Louisa Claire

Parenting

Is she a good baby? Learning about ‘Motherguilt’.

The thing about having a new baby is that people stop you in the street, in a cafe, in a bookshop – just all over the place, to admire, coo and comment on your gorgeous child. This is lovey. What is not lovely is the inevitable question which follows – ‘Is she a good baby?’ It’s not just strangers who ask this question though, it seems that it’s one of the first questions asked of a new mother and it’s beginning to make me uncomfortable.

what makes a good baby,

At the risk of totally over-analysing an innocent question, last week I started to feel embarrased if the little precious cried for any period of time while we were around people. Ridiculous I know, but for some reason I started to feel responsible for this, like it was a reflection on my parenting. What was probably an innocent question started to take on a whole new meaning for me. And I didn’t like it!

As I’ve said previously our little darling is a reasonably settled baby (already I feel the need to ‘defend’ my precious girl) but she does cry. In fact she cried for about 4 hours last Thursay and nothing I did helped. I fed her, changed her, rocked her, walked her, put her down. Nada. In the end I just held her and let her cry figuring that at least she could get it out of her system in a loving embrace. Perhaps I just didn’t ‘get’ what she needed. Perhaps what she needed was just to cry. I will never know.

What I learnt from the experience, and please be kind to me as I bare my ‘new mother’ soul, is that this innocent question implies some really unhelpful things.

First, it implies that a baby is capable of being ‘good’ or ‘bad’ and second, it implies that this behavious is a direct reflection on the parenting skills of the mother. Ok, perhaps it doesn’t imply that second bit but a new mum may find herself going down that path…as I did.

A ‘good’ baby presumably is one that eats and sleeps on cue and cries only with a gentle whimper when it needs something. A ‘bad’ baby is a nightmare for the new mum who struggles through long nights and frazzled days with a baby whose seeming sole purpose in life is to frustrate his or her parents.

A competent, capable, calm mother will result in a contented, happy, ‘good’ baby. A mum who’s not coping, is stressed, sleep deprived and overly cautious will have a whingy, unhappy, unsettled ‘bad’ baby.

All of a suddenly this innocent question leaves a new mother either feeling guilty and embarrased about their own parenting ability, and/or unsure how to answer without making her baby ‘look bad’. The rare mother might be left basking in the glory of a wonder child…but if you meet her let me know :)

For me, the answer to the question is of course, “Yes my baby is a wonderful baby. She is my baby. She is the best baby I could have…and she cries a bit.”

 
 


Thoughts on “Is she a good baby? Learning about ‘Motherguilt’.

  1. Hey Lou. I’m sure all mothers can relate to your musings, I certainly can! I like the conclusion you come to though – Gracie is certainly a ‘good’ baby because she’s your beloved baby, and it has nothing to do with whether she’s demanding at times or not. Don’t we just ask the dumbest questions? It’s reminded me that I need to make sure I don’t do that to any friends with a newborn, even though I hated it myself!
    We’re off overseas for a month so I look forward to catching up sometime in July when we return. Lots of love, Gina

  2. Listen it follows for the second…third and four kids and more and believe me the guilt never leaves. I have many a day where i am pulling out my hair because i have no idea what Keira needs or wants. And like you say sometimes they just need to cry. They can’t tell us they are just feeling a bit miz or in a mood or not well. Keep up the good mothering. You seem to have it waxed
    xxx

  3. I disagree, I don’t think that question implies anything about the mother at all – merely the temperament of the baby. Answering ‘no she cries all the time’ doesn’t make her any less loved or special – its just an honest answer of your experience. You get more sympathy if you say she is hard work!! (not that LP is of course, just reflecting on my own experience) xx

  4. Can’t believe I missed this post originally time around.
    Helpful thoughts and will make me think more carefully about what I say to knew Mums. Incidently- I don’t ask about “good babies” but I always enquire about sleep. Is that helpful or unhelpful?

  5. Hey B, um…I think it’s fine to ask about sleep just be prepared for the answer because if it were me, and if I knew you reasonably well, and if I were having a bad day…well, I might just cry. But that comes with lots of “if’s” and it may just be me :)

  6. I’m with you Lou – this is a dumb question – imagine the response if you said – “well she really is a rotten baby – would you like to take her”

    I mean please – all babes are their own self – part happy, part stubborn, part joyful, part noisy, part quiet … and we love the sum of those parts forever – le

  7. The mother guilt starts early I’m afraid.

    My eldest was baby hell – cried lots, screamed more, never slept, wouldn’t be soothed by rocking or patting or stroking or snuggling. You get the idea.

