A few weeks ago, I was cleaning up my six-month-old’s blow-out on a public bathroom floor when an older woman walked in. My baby’s interested eyes and charming smile clearly blinded the woman from the poop that was smeared on the floor, the used diaper, and the small heap of dirty clothes and wipes we had amassed. The woman bent down and cooed, “Ohhh what a beauuuuutiful baby!” She smiled warmly and continued to chat with us as she entered a bathroom stall. I responded with my baby’s age and name – but then her next question made me cringe.
“Is she a good baby?”
This is a well-intentioned question for sure. Kind of like, “How are you feeling?” when you’re pregnant. It’s probably nothing more than basic stranger small-talk, but it can seem like such a loaded question too. Especially when you sometimes wonder that same thing yourself. Especially when you’ve been dealing with postpartum depression. Especially when your baby just shit all over you, herself, and a public bathroom.
Seriously, what am I supposed to say? No, actually, she’s a downright awful baby. She whines constantly and always wants to be held. She’s a complete jerk. Still wakes up at all hours and fights every nap. She hates me – scratches and pinches my skin and pulls my hair. Can’t stand her. Sending her back.
I looked down at my stinky, dirty, chubby, grinning girl. She’s enjoying this whole scenario way too much.
“Yes, she’s wonderful!” I responded, “A very happy girl.”
Of course I’m going to say that she’s a good baby. Because that’s the right thing to say, but also because she IS a good baby! And aren’t they all good? Babies get cranky. Some don’t sleep well. Some are teething. Some want to be held constantly. But babies lack malice, they can’t manipulate, and they don’t want anything other than for their very basic needs to be met. How could a baby ever be bad?
That’s why, from my point of view, the question of whether my baby is good seems to end up falling back on me. Am I good? (Maybe?) How well do I meet her needs? (Well, I try…) How am I handling motherhood? (With therapy.) I never thought I’d be less than a stellar mom, but I’ve found that motherhood has a way of bringing out all of my personal shortcomings and insecurities.
But on that particular day, at that particular moment, my baby girl and I were both laughing our way through one of the nastiest blow-outs I’ve ever dealt with. So yes, of course she’s good. Me? I’m a work in progress. The important thing is that WE are great, and right now we’ve got this.
2 thoughts on “Don’t ask me if my baby is good”
I’m trying to figure out the answer to that question for my almost 12 yo, who I love to death, but is proving to be a challenging child. And yes, it’s bringing up every “wrong” thing I’ve done over the past 11 yrs. motherhood comes with no instruction manual, or repair kits. I pray every day for the strength and wisdom to wake up and do it again tomorrow. You rock Emily and I admire the honesty and articulation in your writing.
yes!! I got this ALL THE TIME, especially with my first (or whenever I was out with only the baby, with my second). It made me cringe to think just because Kid #1 didn’t sleep through the night even one time until he was 11 months old that I would say he was a “bad” baby! And it was equally horrifying that because I was doing what I felt I needed to do as a mom that I would be a “bad” mom or somehow molding him into being “bad”! Gah. Just say they’re cute, and keep walking, general public! 😉