It is 7:46 P.M. on Monday night and I am already in bed. It’s not my usual bed, though. Lilly and I came up to see some friends in my hometown today and we are spending the night at my parents’ house. Typically I hate sleeping away from home (don’t know why, that’s just always been my nature), but I have other plans up this way tomorrow so we had to stay over.
So now I’m here in the guest bedroom, channel surfing and playing on my computer, while a knot grows in my stomach. Lilly is sleeping peacefully down the hall. So what is it that has me so worried?? Every time I have to spend the night elsewhere with her, I have tremendous anxiety about the nighttime. That she won’t fall asleep as easily as she usually does. That she’ll wake up at 10:00, right as I’m falling asleep. That she’ll wake up at 12:00, after I’m asleep. That she’ll want to play in the middle of the night and nothing I do will get her back to sleep. And the list goes on.
I don’t know why I get so anxious about the nighttime. Maybe because it’s dark and I’m not in my own house? That’s part of it, I guess. It’s also that I hate when I have to deal with a crying baby in front of others. So I worry that if Lilly wakes up in the middle of the night and is fussing, that she will wake up my mom and stepdad. Then everyone is awake and it turns into a big circus (in my mind). At home, if Lilly wakes up and doesn’t need anything like some milk or a diaper change, we would usually let her cry herself back to sleep (within reason). At someone else’s house (even my family’s), I just don’t feel comfortable doing that.
It’s a phenomenon I have encountered a few times recently- this fear of others perceiving your baby to be “bad,” and consequently, you to be a “bad” parent. My sister and I ran out for a quick bite to eat tonight at a cozy, neighborhood sushi restaurant. While we were there, an extended family came in, complete with grandparents, parents, and two small girls, maybe 2 and 4. Within five minutes of being seated, the 4-year-old started crying and throwing a tantrum. It wasn’t earth-shattering, but it wasn’t pleasant to listen to. Still, there was only us, them, and two other couples in the restaurant. I didn’t feel it was a big deal, and my heart was breaking for the little girl having the fit. I just wanted to go hug her (pregnancy hormones, I guess).
Then the 2-year-old got in on the act and that was it. The parents decided to take the kids and leave, before any of their food even got there. They apologized to the grandparents and quickly left. I felt terrible. I wanted to walk after them and tell them that we didn’t mind the crying kids and that they should come back and enjoy their dinner. (Obviously I didn’t do that.) Afterwards, I was recounting this story via text to my friend Elizabeth (mom of an infant), and she replied That sucks. Worst nightmare. And I’d have to agree.
I have also heard several new moms confess that they worry people will think they are a bad mom if their baby cries a lot/doesn’t sleep well/doesn’t eat well. If anything, I feel oodles of sympathy towards a mom with a crying baby! I want to just go over and pick that baby up and give the mom a break for a minute (provided I don’t have my own tantruming child with me!).
Everyone knows that kids have tantrums and that babies cry. So why do we expect them to behave like perfect little angels just because we are in the company of others? Or maybe most people don’t expect that of their child, and don’t get upset when their child causes a scene. I wish I was one of those people, who could just roll with the punches and laugh it off as my child had a tantrum in a restaurant.
Sadly, I am not. I would be just like that couple who ushered their kids out of Daimatsu, so as not to bother the other patrons. Which is why I will lay in bed tonight, praying to make it to tomorrow morning without a middle-of-the-night waking from a crying child…