    The middle one – slept through from 6 weeks, ate everything, did everything, super easy.

    The youngest one – in between the other two end examples lol

    Yes, stressed out mum may result in stressed out baby, but a stressed out baby always results in a stressed out mum. some very silly peoplel just never think to take the babes temperment into account.

    Take the question the same way that you would unsolicited advice …… with a grain of salt. ;)

  8. hey lou,
    was just re-reading some of your posts and i stumbled across this one…… and i have to say, i have been asked ‘is she a good baby’ about a million times in the last 8 weeks! I am SO over that question! I feel like saying, nope, shes a terror! What do they expect?? I always feel obliged to return with,..oh yes, shes great. When in rality she is just a baby, she cries, she gets whingy, its reality. Just wanted to say i completely identify with you!
    Em.

  9. I don’t think I ever thought about the fact that I was calling a baby “bad” when I asked a new Mom if the baby was “good”…but I guess that’s just what I was doing. Thanks for the heads up :).

    Enjoy your new Mommy days, and your SITS day too!

  10. I just had my third baby and, from my own experience, I can say that every kid is different, but they’re all perfect (because they’re yours)! I think sometimes ‘veteran’ moms want to know about other people’s baby’s temperaments just so that we can swap stories with new moms (oh I remember how that was, how are you doing with ___ etc)-but I think we all know that too many questions can be overwhelming…we just need to be reminded sometimes.

  11. Happy SITS day! I remember one night when my daughter was just a few months old, she did the non-stop crying thing and after eliminating all the usual remedies, it started to freak me out a little because she had never done this before. I finally gave up and handed her to my friend and then she stopped. That really upset me because I felt like she didn’t want me anymore. Then I started crying!

  12. Stopping by from SITS for your featured blog day, congrats! Super, well-written post. As a new-ish (my kiddo is now 15 months old) mom, I totally understand what you mean. Whenever I was asked, I always shrugged the question off and tried to ignore it. I always seem to have a case of mommy guilt for something or another, so I don’t really need any help in that area! I totally agree with Bettina, take this silly question with a grain of salt!

  13. People will ay the stupidist things … forever! WHile it is tempting to have a snappy comeback – don’t sweat it – smile and move on! And good luck with that sweet precious bundle of love:)

  14. As I’m reading this, I’m sitting here with baby number 5, who is perfect in my eyes, but for the first three months, cried ALOT! Of corse she is good…and exhausting! It’s so true the guilt we receive from others though about how things are…well written…

  15. Interesting…I have had “good” babies and “bad” babies, yet I’m the same mom. I’ve never taken offense to the question, as I always thought it was more about baby’s personality. I guess I have offended other mothers along the way and never known it.

    It’s fun to read other perspectives.

  16. Hey Louise,

    Ok, I am not a mother but I do love children, work with children on a daily basis. Even though my organization mainly work with teenager, on rare occasions we have to look after babies who were neglected.

    And as such, we, my colleagues and I had to deal with similar questions where people would ask us, ‘is he/she a good baby’,… I did not get it. What does it mean? Babies can be bad? I don’t get why we, include myself as always, are so into labeling people, that we even have to put a label on an innocent little baby.

    Have a wonderful SITs day and enjoy your gorgeous good baby!

  17. Every baby is different but they all cry at some time. My little girl was fairly easy with most stuff but trying to get her to sleep was a total nightmare. Babies aren’t supposed to be perfect. I’d be really worried if mine was. :)

  18. I am positive that your daughter is a good baby. One of the reasons I am positive is that she has a great, creative, mother!
    Have a super fantabulous day!

  19. I feel your pain. Just wait until they start tantruming (not sure that is a word) in public. That is always fun. I have twin two year old boys and we got some pretty ridiculous questions too.

    Happy SITS day!

  20. Well my girls are now 19 and 13, but I remember wondering if I my babies were good. I thought they were good babies even though they did their share of crying. To me, a good baby is one who sleeps through the night. I could handle the crying & stuff during the day, but I needed my sleep.

  21. That is a standard question, isn’t it? And as you said, it has potential for such negativity.

    That being said, my first baby was a really, really “easy” baby, as in he didn’t cry a lot, laughed a lot, is just more easy-going as a person, even now at 9. My daughter is not so “easy” (in fact, she’s a diva)… but I would never say that she wasn’t a good baby/little girl.

    Great post, here from SITS.

  22. That's exactly why I try to ask more specific questions like is she sleeping through the night? Because each baby has good & bad moments and that question is too vague.

