The moment my son was born and placed into my arms, I thought three things: I am so in love, I am so exhausted and I am so terrified. The love was intense and the exhaustion was incredible, but the fear was overwhelming. Here was this perfect little human being and I was in charge of keeping him happy and healthy and safe. The thought of making a single mistake was paralyzing. In that moment, it would have been nice to know the things your baby wants you to know about parenting mistakes; things that probably won't remove the fear of messing up, but at least make it more manageable.
For the longest time, I didn't want to have children because I was afraid I wasn't "good enough." I'm so acutely aware of all my flaws, that the thought of adding a kid to the mix just seemed, you know, wrong. I didn't want to let anyone down; I didn't want to mess someone up; I didn't want to raise a human being that was going to look back on their childhood the way I do mine. Then I met my partner and my mind changed and I thought, "Yeah, I can do this. I can be a good mom." I was right — I think I am a good mom — but the fear of failure is still there, always lurking behind every parenting decision I make and always threatening to mess with my head and play on my insecurities.
In the end, I know I'm not perfect and I never will be. I made mistakes before I had my son and I have continued to make mistakes ever since. When I do, I try to step back and gain some perspective (some very necessary perspective). A great way to do that, I'v learned, is to try and view the situation through my son's eyes. Will this "huge" mistake even that big of a deal to my son? Does he even notice? Will this affect him in 2 years? Or 10 years? Or, you know, at all? Sure, I can't know for sure what my baby was thinking, but I'd like to think it was the following and I'd like to think that when every baby watches their parent inevitably mess up, they're all thinking the same things:
Everyone Makes Mistakes
No, really. I get how easy it could be to assume otherwise — what with our filtered posts and facades and whatnot — but absolutely everyone messes up, especially when they're parenting.
Your kid doesn't know it yet, because they're a baby and their entire world is basically you. However, if they could, I have no doubt they would be quick to remind you that no one is perfect. No one has all the answers and no one makes all the correct choices. If you feel alone, please don't. Everyone is messing up, just like you.
Your Baby, Probably, Doesn't Notice
Maybe it's the sleep deprivation or the little bubble a newborn's presence can make you feel like you're living in, but I guarantee you your baby doesn't notice the mistakes you're making.
There are so many times I felt like a total failure when my son was a newborn. In fact, I sobbed for a solid three days because he didn't have his own room (my partner and I shared a one-bedroom apartment). Turns out, co-sleeping with our son was one of the best decisions we made as a family and my son never noticed because he never knew anything different.
Your Baby Is Learning, Just Like You Are
This was the most obvious (for me) during my first few attempts at breastfeeding. I knew I was learning as I went, but it hit me that, well, so was my son. Yes, his natural instinct was kicking in but he was learning how to latch just like I was learning how to relax and breastfeed. We were both in this "together," and that was ridiculously comforting.
Your Baby Trusts You
My baby always reached out to me when he wanted and/or needed something. He knew that I could provide him with food and comfort and love, because I had been doing so while I was pregnant and he was a growing fetus. He innately trusts me, and even when I make mistakes that trust doesn't just vanish.
Your baby trusts you, even when you mess up. If you're doing your best and learning from your mistakes, your baby is going to continue to reach out for you when they need or want you. Promise.
Your Baby Forgives You...
Alright, lets say your baby is pissed. Maybe your little one had to wait a little longer than normal for a meal or maybe you forgot your baby's pacifier and they're not having it. Maybe they can actually tell that you've messed up (they can't) and they're pretty mad (they might be, but for very different reasons, like the fact that they're not getting immediate satisfaction).
If that's all the case (and, again, it probably isn't), your kid forgives you. Seriously. They're going to be right as rain and completely fine in no time at all. The storm will pass and whatever it is you did or didn't do, won't be even remotely memorable.
...And Won't Remember That One Mistake You Made
I'll never forget the worst parenting mistake I have ever made.
My son was sitting in a mini-highchair, on top of a counter. He wasn't super high up (at all) and he was strapped to his chair, eating the breakfast I had made for him. I was working from home and stopped paying attention long enough for my son to throw himself — still attached to his mini-chair — off the counter. I was terrified. I dialed 911 and took a very expensive ambulance ride to the local children's hospital. My son was completely fine, but I was scarred for life.
I still see that moment play out in my mind, but my son doesn't remember it. At all. He never will. While I continue to beat myself up, my son won't have a single recollection of that mistake. In a way, that in and of itself is comforting (although, it doesn't make that moment in time any easier to accept, because it still sucks to even think about).
Your Setting A Normal, Healthy Example
One thing is for certain, my son is going to know that it's not only OK to make a mistake, it's normal. The. Most. Normal.
He will watch his mom mess up, listen to his mom apologize for messing up, witness his mom learning from every single mess up, and say that he has seen his mother learn and grow and become a better person. I think that's one hell of an example to set, personally.
There's No One More Qualified To Be Your Baby's Mom...
Even when I think I'm a complete failure and I can't do anything right and this whole parenting thing is just too difficult and I'm not "good enough," I know that there's no on in the world more qualified to be my son's mother, than me. I'm the one who grew him inside my body. I'm the one who brought him into this world. I'm the one he reaches for when he's scared or in pain or just in need of a hug. In the end, no matter how many mistakes I make, I'm the best person to be his mother.
...And Your Baby Wouldn't Want Any Other Mom, But You
I'd like to think my son wouldn't want to trade me in for a better, more equipped or less flawed model. So, that's what I'm going to think.
No matter how many mistakes you make as a parent (and I promise you, you're going to make lots and lots of mistakes) your kid is going to love you. As long as you're not toxic and you're not hurting them or abusing them or manipulating them, they will see that you're trying your best and learning from your mishaps and constantly thinking of their health and happiness. Your kid doesn't care that you're not perfect, they just care that you're their mom and you show up every day.
In other words, you're doing great.