How I Almost Became The Smug Mom


  IMG_3674

My daughter was the perfect baby. She was born after an easy, drug-free, natural labor. She took to breastfeeding like a duck to water and consumed nothing but breastmilk for her first seven months. She didn’t even know that bottles existed. I practiced ecological breastfeeding and wasn’t separated from her for more than a few minutes for her entire first year. I made all of her baby food, cloth-diapered, co-slept, never made her cry it out, and let her self-wean. I wore her in a Maya wrap constantly, a stroller was just unnecessary. She cried so little that we were shocked each time she did. She was and is the most securely-attached, happy, smiling, independent little girl. And if she had been my first baby, I would think that it was all because of me. I would be The Smug Mom.

You know the one. When overhearing a conversation about a mothering challenge, The Smug Mom offers her unsolicited advice because she knows the right way to do it. If only you used the same parenting techniques as The Smug Mom, your baby would be as easy and content as her ever-smiling babe. The Smug Mom is so sure that her way is the right way, the ONLY way to mother and criticizes those mothers with strollers, or formula, or pacifiers at the drop of a hat. She means well but seems unable to understand the mothering challenges other moms are facing.

Luckily, I didn’t become The Smug Mom because my firstborn did not emerge from the womb as a bundle of infant perfection like his baby sister. He tore down all my delusions of motherly wisdom right away. His first year was one overwhelming challenge after another, beginning with a super long and exhausting labor. When I was pregnant, I knew exactly how I was going to mother, but nothing turned out how I expected.

Was I going to breastfeed? Of course. No question! It was going to be perfect. I knew I’d have to pump at work, but no big deal! Fast forward four months later when my colicky baby had screamed through every feeding of his life and I was pumping 4 hours a day because he would only take my breastmilk in a bottle. By 16 weeks post-partum, that 4 hours of pumping a day became impossible. He only slept 3-4 hours a night in 1 hour increments and the exhaustion of pumping was actually inhibiting my ability to bond with him.

Cloth-diapering? Of course! Oh wait…after pumping for the billionth time I have to do laundry every other night after getting home from work? That didn’t last long. Hello, disposables! Co-sleeping? He didn’t sleep. I didn’t sleep. My husband didn’t sleep. I could rarely make it to work before breaking down into tears of exhaustion. We finally did CIO at 6 months and it actually worked. After starting to get a little bit of sleep, I was able to start bonding with my little boy—something that I had been previously unable to do simply because I was so incredibly exhausted. When I quit breastfeeding and switched to formula, his reflux and colic improved.

None of it was ideal. None of it was how I planned it, but I realized that sometimes what’s right for your family, what makes you the best mother you can be, isn’t a rigid adherence to a certain method of parenting, it’s simply doing your best for your unique baby in your current situation.

I know there are bad mothers in the world, but I don’t personally know any women who aren’t doing everything they can to be amazing mothers to their kids. I don’t know any mother who doesn’t love her baby and want to do what’s best. I simply can’t know what another mother might be going through, her family’s unique challenges, how hard she tried to breastfeed, etc. And I’ve seen babies thrive in different families with very different parenting methods. So now I know what to say when other moms tell me about their parenting style. You co-sleep? Awesome. Baby slept great in their crib from day one? Awesome. You love breastfeeding? It is such a special thing! Breastfeeding didn’t work out and baby is thriving on formula? I feel your pain, sister! So glad baby is doing great. You’re attachment parenting all the way and baby loves it? Good for you! You love BabyWise and your baby does, too? Fantastic!

What I learned from the early days of mothering my son is that using every ounce of energy I had to do things “the right way” simply didn’t work for my baby or for my family’s situation at the time. Trying out the same things that failed miserably with my firstborn worked like a charm with baby #2. Every baby is different. Every family is different. There is no “right way” to mother that works for every child and every family.

What mothering challenges saved you from being The Smug Mom?

Photo credit: Lauren of Simply Inspired Mama


About the Author

Haley is a Catholic wife and mama of three little ones, ballet teacher, and lover of all things Jane Austen, Evelyn Waugh, and Wendell Berry. Find her at Carrots for Michaelmas where she writes about urban homesteading, motherhood, literature, faith, homeschooling, and her undying love for bacon.

