
I found that I couldn’t expect others to encourage me, and I had to venture out with confidence and conviction built solely on God’s plans for my family. I’ve been humbled enough to know that everyone needs and wants encouragement, parenting is a great equalizer, and the only sure advantage is having Christ at the center of the family’s heart.
Sallie, do your thing! From what I can tell, you’re doing the right thing for your child: making sure she has the opportunity to know the Lord as her Saviour. Some people who have chosen different paths than you will feel uncomfy with your decisions, and some will try to make you feel uncomfy in return.
I’m in the camp with – being accountable to God for your parenting decisions…not to onlookers.
Hang in there, my friend…and keep smiling at the moms you meet. Everyone needs some encouragement!
Oh, how sad! I’m so sorry that you didn’t feel encouraged over this past year.
My parents have never been particularly supportive of me and our family’s decisions, especially as we’ve added to our brood; they seem to think we’ve joined some baby-making cult. (Seriously. My dad asked me once if “the church was making you do it,” “it” being having more than two children.) So, I’ve had to seek encouragement elsewhere. Fortunately, we’ve been in churches with supportive Christian brothers and sisters.
I also found encouragement from a mom’s group (Mothers & More) specifically targeted toward women who had left the work-force, even if just temporarily, to raise their children at home. This was a life-saver for me, because I think I would have felt very isolated if I hadn’t had other women I could interact with face-to-face who had left careers for child-rearing. (That identity shift from DINK career-person to someone’s mom was hard for me at first.) Some were Christians, but many were not, so it was refreshing to step out of the “Christian ghetto” yet still find some like-minded women out there.
I hope your second year of parenthood is a more encouraging one for you. On-line friendships are good, but you really need that face-to-face interaction, too.
Nancy - The Unlikely Homesteader
As my husband and I have made decisions that other people don’t understand, we’ve often said as well that we hoped people could just trust “the Jesus” in us. Even if our decisions don’t line up with their ideas of “what is best”, if they truly know and love us, they should know that we have prayerfully considered, researched our decisions, and are following where the Holy Spirit is leading us.
Of course, it’s extra hard within the church where you so want to feel supported and affirmed, but I just always remember how God so often uses unlikely people and unlikely methods to accomplish His purposes.
Yes, the road is lonely at times, but God knows that part too. I figure sometimes He allows us to see things in other people so we aren’t so shocked later and so we can learn from them as well. As you said, most of us are A LOT more sensitive to other moms once we’ve gone through experiences like this.
As you can imagine, I receive many comments.
Being a single mom seems to invite everyone to say whatever they’re thinking about my parenting decisions.
I also do much natural healing and so that seems to invite comments too.
Here’s the deal, I am accountable to my husband and to my God.
No one else. As much as comments hurt or bother me, I have come to the place that it doesn’t matter or change what I’ve decided. It’s none of their business.
I’m still trying to grow a thicker skin and get to the place where I can actually speak the words to them so they get the message it’s none of their business;).
I have to be encouraged in the Lord and know that I truly only must please him. No one else.
Hang in there:)
Sallie @ A Quiet Simple Life
I’m really enjoying all these comments! I only have a minute and will respond specifically to many of them later. This morning I went grocery shopping by myself (usually we all go together). I made a point of smiling at EVERY mom with young children I passed in the store. Usually I have Caroline and David along and we generally end up chatting with at least a few moms with babies since we have a baby with us. I didn’t have a baby along to naturally strike up the conversation, but I smiled at every little child and mom that I passed. I hope it makes a tiny difference. 🙂
Oh Sallie! I’m so very saddened that you’ve had such a year. However, it encourages me to praise those new parents around me. I am shocked (and I probably shouldn’t be) that people would think it abnormal for Caroline to be home with you both all day. My entire family/generation were raised at home w/parents the first 5 years of our lives. It was awesome, and I’m sure that’s a big reason why most of my cousins are well adjusted and loving people. To be at home, with people who love you, cherish you and think you’re the best thing since sliced white bread gives you a confidence that you could never get in day=care (and I’m not bashing anyone who uses day-care) or any other place. As for the nursery at church, no one in my family went into a nursery either. WE started religious classes/Sunday School when were were 5. Until that age, we sat in church with our families, cousins, etc. It as a great time for us, and we looked forward to it every Sunday.
This post brings up so many memories for me, like the Thanksgiving Day when one of my aunts criticized me in front of my entire extended family (50 plus people) for being “too hard on my kids”. I left early, in tears, and a year later she called to ask me what parenting course we had taken. Apparently she had changed her mind about us and had been singing our praises to a woman she was friends with, who asked what our secret was.
I think when people hear that you are doing something differently than they are, they take it as criticism–that you must think they are doing something wrong–and they respond with their shackles up. Usually their first instinct is to put down you or what you’re doing.
Another aunt of mine would comment often that she admired Scott and me because everything we did with our kids was thought through and had a purpose behind it. I used to think, “Well, aren’t most parents like that?” and now, 11 years later, I can assure you most are not. You and David are, and that’s something I admire about y’all.
The criticism for being at home all day thing is bizarre. I’ve met very few people who felt that way, or at least told me they felt that way, so it’s hard for me to imagine that so many people have said that to you. (Not that I doubt you, I just can’t imagine it.)
(This is incredibly long.)
