In the long ago days before I was pregnant (yes I know it was only two years ago) I was firmly convinced that when I had children I would not bribe them.
It’s not that I thought my children would be so wonderfully behaved that I would never need to try and persuade them to behave by any means possible (I wasn’t that daft) but I was certain that I would be able to rise above any temper tantrums, calmly and firmly saying no to any demands.
I would simply refuse to be held hostage to my children.
Then I actually had a child.
Squidge is only just one and is not yet talking (although he makes most of his demands fairly clear) but I have already resorted to bribery/distraction , namely so that I can have a shower in some semblance of peace.
Up until a few weeks ago I would have a shower when Squidge went down for his morning nap but then he went through a stage of refusing to have a nap until the early afternoon when he simply couldn’t stay awake any longer.
I tried popping him in his cot for ten minutes while I showered as quickly as I could; however Squidge was convinced that I was trying to put him down for a nap that he didn’t want, even though his bedroom curtains were open and I’d put some toys in his cot.
He would hold onto the bars of the cot, shaking them and howling so loudly that I could still hear him in downstairs bathroom with the shower running full tilt. When I ran upstairs, still wrapped in a towel and finding stray bubbles that I’d not rinsed off in my hurry I would find him hanging onto the side of the cot, bright red and sobbing, his little face streaked with tears.
As someone who absolutely cannot leave the house until I’ve had a shower this meant there were some days that we just weren’t getting out of the house at all, regardless of how nice the weather was or how stir crazy we were both getting.
So when the Northern One’s parents gave us their old (and large) travel cot it was an absolute godsend. It’s now set up permanently in our living room, complete with lots of noisy toys and a pile of muslins (for playing hide and seek with) and I pop Squidge in it to play while I shower. The first few times it worked really well; he was happy that he wasn’t being put to bed and he was sufficiently distracted by the pile of toys.
Then he realised that going in the travel cot meant that I was leaving the room and so the screaming started again.
I know that he’s not going to come to any harm and that having a paddy for ten minutes isn’t going to cause any lasting psychological damage. It does mean we both end up frazzzled and the hiccuping sobs that result make me feel like a dreadful person for not being able to get up at 0600 every day to have a shower before he wakes up.
This is where the bribery comes in and for the last couple of days I’ve been putting him in the travel cot and giving him a biscuit (or two) to distract him while I go for my shower.
I console myself with the fact that they are mini, low-sugar, organic baby biscuits and that it’s not as though I’m setting him up with coca cola in his sippy cup or giving him a mars bar. It means that I at least get to start showering in peace, even though he’s usually finished the biscuit and noticed my absence before I’m finished.
Time and time again mothers and grandmothers reassure me that you do whatever you need to do to get through the day and that needing the assistance of a packet of biscuits doesn’t make me a bad mum. It just means that I have a child displaying normal separation anxiety and that I’ve found something that works for both of us that lessens the stress of every day life.
And yet I can’t help feeling as though I’ve failed.
Consciously or otherwise I have (mostly) based my idea of what a mum should be like on my mum and I am 99% certain never had to resort to biscuits to convince me and my brother to do anything.
I know that comparing yourself to someone else only sets you up to fail (at least in your own eyes) but I just can’t help myself. It’s also very hard to let go of the image you had of yourself before you became a mother, even when faced with the reality of how difficult it is and no matter how many times people tell you that you’re doing great (thanks SMA advert).
But really, when you think about it properly instead of berating yourself for resorting to bribery or not managing a shower until the afternoon.
You are doing great.
You just have to keep telling yourself that.