Comments

  1. Holy cow, you have given me hope! The first year with my daughter was so very similar to this. Nothing went as planned! Throw in some PPD, and it really turns your world upside down. The best advice I received was just what you said: The “right” thing to do is whatever is right for your family. However, now having worked through so many issues, it’s easy to slide into smugness, just from having tried so many things, and seeing some work so much better than others. But then your child will pitch a fit in front of the world, and you get brought right back down! In retrospect, I’m thankful to have been put in the position of having to search-out solutions, since I’ve stumbled upon more than I ever would have known, otherwise (birth, in particular). Hope future baby #2 is as easy as your second!

    • Thanks, Ketti! If I could just get her to cooperate and come OUT :) Acupuncture this afternoon to see if it gets anything moving!

  2. such a great and inspiring post! after my son was born, i wanted to everything natural and breastfeed-but he wouldnt latch :( and due to my postpartum dep and pride, i didnt do research or ask for help and guiltily went to formula. i didnt know there were people who could help, i felt like a failure for not knowing how to do what my body was made to do, and i beat myself up for it for a long time. then one day, boom. i just accepted (after many a blog post, research, pinterest surfing session) that i did what i thought was best at the time for him. if we are blessed enough to have another, i now know more options and more resources to help me along the way, but i agree. every mom, every child, each pregnancy, and each experience is different and no one and nothing should sway you or make you feel guilty for doing what is best with what you know. your “mom gut” knows whats best about 99% of the time, trust it.

    Thanks for the encouragement!

    • Great insights, Alley. All we can do is what we believe to best for our kids at the time and where we are. Sometimes I wish I knew everything I know now back when I had my first but it was working through all those issues with him that prompted me to learn more.

  3. This is spot-on, Haley. In my case, it’s having twins that keeps me from ever thinking of being smug. My standards are just so much lower with two toddlers than they were with one! Honestly, if we could all stop worrying about what other people are doing and just do the best we can for our families, I think the global mothering community would be a much more supportive, happy place. Thanks for your thoughts.

  4. You know my story–I couldn’t manage my anxiety disorder and depression without medication. My son is a pretty perfect bundle of infant perfection (you met him!) but it isn’t because I’m doing everything perfectly! So much for “all natural.” I go with LOVE instead.

    • I love that Anne-Marie! I saw an interesting post the other day that made me think of you. I’ll email it later!

  5. Wonderfully said! I never had the chance to be smug either :)

    With my first we were those parents who were driving around at 4 am every night (morning?) so that the baby would.just.sleep–because the ONLY place he would sleep was his carseat. I think if, at the time, one more smug-but-well-meaning-mom calmly told me that I should just lay him down “drowsy but awake” I may have slapped her! I really thought they were all either lying or I was the worst mom ever. When my second son came along the next year and he would just look up at me and smile as I laid him down and then close his eyes and fall asleep without a peep I was amazed and so relieved to realize that all babies are different and I wasn’t a horrible mom after all!

    Now I just smile and nod as moms of one sweet little angel give me all their oh-so-wise parenting tips and tricks all the while secretly wishing them a child who is just as, shall we say rambunctious, as my lovable–albeit trying– eldest son :)

    • I know exactly what you mean! My second falls asleep so easily for naptime/bedtime. No tears. Just cuddles up with her blankie and says, “nigh nigh, mama. i wove wou!” I was so glad to discover that my firstborn’s horrible sleeping issues weren’t because of what I was doing, just the way he was made! My eldest (also a boy, like yours) is my greatest challenge every day! He can be a delightful joy…but he is…ahem…active. :)

    • Our first never slept. Exhaustion, I hear ya! Everyone kept telling us what to do. If your kid isn’t sleeping, don’t they know that you’ve already tried sooo many things!?! Silly people.

