Motherhood is a mind game

It was one of those days.

She was supposed to nap at her usual time, because then she’d be awake and refreshed to play with her aunt while I went to an appointment – alone, for a change.

But of course, because we had plans, she refused to sleep at the time she always naps. And not only would she not close her eyes, she also cried and cried. That’s not normal for her. So I cancelled with her babysitter and braced myself for a cranky toddler in a waiting room not designed with children in mind. 

So of course, she fell asleep on our way there. And I had to wake her up after far too short of a doze and figure out how to make it through the rest of the afternoon.

It’s amazing the debates I have in my head on days like that.

Should I bring her to her aunt’s anyway, and pray she doesn’t scream the whole time? Do I cancel my appointment altogether because I know how much she needs to sleep today? Am I ridiculous to think of changing plans at all just because of a nap? How is she going to sleep tonight?

It sounds silly even to me, when I play it back. But in the moment, feeling stressed and frustrated from rocking a crying baby, it’s hard to see the big picture in anything. In those times, I feel like I have absolutely no idea what I’m doing, and the mind game continues.

Like when she won’t eat: Did I feed her too many snacks? Does she really not like the food I made? Should I offer her an alternative or am I just reinforcing the idea that she doesn’t have to eat what’s on her plate? 

Or when she doesn’t play with anything for more than a couple seconds: Does she need more stimulating toys? Is she genuinely bored? Do I need to find some more interesting activities on Pinterest? Am I a terrible mother for wanting her to entertain herself so I can just get something done?

Or when we have a long drive / busy day / social event: What if she doesn’t nap? Do I have enough toys and snacks to keep her occupied? What will I do if she’s cranky – go home and miss out or deal with her behaviour in front of our friends? 

Or when she’s more clingy and whiny than usual: Is she teething? Is she sick? Did she not get enough sleep last night? Should I try to put her down for a nap earlier? Should we stay home and relax or get out of the house for a distraction?

And again, if she doesn’t sleep: Is she seriously not tired? She’s always tired around this time. Is she overtired? Is she overstimulated? Is she teething? Is she hungry? The rest of the day is going to be so rough if she doesn’t nap right now.

Later on, I remind myself that most adults turn out generally okay, and we probably all missed a few naps in our childhood. We probably all had cancelled play dates or didn’t eat dinner or woke up too early or cried in the grocery store. And we all survived.

So really, I shouldn’t sweat all this “small” stuff, right?

But some days, in the thick of this mothering journey,  it’s just hard not to.

Cheryl Hazelton
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