  23. And so it begins! There are many forms of the “is she a good baby question,” so it’s good practice for learning to give people the benefit of the doubt and be confident that you are her mommy for a reason! :)

  24. Awww…I don’t know if you can say “good” or “bad”, but a HUGE thumbs up for the cute factor! =)

    When I was a baby, I hated baths. I screamed and screamed…so when my sister was born, my parents expected the same reaction, since I was their first, and she loved baths! I don’t think either of us were horrible babies. =)

    Happy SITS Day!

  25. congrats on being Queen SITSa today! I can totally relate as my 3rd girl cried ALL THE TIME, it was ugly. We can laugh about it now, but “good” was not the word that came to anyone’s minds back then!

  26. Louisa, I too hate that question and comment. I wonder sometimes if the veterans are asking that to size you up and see if you will answer saying “Yes, my baby is HORRIBLE because they cry.” A little secret is all babies cry, adults they cry too. Everyone cries. Babies cry because that is all they know, we as first time parents try to read every signal they put off with their cry. We rock, we cradle, we feed, we burp, we swaddle and sometimes it’s not us, they just want the other parent or a change of scenery (i.e. the car, outside, whatever).

    Every baby and child is good, they are never bad….NEVER. I learned that only actions and behaviors are bad and in a baby….they have no bad behaviors. They were just brought into this world and they haven’t a clue as to what a bad behavior is.

    I get the question all the time too….I have learned to smile in spite of the asinine question and push ahead so they don’t have time to coo and ask MORE questions.

    You are a good mother, we are all good mothers and we do what we can with the tools we have been provided. No like we were given a universal manual. Happy SITS day!!

  27. I’ve never thought through what a parent might think when I ask that question! Of course by “good” we don’t mean anything moral, but I suppose I shouldn’t allow my words to have another interpretation. Off to rethink that question…

  28. This is a really great post. I know I’ve asked that question of moms before, and now that I’m pregnant with my first (and dealing with all the emotions that go with it), I realize how hurtful that question can potentially be. Thanks for being honest; I think it helps women who feel that way but don’t understand why, and it definitely helps those of us who don’t realize the effect that question can have. And I REALLY like your answer… your baby is good because she’s yours. Isn’t that all any kid wants?

  29. I don’t think people equate how much a baby cries with how good a mother he or she has… At least I hope not.

    I remember (vaguely – was awhile ago) being a new mom and I remember feeling the same way you do.

  30. When my son was very young he had colic. My husband is military and was gone a lot and we were living in a place where I didn’t know anyone. But it never failed that if we went grocery shopping, he would be in a great mood, laughing at all of the people who stopped to talk to him. And they would say, “Oh he’s such a happy baby. You are so lucky, I bet he is so easy to deal with.” I used to actually get MAD at those people because they had no idea what I was going through at the time. I knew I was lucky to have my son, but he was NOT an easy baby!

  31. Happy SITS day! Your baby is beautiful! Just wait ’til they can talk! At that point you can still spell, if you don’t want them to know, or comment on something…then they learn to spell and it’s all over.

  32. You are so right – there are no good and bad babies…now there ARE easy and hard babies! LOL! Have a great day, enjoy your baby -they turn into teenagers soon enough!

  33. You are so right – there are no good and bad babies…now there ARE easy and hard babies! LOL! Have a great day, enjoy your baby -they turn into teenagers soon enough!

  34. I used to tell everyone that my first baby was horrible. He is 11 now and I have always told him what a hard baby he was, never sleeping and crying all the time for the first year. I just learned that he probably had acid reflux as a baby (I read all of the symptoms and he had them all). I now feel horrible. There are no good and bad babies. Babies cry for a reason and how we handle that crying makes us good or bad parents. So the question should be, “What a cute baby, are you a good parent?” Loved your story, I think lots of moms can relate.

  35. I can relate to this post. I mean, what mother would say her baby was “bad” when they are incapable of such a ridiculous thing. Happy SITS!

  36. Excellent! I felt the same way with my babies….But, now, here I am, a couple years later peering into prams asking “Is she a good baby?” What is wrong with me??

  37. Thank goodness no one ever asks, “is she a good teen?”. Yes, she is, but she’s still a teen and still a challenge. Great post! Congrats on your SITS day!

  38. I remember those days with my first girl who used to cry so much and she went to work with me! I went through emotional turmoil some days. Great post. Happy SITS day!

  39. HA! So true…..EVERYONE asks that!! OF COURSE she is a “good baby”….whatever that means :)

    Congrats on your SITS day. Great blog…precious baby girl!

  40. The answer to the question is yes! All babies are good. (except for the one on the plane with me yesterday who CRIED the whole time! Now that was a bad baby!)