      • Whew. With our first I thought I was going to start hallucinating from the exhaustion. And well-meaning folks with happily sleeping babies do try to offer the funniest advice after you’ve tried everything known to man! When I would set down my second baby in the bouncer or swing for a minute, walk back in the room and realize she had PUT HERSELF TO SLEEP, I realized, “oh! that’s the kind of baby they had! they must have wondered why I couldn’t just get it together!” Haha!

  6. “None of it was ideal. None of it was how I planned it” — this basically sums up our parenting journey — from infertility, to adoption, to the challenges we are experiencing as parents. We have been learning firsthand about the importance of newborn care and the impact it can have on child development (our son was 8 months old when we brought him home). Our parenting adventure is twisting and turning, but we are better people because of it.

  7. Hi Haley-

    My church mom’s group forwarded me a link to your Natural Family Planning series, which I loved, and I discovered I loved your site in general, so I stuck around :). This post makes me think of my mom who got to enjoy being smug (though I think she kept her smugness to herself) for 11 years before my brother came along. She said she always thought she was a good mom and it turned out I was just a good kid. Haha! That’s not to say that my brother was a bad kid- he just had a lot of energy and an independent spirit. So when I would sit still in church and be quiet, he would be bouncing all around, and I would have stayed by her side but my brother would run off. Each child is different! My 2.5 year old is a sweetheart but definitely a bundle of energy. We will see who my 2 month old turns out to be. So far he’s a pretty happy and easy going kid thankfully.

    • Aww, thanks, Jennifer! I am always smiling at folks in Mass with wiggly little ones so they know I feel their pain! My son is 4 and STILL has a hard time sitting there quietly. My second born is so easygoing that sometimes I still feel like I’m only parenting one child, haha.

  8. This is a wonderful post. I hope it makes its way around!

  9. All my babies cooperated until #6 who spent the first 8 weeks of life in hospital, undergoing surgeries, and the first 8 months of her life hooked up to a feed pump 24 hours a day and will be “medically fragile” for many years to come. Luckily, by that time, I had several toddlers who had broken my delusions of having it all together and made me realise that the philosophy or technique I use is a means to an end and does not define me as a mother. #7 is only 5 weeks or so away now and I know, the ability to roll with the punches is my most valuable asset as a mother.

    • Prayers for a healthy delivery with #7! I’m expecting #3 any minute….due date passed by yesterday.

  10. 30 years ago I was mocked for mothering as you have, but I chose to do what was best for our family. I was even mocked for what has now become the “accepted” way to parent. I learned quickly, just watching other mothers and babies that every baby and Mom combination is different, even the same mom and another child had different interactions. “Smug Mom’s” will always be there, and I am so glad I have been able to support Mom’s who were “SMUGGED” by “Smug Moms”! You are more compassionate as a mother and as a friend because of your experiences. These parenting challenges are HARD! But I am grateful to have learned valuable lessons about loving babies and their Moms. Moms need nurturing as well, especially if their have a baby who crys frequently or all day. GOOD WORK!!! I am so proud of you!
    Betsy

    • What an encouragement, Betsy! It really is hard to understand the stress of a baby who cries constantly unless you’ve been there. I am glad that when a new mama of a colicky little one tries to tell me how tired she is, I can say, “I understand! I have so been there!”

  11. Love your honesty, Haley! Your have such a sweet way of putting things. I would have been a very smug mom, researching, scheduled, BabyWise, that’s me. But the Lord quickly put things in perspective. Two babies, just 14 months apart, the first was a great sleeper and lousy eater, the second was a wonderful eater, and a terrible sleeper; drastically different labors, and a miscarriage all played their part in humbling me. I also have several sister-in-laws pregnant or with babies going through huge variety in how pregnancy and babies affect their lives. Those family gatherings are great times to truly learn from each other about struggles and how to handle them. My wee ones(8 months and nearly 2 years) keep me guessing, but I feel confident that learning about their personalities will help me mother them wisely. Hope your Gwen comes soon! I look forward to read about your life when you choose to write. Although I am Reformed (and very grateful for it) your writing has given me great hope for the church as a whole.
    Caitlin Mallery

    • Thanks so much, Caitlin! It amazes me how every pregnancy, birth, and baby are so different. Thank you so much for your encouragement :)

