Running for Real.
Tina for Real.
Everything I have ever done under my personal brand, I have been real.
I have shared the ups, the downs, the funny stories and the fears in every area of my life.
I have shown my vulnerabilities, allowed my walls to come down, and be totally myself.
I have become known as the elite runner who is honest, is real.
So why is everything Bailey related always happy, smiley, and fun?
Surely that is not real?
And my friends, it is not.
Bailey is not always smiling in every photo, certainly not smiling every moment of the day, especially in those early days.
Bailey does not always make those perfect smile faces that I show in my images. She does not have that look on her face all day long, and rarely when we place her somewhere and expect her to smile does she actually want to. Leaving the warmth and comfort of her mother (or fathers) arms to be sat in a corner, barely able to hold her head up, but being propped up with a rectangle pointed at your face, who would smile in that situation?
Not many of us can force ourselves to smile on cue, well, not a meaningful smile anyway, and babies have no idea what this magic rectangle we love even does.
But we take ten, sometimes twenty photos, doing our best to capture the moment, make her look as adorable as possible, and get her to smile.
I take the best looking one, and that is the one I place on social media, along with a cute caption about how much I love my baby.
And I do.
Dont get me wrong. I find myself telling other people, to anyone who will listen, to myself sometimes, just how much I love her to her, as I can’t quite get over how you can possibly feel so much love for this little person. In those early few days it can be tough to feel that way, your life is so upside down all of a sudden, and it feels like they are a compete stranger you is incredibly demanding. As she has grown, so has our connection, and I want to tell anyone and anyone how much I love her, as I feel like I can’t say it enough.
But that doesn’t mean there aren’t moments I get so mad at the situation I am in. There were many moments I was so frustrated in her constant crying that I had to put her down in a safe place and walk away from her to take a deep breath.
So why wouldn’t I share that?
Why don’t I put up photos of her crying; babies cry. Everyone knows that.
What would be so wrong with it?
Everyone knows babies get upset easily…and often, so why not make light of the situation, or at least mention that I am having a hard time afterwards like I have done with other areas?
I always thought I would be the mum who would. The one who would share those struggles, talk about the things that are really really damn hard about being a mother. Talk about those moments you feel like you just weren’t cut out to be a mother, that you are the only one who doesn’t “get it”, when every other mother out there does.
Or those moments where no matter how hard you try, you cannot calm your baby. Nothing works, and every article online can give you the checklist of the ultimate ways to make your baby stop crying, yet you follow each of those steps, and it does nothing, absolutely nothing.
The baby cry has been perfected to be like nails on a chalkboard to us. We CANNOT ignore it, and we can’t get away from it. Sometimes it is relentless as it pierces your ears for hours on end. Sometimes it can even feel like your baby is doing it intentionally.
You can’t reason with a baby either, you can’t ask them to be quiet for just a little while then they can start again, or ask them nicely to be a good girl just for this one occasion.
Babies are just doing what they can to survive in those first few months, and we have to just get on with it…in silence.
And I have a “good baby” if there is such a thing. Bailey is such a sweetheart, she really doesn’t cry that much, she is content and happy, a real smiler, I still had many of those moments where I thought I just couldn’t take it anymore, even though compared with other babies I know, I had it easy.
Why couldn’t I be the brave one to share how I was feeling, to reassure other mothers that they weren’t alone, that some of the thoughts they were having were common amongst other mothers?
Especially here in the US, unless you go out of your way to a group to meet other mothers, you are doing it totally alone. At least in the UK there are plenty of check ups and check ins at the children’s center and post natal groups to meet other parents with babies your age. In fact, my mum met her best friend there…and her daughter, Tracy, ended up being one of my best friends, and still is to this day!
Here however, there can be nothing, and leaving the house knowing that you are taking a big risk, that maybe you will have the token screaming baby that everyone hopes and prays they wont have, and maybe you will be the only one who doesn’t know anyone in a group full of clichey mothers who are finding everything easy.
