Messages on Nappies? I Just Need a Nap.

I’ve been beating myself up a little over the past few weeks about how busy I’ve been with work rather than children only to read that Harvard scientists think we should be printing messages on nappies to ensure parents remember to talk to their babies. That and the discovery that leftwing feminists apparently hate their offspring is enough to make me question my priorities.

One of the things I love about my freelance life is being able to spend more time with my children than if I was working in an office full-time. The trade off though is that there’s no-one else to pick up the slack and sometimes work takes over and life becomes a franctic logistical challenge. Handing a wailing, teething baby over to my husband doesn’t feel good. When my daughter asks if I’m going to pick her up from school and I have to watch her face fall as I admit it will be someone else has been beginning to make me feel like a bad person. I really didn’t need to read how parents like me probably need instructions written on our infants to remind us that they are there. You know what, I am pretty aware of my children. One is often to be found jaw clamped round a sensitive piece of my anatomy while the other draws in felt tip on my arm. I’ve got it.

Nevertheless mothers seem to do it almost instinctively. We judge ourselves harshly, personally and without mercy for things that are often out of our control. Societal guilt-mongering seems to encourage us to this unhealthy level of self-critique based on our supposed ability to do everything perfectly at all times. Apparently, it’s essential for our self-esteem, children’s future physical and mental robustness, attractiveness, status as contributors to the global economy, personal mental health and sex life that we keep up A* levels of:

– attentiveness to children at all times (NB must include sufficient levels of hand crafting, educational play, outdoor play, messy play, emotional awareness preferably while reading a book on phonics)

– attentiveness to career at all time (NB must ensure ability to demonstrate that motherhood does not hamper career at all otherwise you are a bad feminist)

– attentiveness to relationship at all times (NB don’t forget to shave legs, go on diet and exercise regime, ensure you still have fancy underwear, make time for ‘date night’ with partner)

– attentiveness to self-development at all times (NB do yoga, be in to mindfulness, read books on how to give TED talks, learn how to re-wire a plug)

– attentiveness to the world at all times (NB be aware of important issues, be able to talk about politics, make your own laundry detergent, recycle everything including the cat)

all while changing a nappy.

I call bullshit on all of this. No single human can do all of this well – nor do they want to – but somehow an often anti-woman society has managed to wrestle the positive idea that women can do anything and turn it in to ‘women must do everything or they have failed’. Being human beings rather than super-robots means of course we can’t. I have phases where I’m more able to make paper dolls and spend entire mornings putting blocks back in a box and taking them out again. Sometimes I can even manage not to check my iphone for three hours. There’s other days when I have to pass it on to someone else, or even, shock horror, allow the TV to take over for half an hour.

I have times when I can wander round the coastal paths with my baby son in a sling, pointing out the wildlife, feeding him as we walk and feeling like all is right with the world and other times when I pay a very wonderful woman to walk him round the coast for me. Yes readers, I outsource my babywearing sometimes and Dr Sears hasn’t issued an AP arrest-warrant yet.

There are times when I can string coherent sentences together and feel like work is going well and others where when I listen to myself and realise that I am so sleep deprived that I have the vocabulary of a toddler. There are times my husband and I have managed to get away for holidays, cinema trips and dinner but at the moment we are lucky to find 10 minutes to talk about anything not directly related to work, children or how we want to kill our builders.

And no, I haven’t updated my blog for ages, or started exercising again 14 months after my son was born, or got in to gardening, or yoga, or most days even managed to shower and brush my hair. I love my crazy world of competing to do lists but much gets done badly, not at all or in a haphazard way. And you know what? It’s fine. It will all be fine.

The world is not perfect and we are not perfect. We just have to be (as the ever-wise Kitty Hagenbach of Babiesknow told me)  ‘good enough’ parents.I reckon I am a good enough mother. Not necessarily a clean, pulled-together one. Not always an articulate, achieving all my ambitions one. Certainly not a perfect model of attachment parenting one and 100% not a perfect wife kind of one, but one who is doing her best.

Despite the voices in my head trying to tell me otherwise I’m going to give myself a break and add one more thing to my ‘to do’ list:


I am perfect. Perfect at muddling through. I bet you are too. So someone give us a break and a mid-morning nap rather than a guilt-inducing nappy message, or if you have to write something, how about ‘well done’?

One Response to “Messages on Nappies? I Just Need a Nap.”
  1. Helen says:

    I really love this. Thank you so much for it. I feel constantly prey to this idea that I should, as you say, not just be able to do it all, but be actually doing it all. Somehow I feel that if people aren’t actually asking me how on earth I manage “it all”, then I must not be doing enough, and I need to take on another project, or generate more visible output from my children’s day, or take on some more dependents, or something.
    And I laughed almost loud enough to wake the baby at “I outsource my babywearing sometimes and Dr Sears hasn’t issued an AP arrest-warrant yet.”.

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