  12. Oh SOOOOOOOO true! The one thing I HATE is smug mamas!
    Actually I wrote about this too: how Mommy Blogs (the smug ones) make me anxious
    http://www.mtwholehealth.com/2012/10/mommy-blogs-make-me-anxious

    • It is hard to keep perspective and remember that the key is doing what’s best for your child, not what anyone else thinks is best :)

  13. Bless you, bless you, bless you for saying it’s okay to not be perfect. You’ve just cut a break to a bunch of moms who are struggling to keep all the plates spinning and all the balls in the air. When breastfeeding didn’t work for me and my newborn was losing weight, my pediatrician looked at me and said, “Are you killing yourself trying to do this because YOU want to or because you think it’s what EVERYONE ELSE says you should do.” When I told him it was because everyone else said so, he said, “Knock it off! You’re exhausted, you’re not bonding with your baby, and he’s hungry. Stick a bottle in his face and cuddle him, coo at him, smile at him, smell him and love him. He’ll be fine.” I did just that and it was better than all of the tear-filled, pain-filled, pointless attempts at giving my baby a breast that wasn’t producing and wasn’t going to start any time soon. For the first time, I felt connected to him and all was right in the world. BTW, I decided with the second one that I would try my best and if it didn’t work out, I’d accept it and start a bottle. I actually produced milk that time and laughed at myself for not realizing that I was barely lactating the first time. It still wasn’t much, but we made it seven whole wonderful weeks before my breasts stopped working. I’m grateful for that seven weeks and know that I’m not a failure as a woman. I’m a mom and I did my best.

    • I’m glad you got to experience a better nursing relationship the second time around! Nursing my daughter was so precious after having so much trouble the first time around with my son. I had the same experience with finally being able to bond better after removing the stress of breastfeeding a baby that hated to be breastfeed! I sometimes look back and wish things had been different but then I feel proud because I know that I did do my best in the situation we were in at the time and I honestly look back in wonder that we survived that first year, haha.

  14. Hi,
    Someone posted this on facebook, and I have to tell you that you are right on, girl! I am a mother of 15 year old triplets and a neonatal nurse, and you hit the nail on the head. You should do a parenting class for all of the parents of the babies I care for…and all their friends.

    Blessings on you and your family,
    Sue

    • You are so sweet, Sue! Thank you. My hats off to you for being a mother of triplets! What a challenging, amazing adventure that must be!

  15. Lavinia says:

    LOL Well, mine showed up 13 weeks early, spent 3 1/2 months in the hospital, was fed through an NG tube for another month after that, never was able to nurse, and didn’t sleep through the night until he was 2. So that pretty much took care of any chance of smugness! (I did pump for four months, though… felt pretty awesome for that.) We get what we get, we do the best we can, and everything’s easier when we support, not judge, each other. And now he’s 11 1/2, brilliant, funny, healthy, and amazing, and those days are a distant memory.

    My very best to you and your family on #3!

    • Thanks, Lavinia! 13 weeks early! So glad your little miracle baby is now a thriving boy. And good for you for pumping, you should feel awesome about that! I pumped for four months, too, and it was so hard. My hats off to all the mamas I know (like Stephanie) who pump for even longer because it’s hard for me to wrap my mind around!

  16. I hear you! I also thought I knew exactly what I was doing with my first. I knew I’d fall pregnant as soon and I wanted a baby. I knew I’d be the perfect glowing mother to be, enjoying pregnancy yoga. I knew my labour would be quick, active and produce a perfect 7 pound baby and I’d need NO stitches. Breastfeeding would just happen, because why wouldn’t it? I’d bond with my perfect child and live happily ever after, untill 2 years later when I’d have my next baby. Well. Someone forgot to mention my plan to the powers that be. Infertility treatment after trying for 2 years. Check. Hated being pregnant. Check. Induced labour, emergency c section, 10 pound baby, plenty of stitches in many places. Check. Couldn’t breastfeed without screaming, usually from him and me, and often his father just for good measure. Check. Bonding just didn’t happen. Check. never wanting another baby again, EVER. Check.

