New mothers on weaning, ‘mum guilt’ and making time for each other: ‘We plan dates’
New mothers K-anna and Hannah are one of eight couples who are being followed throughout the first 12 months of parenthood as part of Johnson’s® Baby’s A Parent is Born, a four-part docuseries directed by BAFTA Award-winning filmmaker Liana Stewart that celebrates the diverse experiences of parents today, 125 years after Johnson’s® Baby first began supporting new families.
Parenthood is filled with joyful moments, but that doesn’t mean it’s easy. Far from it, in fact, as K-anna and Hannah have learned over the past few months – particularly when it comes to the ever-shifting, ever-constant presence of “mum guilt”.
“Even when it comes to naps, I feel the guilt of making sure that everything is perfect,” says K-anna. “And then when it’s not perfect, I’m like, ‘Oh, that’s my fault because I couldn’t get him to sleep’. Or like, ‘I should have tried sooner’. It’s just more pressure on myself, I would say, rather than external guilt.”
Hannah, who is working full time, agrees, admitting that she feels “guilty pretty much every day because it feels like we only really get like 45 minutes together in the morning, and then an hour in the evenings together before he has to go to bed.”
“I feel like I don’t get to spend any time with him whatsoever,” she says. “But it means that we make a conscious effort now to wake up and have family time. Of course, there’s still those days when he hasn’t slept, and we’re just like, ‘let’s lay in bed for 10 minutes longer’, but for a majority of the days we try to get up and go downstairs and have breakfast all together.”
This idea of parenting FOMO is something that K-anna, who will soon return to work after maternity leave, is acutely aware of – although, at the moment, she’s more focused on getting Amos into a good bedtime routine to ensure she’s not rolling into the office like a sleep-deprived zombie. Thankfully, she and Hannah have found that sticking to the Johnson’s® Baby’s 3-Step Bedtime Routine, which blends bathtime and massage, has proven hugely helpful on those nights when their son is particularly restless. “He relaxes more and sleeps so much better on those nights when we’re able to do it,” says Hannah.
Still, even the good nights can come with mixed emotions. “The other night I was rocking him before putting him down, and he just kept kicking off on me,” recalls K-anna. “So I put him in his bed thinking he would just cry and I’d have to pick him up again, but he just went straight to sleep. I was like, ‘but this is our cuddle time!’”
While Amos is still contact napping (“I’ve been able to turn it into ‘me time’ by wearing headphones and watching stuff on Netflix, or literally just letting my brain switch off and daydream,” says K-anna), he has moved into his own bedroom at night – which has brought with it a myriad benefits.
“On the first night he did a long stretch in his own room, Hannah and I both had like six hours sleep in a row,” says K-anna. “And it was like I could see colours! I felt incredible.”
“I think it’s good for our relationship as well to be able to cuddle in bed,” adds Hannah.
It’s an important point: relationships shift and change after a baby is introduced into the equation – they have to, especially if you’re helping each other out to enable napping and self-care, as K-anna and Hannah make a point of doing. Still, it’s vital to make sure you’re communicating with one another – and scheduling in time to enjoy each other’s company, too.
“We got a baby playpen,” says Hannah, laughing as she recalls how they messed up with the sizing and got one that takes up the entire living room. “It means we know everything in there is safe, he’s not going to bump his head on anything, and we can just eat dinner without having to chase him around the house.”
“We also make more of a conscious effort to do things,” adds K-anna. “We can’t just decide that we’re going out for dinner at six o’clock. So we plan dates and stuff, and do a lot of forward planning.”
“We’re quite lucky as my mum is obsessed with him – to the extent where I think that if I called her now she’d be here in three minutes,” says Hannah. “That’s very handy!”
Parenthood can be a lonely and isolating experience (especially in the early days, when everyone asks you about the baby, rather than how you are). Still, the couple have found that by factoring in time for one another and communicating their needs, they’ve been able to navigate those rockier bits in the road. Plus, they love that “us” no longer just means the two of them; it means Amos, as well. It means family.
The next step in their journey as a unit of three? The weaning process, in all of its messy and magical glory. Which means, yes, bathtimes – and the three-step Johnson’s routine – is proving more important than ever. And the couple’s loyal dog, who’s been helping with cleaning the floors, of course!
“Now that [Amos is] moving onto solids, we feel like he can assert himself more,” says K-anna. “He can say, ‘oh no, I don’t like that’. Or, ‘Yes, I want more of that’.”
“It’s the first step in decision-making for him,” adds Hannah.
Every parent will have been told a thousand times that things get easier once your little one can communicate with you, and it seems Amos is well on his way, then, to expressing his needs more clearly to his mums – especially if his approach to baby-led weaning is any indicator. Until then, though, his mums are there to help and guide him through all of those big feelings, just as they are there to support one another. Now that’s teamwork.
MyPinkNews members are invited to comment on articles to discuss the content we publish, or debate issues more generally. Please familiarise yourself with our community guidelines to ensure that our community remains a safe and inclusive space for all.