It is daunting, and there really isn’t much out there to make you feel any better.
Well, I have rambled on for 700 words, and still not given you a reason.
There are a few.
The first that comes to my mind is Bailey herself.
Steve is a very reserved person, someone who has absolutely no interest in being in the limelight or sharing his life with the world. He is one of those people who only talks when he has something to say, and doesn’t feel the need to try to impress people, he is who he is. He is happy for me to share, he loves me for who I am, but has no desire to do so himself.
If Bailey ends up like her daddy, and I have plastered intimate details of her life story online, a place where those details can never be erased, that will put her in a really awkward position. I may end up sharing parts of her life that she wouldn’t have wanted to be out there, and she would resent me for it. Sure she is a baby, and all babies do a lot of the things she is doing at this age, but I don’t want to get into the habit of doing it now, and then have to continue into her childhood and beyond.
So I do it for her. I show things that I feel she can only be proud of, things that make her look good, and no one could tease her about later. I want to let her choose if she wants to put herself out there.
I do it for her belonging.
Babies and children need love…well, they need a few other things first (food, rest, water, warmth, safety), but as Maslow famously shared, to grow into a healthy, happy human being, to make it even halfway up the pyramid of a happy life, they need to feel unconditional love, to feel that they belong.
We already spend enough time in front of our phones. We give them far more attention than one another, and miss special moments because we are too busy looking down at that email that just pinged. The noise of it coming through is just too tempting, what if it is something important? We rationalize to ourselves with, but really, what could be more important than your baby looking at you with pure love?
Nothing, but it is too tempting to ignore.
In those moments Bailey is having a hard time, I do not want to shove a screen in front of her face, I want to look at her right in the eye, show her that helping her feel better is the most important thing in the world for me right now, and I am going to do what I can to fix the situation that is stressing her out.
If I was going to share all those rough moments, I would be neglecting her to do so, to write the words to go with the image, to take the photo itself.
And I don’t want to do that. I want to show her that yes, mummy may like that little rectangle and use it for things, nothing is more important than making her feel loved and appreciated, so I do put my phone away from me, to remove that temptation to look.
This reason is probably the most important one to me, because I do not want Bailey to grow up seeing the phone every minute of every day, thinking it is the most important thing to Steve and I. So I do place my phone across the room when I can, to remove that temptation. I do try to put it away whenever she is awake, at least playing with me, so I can interact with her.
If I am constantly thinking about sharing these moments with the world, I am giving social media my attention and love, not the baby who needs it most.
I do it for the mothers who are having a really difficult time.
As I mentioned earlier, I really have lucked out with Bailey. She is pretty chill most of the time, and doesn’t fuss too much. We didn’t really go through much sleep deprivation as she was a relatively good sleeper from the start. I also leaned on Steve heavily at the start to help me, which eased up the burden, and allowed us to get through that initial period. I realize not every family can afford that situation.
She settled into a sleep routine pretty quickly, and we were very fortunate with that.
Of course I have had times of meltdowns, moments where I felt like the worst mother in the world, when I couldn’t calm my baby, when she cried for hours on end, but overall, Steve and I have escaped lightly compared to some parents.
Without having been through that situation where things are a struggle every single day for weeks, months on end, I would feel like I am rubbing it in other mothers faces, making them feel WORSE about their babies.
I know I don’t owe anyone this explanation, it is totally my choice of what I want to share and what I don’t, but I just wanted to say to all the other mothers (and fathers) out there. You are NOT alone. EVERY SINGLE MOTHER is struggling at some point in their day, and especially at the beginning, and you WILL get through this, get better at it.
You are not alone, and you are doing a good job, believe it.
PS. I am sharing more of the “real stuff”, and telling you what life is really like on Tina4Real (Tuesday to be exact), if you haven’t already subscribed on iTunes (or your favorite podcast player), I would love you to check them out. You can also listen online here.