    I wish I had read your article 6 years ago so I hadn’t spent the first year of my son’s life wishing everything were different. Wondering why I was so useless at mothering. I now have worked out for myself that mothering isn’t about all this stuff. It’s about the unique journey with you and your baby. It’s nice to know.

    • Oh girl, I hate being pregnant, too. I loooove my babies but pregnancy is so hard on me. 10 lbs! Dang! My biggest babe was only 7lbs 7oz. You are absolutely right that it’s a unique journey every time with each little one :)

  17. It’s so true that parenting is never the way you planned, and that each mother must decide what is best for her baby and family. With such an easy pregnancy and delivery, I thought I would be overwhelmed with love for my little boy and everything would be perfect from day one. And in truth, my baby is a very easy baby to raise. I could have easily become the Smug Mom. But then I began to deal with postpartum depression, which raises a completely different set of challenges. It’s been difficult, but we are finally finding our rhythm and bonding more. I’ve figured out what works for me and my baby, and I’m fairly protective of our method, even if it means I need to instruct Grandma on a few things. I don’t adhere to any single school of thought, but take away the tidbits that I agree with, that fit my style of parenting, and work for my baby. The biggest compliment I have received was from my pediatrician, saying that I was a very easy-going, relaxed mom, and that it helped my baby boy relax as well. And that ability to relax can only come from creating your own unique style that works for just you and baby.

    • That is an awesome compliment, Ashley! I think I may have had some PPD with my firstborn, but it’s hard for me to distinguish the exhaustion that put me into a fog for so many months from what PPD would feel like, so I’m really not sure. I definitely sympathize with the bonding challenges, though. So glad you figured out a rhythm that works for you and your baby :)

  18. I feel like your first born story is the exact same as mine. what a nightmare. certain moms have (with good intention) told us how we should have done things but honestly nothing worked. my son is nearly 11 months and while things are better he is severely attached to my husband and has crazy separation anxiety. He also doesnt sleep through the night still and the cio method along with the other methods have still not worked as of 2 weeks ago. We’ve learned as new parents that babies do have a mind of their own and want things their way and until you can you cant really reason with a baby so keeping them happy however you can keeps you happy in the long run. I love my son so much but I don’t want to go through the baby stage again if there is a possibility we have another like him. Physically i am not sure we would survive it. hahaha.

    • I completely understand. I was so worried our second would have the sleep and colic issues our first did. “How will we survive that while taking care of a toddler?” we wondered. But, just to give you some hope, it was SO much easier the second time around. Partly because of our little girl’s personality and partly because I think we were less anxious as parents about exactly what her sleep was supposed to look like. And it is so frustrating to have someone try to tell you what will make your baby sleep. I think parents whose kids don’t struggle with seriously sleeping issues simply don’t understand what you’re going through. I know I wouldn’t have without experiencing what we went through with our first! Keep on, mama! It does get better, promise :)

  19. Thanks for this! I have an 8.5 month old, and so far, I’ve been able to fulfill all of my parenting ideals… 50%, haha. Labor – ended up with pitocin and an epidural but avoided the c-section. Cloth diapering… half the time I grab for those convenient disposables! I breasted for half as long as I felt I “should” (weaned him at 7 months due to poor supply and some health concerns on my part. I cried so much more than I thought I would!). Co-slept… until 6 months, when our small bed combined with my fear of squashing him overwhelmed my desire to snuggle (although for him, the transition to the crib was much easier than I expected). Moby wrap… he didn’t even begin to like it until 8 months (but oh boy, he loved his Johnny Jump Up). Baby food? I am just starting to branch out and make it myself. Cleaning? Yes, the house looks great half the time! :) All that to say, while I know I have much to learn, a lot of mothering IS letting go and doing what works and finding peace with that. And this never ends… different stages bring different challenges. I have a sweet niece was the easiest baby on the planet. At age 5, she is a delightful child, but she is quite shy and they are needing to work on social skills (something her older, “difficult”, fiery brother would never need help with!).

