To the outside observer, I was “that” mom. The over-controlling, hyper-overbearing new mom who believed that her way was the best way and the only way for her baby.
It’s not that I was against babysitting or outside caretakers. My husband and I actually relished the first time that his parents planned to babysit our new son for Valentine’s Day when he was just 2 months old. When we dropped off our infant for a few hours, he came with an extensive and very detailed schedule:
6:30 a.m.: Wake up, change diaper, feed 4 to 6 ounces of breast milk
9 to 9:45 a.m.: Short nap in crib on his back with the lights out
10 a.m.: Feed 4 ounces of breast milk
11:30 a.m.: Feed 2 to 4 ounces of breast milk, put down for afternoon nap
2 p.m.: Wake up from nap
2 to 2:30 p.m.: Feed 4 ounces of breast milk
4 to 4:30 p.m.: Short nap in crib on his back with the lights out
5 to 5:30 p.m.: Feed 4 ounces of breast milk
6:30 p.m.: Feed 2 to 4 ounces of breast milk, start bath and bedtime routine
At the time, this type of moment-by-moment schedule seemed absolutely natural to me as an anxious parent. When I was in my third trimester, I came upon a parenting article that described two different methods of child rearing: Should we follow a schedule or just wing it?
I consider myself an outgoing and spontaneous person among friends, but because of my anxiety, my day-to-day life is pretty predictable. I knew beyond a shadow of a doubt that I would never be able to “wing it” when bringing a new human into the world. My husband is also a direction follower who viewed infancy as a complicated puzzle that we would work together to soon master.
That’s when we bought the book. The New Contented Little Baby Book by a strict and experienced British nanny named Gina Ford became our parenting bible. The book covered every single detail of parenting that I always wanted to know but was too afraid to ask — like how to swaddle and when to start pumping breast milk to store up reserves.
The book also had a detailed, and I mean detailed, schedule for each stage in a baby’s life, changing roughly every two weeks. My husband and I were committed to sleep training. We followed the schedules religiously. Ultimately, we got the results that we had hoped for: Both of our sons slept a solid 12 hours through the night at 6 months old.
Looking back on my neurosis, I’m torn. The critical devil on my shoulder reminds me how absurd I must have looked bringing around a printed schedule for my month-old baby everywhere I went. The kinder angel on my other shoulder reminds me: You were a new mom. Every new parent is nervous. Nobody gets it right the first time. You did what worked best for you.