Tomorrow is Ellie’s one month birthday and I asked myself, what does Ellie do all day long at one month old? The answer was sleep, eat, fart, but she can also do quite a bit on her tummy when we do tummy time. Then it occurred to me “what gets measured gets done, what gets measured and fed back gets done well, what gets rewarded gets repeated” (quote by John E. Jones).
I posted to social media on Ellie’s one week mark that “her favorite pastimes include sleeping almost the entirety of the day unless it’s time to eat, a few short few minutes of tummy time each day where she can already lift her head and rotate it to one side or the other, and farting. Lots of gas in this little one.” After one month, that is still true.
However, Ellie has added many other behaviors to her waking minutes. When she is on her back, she loves to kick, coo, squeak, and suck on a pacifier. When she is swaddled, she likes to remove her swaddling, then complain that she is cold. When she is being held, she likes to cuddle (no matter who you are), head bang, and scootch up to get higher on your body. When she’s being worn, she likes to nestle and fall fast asleep. She really loves being worn.
As mentioned in the sleep routine post, I track Ellie’s food intake, waste management, and sleep time. It occurred to me that I’m not recording what kind of tummy time Ellie is getting. I know she is supposed to be getting daily exercise by being on her tummy, working her arms, legs and back muscles. I know I have said to myself ‘Ellie hasn’t had tummy time today. Better do it now.’ But that’s the extent of my tummy time management.
You may be saying, ‘but Magz, you are doing that new mom thing where you obsess over ever little detail as though it’s going to make a life or death difference in Ellie’s life.’ And I would say … yeah. You’re right.
So allow me to back peddle.
If I am not writing a post about how many minutes of tummy time Ellie has earned this day or week, what am I actually posting about?
I want to be a good mother. All the advice, all the mommy blogs, all the forums and social media around “mommyhood” comes from the place that we all want to be good parents. Like all aspects of our life, some people are overachievers and some people are content with being “world’s okay-ist Mom.” There is a place in the world for all levels of achievement. There will be pluses and drawbacks to both worldviews.
I had an early example in my twenties with a couple close to us having a child ten years ago. These parents were far from “Type A” people and were very easy going about their son’s bedtime. He didn’t have a set schedule. He would tell his parents he was tired and they would put him to bed. When he was old enough, he would tell his parents he was tired and put himself to bed. At first, Sara and I said that will never work for us. Our kids will have a routine.
Although this is 100% true, and our children will have a routine and a set bedtime, the joke was on us. To this day, at ten years old, this child’s parents have never needed to fight their their son about bedtime. Some nights when we are there, he stays up with us the entire time enjoying the party. Other nights we are there, he tells us all he’s tired and heads upstairs – even if it’s eight o’clock. Because his parents always let him set his own bedtime, he sets his own bedtime when he’s tired and it’s never a fight.
We, as a smug childless couple in our twenties, learned as important lesson as we slowly wiped the egg from our faces: there are pluses and minuses to every parenting decision.
There is no perfect way. No right way. Sure, you can harm your child with neglect or abuse, but that’s not what I’m talking about – don’t be extreme. I’m talking about the decision to set a strict bedtime or not, the decision to allow snacking or not, the decision to engage your child in every decision they make or let them self-direct. Your child will benefit from these decisions and your child will have deficits because of these decisions.
There are benefits to tracking these mommy metrics?
- Every adult in the house knows when she last fed and how much
- Report to the pediatrician how much sleep, formula, breast milk, etc
- I can fill out fancy surveys about formula (I received a formula survey from MaritzCX – Nailed it!)
- I can see trends in her habits
- Most importantly of all, she’s an every-three-days-or-so pooper, so it’s hard to remember when she last pooped
There will always be negative effects to these choices:
- Added stress around meal times, changing times, sleep times to track
- Neurotic mommies who need to know when the last time she … fill-in-the-blank
- A sense of “doing it right or wrong” based on how much food, waste, sleep, etc
- The belief that what gets measured and fed back gets done well (see quote above)
The quote up top is about good business practices. Therefore, what gets measured and fed back gets done well implies that I can apply the metric “done well” to motherhood. And I don’t think that’s possible. There will be successes, and there will be setbacks; but there is no “I succeeded at motherhood. Done!” This is because motherhood is never finished; only evolving. Motherhood is never measured the same way by everyone across all cultures. There are no agreed-upon metrics; everyone has a different opinion of what your child should be like. So it’s up to each of us to define our own metrics for success and raise our children that way.