    • This is very insightful, Sarah. It is fascinating how each child has their own challenges and strengths. I am in awe as I watch our kids grow older and their talents and struggles emerge! I have a fiery older boy like your nephew and a happy, easy little gal like your niece and I’m wondering what challenges she will face that her brother will not.

  20. This is an amazing post, and it needs to go viral. Every mother, regardless of parenting style, needs to read this.

  21. Haley,
    Thank you for this – I think this is helpful for many moms (new and experienced) to read. It’s funny – I’m a little opposite of you. I WAS the smug mom for a long time up until recently as we added our fourth. (Yes, it’s taken me THAT long to get it right!). The funny thing, though, is that I had no reason to be – our first three kids were anything BUT perfect or even close to any of *my*ideas of *perfect*. But I was smug because *I* was at least doing the *right* things, even if my kids still had their challenges. While many of my parenting methods/philosophies haven’t changed that much, *I* have, and my attitude about myself compared to other parents has dramatically changed/improved over the years. I think once I finally became (am becoming) confident with myself as a mother and – MOST IMPORTANTLY – comfortable with who my children are (despite of me) – that’s when I fell of my high horse. I still have my smug mom moments but I have more face-in-ground moments now as I realize that I am really nothing – I can only do good by God who strengthens me. If my kids are good – and that’s a big IF – it’s not because of me – it’s because of Him and His Graces.
    Thank you again for sharing your thoughts and encouragement for us moms.

  22. P.S. – I hope you don’t mind I shared your link in my Saturday Food for Thought Round-Up.

    • What an insightful comment, Erika Marie! So important to remember that we are only capable of mothering through God’s grace! And I’m flattered that you shared the link on your blog. Thanks!

  23. christiane says:

    i loved this article… with me it was the other way around… With my first son, everything was smooth as smooth can be, from day one, this kid was amazing!! so we decided to make an addition to the family… and along came Sophia, winning, crying, drama queen… but also the life of this home, She is so funny its hard to believe a 21 month baby can say and do the stuff she does =)

  24. Thank you so much for this post!

  25. Heather says:

    Lovely article….but to this, if I might add: Before you go judging parents in the store who are dealing with a melting down or out of control child, and decide that they are either horrible parents or that the child is “just a brat!”, there might be more to the story. Before you decide what that parent SHOULD do, or what that child NEEDS (like a whooping as someone once told me in regards to my son)….perhaps take a step back and realize that that child may have an “unseen” issue, like Aspergers/Autism, ADD/ADHD, FASD/FAE (Fetal Alcohol Spectrum Disorder/Fetal Alcohol Effected – which is what our son has from his birth mother) or any number of possible other issues. Have some grace for those parents because this may not be the first tantrum/battle they’ve had that day, it may be one of many and just the first one you happen to be witnessing. What we need in those moments is a helping hand and some compassion, not another judgmental pair of eyes. Parenting, especially a Special Needs child, is often hard enough to do, without an audience! :-)

    • Well, no one should be judging anyone, ever, at all, but I agree, I think a lot of people don’t realize that a lot of times the kids in public “acting out” and what is seemingly “bad parenting” is really just a special needs child with some delays.

  26. Love this picture, she looks adorable on that dress :)

    http://www.vindiebaby.com
    Vintage Inspired Girls

Trackbacks

  1. [...] become more and more humbled in my approach to mothering.  This blog post written by Haley about The Smug Mom hits the nail right on the head and there is absolutely no way to say it better.  I hope, and [...]

  2. [...] “How I Almost Became the Smug Mom” by Haley – Mena sounds like her little girl…and yes, it is easy to think it is something “we did,” but really, I know she was just born with a laid-back temperament. No smugness here. [...]

  3. [...] How I Almost Became The Smug Mom | Mama & Baby Love [...]

  4. [...] How I Almost Became The Smug Mom [...]

  5. [...] How I Almost Became the Smug Mom: Mama and Baby Love [...]

  6. [...] and not get lost in the monotony. Tomorrow. And tomorrow. And when we wake up tomorrow.” How I Almost Became the Smug Mom —> Mama and Baby Love what I love about this: ”You co-sleep? Awesome. Baby slept [...]

Speak Your Mind

*