One thing I wondered, reading your post. Do you have people that you can ask for encouragement? It sounds simplistic, but it’s amazing how helpful it is to just call or e-mail someone, tell them what you are feeling discouraged about, and let them encourage you. (Even more helpful if they agree with you on that particular topic.)
Okay, I think I’m done now.
I’ve been on the other end of this, being a young first-time mom and having people tell us, after I had the baby, that we were “too young” to be parents. I thought I was quite old enough–we were both 24. But it was L.A. and most people our age weren’t even married yet. I’m not much for praise–it can make me downright uncomfortable if someone waxes eloquent about me–but criticism is hard to take. Period. So I’m sorry you’ve gotten more than your share.
We don’t do the nursery, either. At least, not until the child is one. And even then, all our kids come to the main worship service with us. At first, people acted weird about it, but as I’ve learned to stand up straight and speak firmly but kindly, I’ve gotten fewer questions.
I think that those of us who are going to do things differently have to be content paving the way alone. You might be surprised how many moms become braver because of you. We used to sit in church and be some of the only parents with children older than babies. Now, there are lots of kids all over the place. Sometimes it seems it takes only one to two families to embolden the rest. And what a beautiful place it has become, with the families all together, worshiping our Lord!
Sorry, Sallie, that your first parenting year has lacked what you needed the most – encouragement! It is true that people rarely ask how the mom is doing but focus on the cute baby instead. As a mom of a 2.5 year old daughter, I did not leave her in the church nursery until she was at least 9 months or more and still don’t make her stay there if she is upset about being there on a particular Sunday. I love having her in church with us listening to the worship music and learning to sit quietly and listen or even looking at her books. I am also a stay-at-home mom (former teacher) and yes, often get asked if she gets out enough… My understanding and belief is that what a child needs most in years 1-3 is time spent at home with mom/dad creating that strong attachment that will hold them together for the years ahead. I do not feel bad that my daugher is not in a more structured caregiving situation such as daycare (actually the last place I would ever leave her is a public daycare!). So, my daugher loves her mommy best and wants only to be with me sometimes – I guess I have accomplished what I set out to do, ie. create a strong attachment between us and I am thankful b/c I never had that with my own mom.
Also, I wanted to mention that one thing that I found hard (and still do) is the fact that at my church I am one of the “older” moms having a baby for the first time at this age. Any event that is geared towards MOMS is full of women a good 10 years younger than me with one or more kids already and I find that I just don’t fit into that clique. That has made mothering particularly lonely for me.
We have three kids, ages 7,5 and 1, and haven’t put them in the nursery until they are over 1. That’s just the way we like it!
Besides, I’ve noticed most church services are exactly during naptime for my babies, which doesn’t make for a nice happy time to be separated from mommy!
Sallie @ A Quiet Simple Life
Hey! Stop leaving all these good comments! I want to respond to something in each of them and I’m never going to be able to do it!
Just kidding! Keep them coming! I hope others are being encouraged as I am. 🙂
I will be back!
I’m sorry that you haven’t received much positive support outside of your family. I understand how much that affirmation is so very important to first time parents. My parent’s didn’t vocalize an positive support, and the first year that our daughter was able to trick or treat and we didn’t allow her was very hard for my parents and my husband’s parents. I realize that many wonderful Christian parents allow their children to participate in Halloween, and I don’t want to open a can of worms here. I bring up our choice concerning Halloween to share this. I was really down about how our families’ were reacting. Then, I realized what a wonderful example this could become for our daughter. Throughout her life she will come in contact with many opportunities to participate in things that perhaps she shouldn’t. She will look back and see that even her parent’s did what they thought was right even though others didn’t agree. The example we provide her can encourage her through those hard situations. I don’t know if that helps. But, please know that the only person that truly matters is Caroline, and she seems very happy and content, and she is truly blessed with such wonderful, loving, christian parents.
Our daughter is 7 mo. old and I feel like I have had to constantly tell people, “no, I’m not ready to leave her with the nursery” and “yes, we are FINE at home together all day…thanks for your ‘concern'”!!!
I agree Sallie, because I was expecting sleep deprivation, loss of couple time etc. but where do people get off trying to separate me from my baby? Or am I just more sensitive because it took years to conceive? Anyway, thanks for the post. You are not alone.
Sallie @ A Quiet Simple Life
First of all, I’m sitting here wondering how in the world I am going to do justice to all of these excellent comments. Wow. You all are great ladies.
A couple of general thoughts first that I didn’t mention and want to… First, we are not leaving our church solely over this issue. I wondered if anyone might think we are taking this too personally, but there are other issues involved. These nursery/family issues have certainly been a big part of it, but they are not the sole reason. There is so much more I want to say about this, but I cannot at this point. Perhaps in the future I will be able to write more about this, but not right now.
By comment number…
Melanie (1) – Thank you and you are welcome!
Ann (2) – Amen!
Shelly (3) – There is much I would like to write about what you wrote, but cannot. But I do understand and thank you for the encouraging words! 🙂
Brenda (4) – Thank you for the excellent story about your son’s “research”! And your comment about people worrying that a baby could be at home too much. BINGO! You are so right. I said to David this evening that for CENTURIES it was normal for babies to be – DUH! – at home with their parent/parents all day. All of the sudden it is a scary thing. Unbelievable!
Courtney (5) – Thank you for your honest comments. I know how much more alone I would feel if my parents were far away.
(On to the next comment window. I’m going to post these in batches so I don’t lose them if my computer goes funny!)