  41. My cousin just answers “no” when people ask her that question. It gets some great responses, I’ll tell you!

  42. You are absolutely right about all of it. It’s similar to the, “Is she a good sleeper/sleeping through the night?” question, as if the entire goal of parenthood is to sleep through the night.

    It’s always a challenge when dealing with the public (ie anyone NOT you or your partner). They mean well, but they’re coming from a place entirely NOT you.

    Lots of people don’t understand that some parents accept (and encourage) all different facets of their babies, crying included. I was told the other day by a plane passenger that sat in front of me and my 20 month old son that I should have “bopped him in the mouth” to get him to stop screaming. It didn’t matter to him that my son had been screaming HAPPILY and excitedly.

    Stick to your guns and be a Mama Bear if you want to. It grew on me over time. I’d like to think I could stand up to a lot of naysayers and tongue cluckers these days. I never could when I was a brand new mama.

  43. My first was a very unhappy baby and I thought for a long time that it was my fault….a good mother doesn’t have an unhappy baby…WRONG!! When she was able to talk, it was much better! She’s 13 now and she still gets crabby..it’s her nature.

  44. GREAT post!! It is SO true! I get this question ALL the time. How can a baby be “bad”??? I hate the implication that the less a baby cries the “better” the child and the parenting! Totally ridiculous!! BABIES CRY!!!

  45. Here here. I think it’s just an age old question from another era that people don’t really mean to offend with but certainly not what a harried new mommy wants to hear. All babies are “good” babies! Happy SITS day!

  46. That is the silliest question even, I agree! All babies are GOOD! I just have to laugh and say, ‘of course, she’s good…what’s the alternative,’ when people ask that of my children.

    Jamie :)

  47. Our oldest had colic. What a nightmare for new parents who are already sleep deprived and frayed. I hated that question. It made me feel like the baby police were going to come and take him away if I said, “He cries all the time and I have completely lost my mind!” I just said “Of course he’s a great baby!” End of conversation then they feel free to discuss how cute he is!

    Happy SITS Day!

  48. So true. I had a difficult time with my first baby, while the second one seemed a whole lot easier. It would be easy to fall into that trap of labeling them. Thanks for making me more mindful of seemingly “innocent” questions.

  49. Ahhh, a good baby. I have to say that I never looked at this question in this light, and I’m glad I didn’t. Little Miss SCREAMED constantly and for hours, projectile vomited every time she was laid on her back or reclined too far and was miserable unless being held — and sometimes then, too. I’m so glad I never thought of that question that way then :)

  50. Great post. I felt the same way when asked that question about my babes, so I never ask other moms that! I just talk about how sweet the baby is. And I tell them it will get better. ;-)

  51. Happy SITS day.

    ANd that’s just the first thing to feel guilty about. Mother’s seem to have an ingrained guilt sense.

    Still it is a silly question because while the baby may be reasonably even tempered and “good” what about the so called “bad” baby that’s just having a hard time. I’m sure they want to be remembered down the road as the “bad” baby. NOT. :)

  52. Happy SITS day to you! Having 3 girls I can totally relate – as most any mother probably can. We just have to do the best we can since they don’t come with a handbook! It’s amazing how we can beat ourselves up over little things, huh!?

  53. I was super blessed to have an angel baby. I am worried that my next one will not be such a good eater/sleeper etc, but I, like you, believe that all babies are good. They can’t help be anything but good.

  54. I HATE that question too. Because all babies are good babies. What society deems is good is sleeping through the night at 6 weeks. Well I still dont sleep through the night and neither do any of my kids. Are they able to go back to sleep? Of course. That doesnt make us bad.

    You got me started on a rant. LOL

  55. There are no bad babies, only bad parents.

    Oh and I actually have the easiest baby that ever lived but her great disposition doesn’t make me a “good” mommy either. ;)

    BlogBaby’s BabyMama

  56. Visiting from SITS today… I think this is a WONDERFUL post. I hated that question (it seems to have stopped being asked somewhere around the 12 month mark). Our little munchkin was a fussy/high needs baby and I never wanted to call him “good” or “bad” so I never really could answer that question. Brava to you for a spot on post!

  57. all babies are good babies! but all good babies have their moments. ;-)

    i have triplets and the question that annoyed me was “which one is your problem baby?” gracious! what an inappropriate thing to ask!

    love your blog. found it via sits and will definitely be back.

  58. Happy SITS day!!

    Yup, all babies are good. Somejust cry alot more than others. They are not doing this to give their mommas a hard time. At least I hope so or mine did a number on me:)

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