I have, by all accounts, the perfect angel baby. Not only does she look exactly like one of the cherubs you see painted on the walls of the Sistine chapel, but (for the most part) she acts like one too. She is an immensely happy baby who will stare people down beaming until they smile back at her. She loves to be around people and is more social than I am. She eats just about anything you put in front of her. She has slept at least eight consecutive hours a night since she was 8 weeks old. And as long as she is occupied with something interesting, she is pretty easygoing.
So yes. I get it. I'm lucky.
People love to tell me this; not a week goes by that I don't hear it. And, to be honest, I don't fully understand the point in noting it. Maybe it is just conversation filler, one of those things you say to take up space. Maybe it is intended as a compliment to her or somehow to me. Maybe it is a spontaneous statement of marvel over her generally easygoing personality. I don't know.
But what I do know is that it has an adverse effect on me and on my marriage.
Let me explain.
Though I know that I have it better than some (maybe even most) when it comes to challenging infants, I still find my angel baby—and mothering her—extremely challenging. I have frequently described motherhood as both the greatest thing I have ever done and the absolute most difficult thing I have ever done.
I struggle every single day to love and care for my daughter, more often than not to the point of tears. Being told I have an easy baby invalidates those feelings. It makes me feel weak for struggling at all. It makes me feel like I'm just being dramatic. It makes me second-guess my struggle or try to brush it under the rug and "suck it up."
If she is so easy, I have no right to feel exhausted.
If she is so easy, I have no right to need a break.
If she is so easy, I shouldn't be so frustrated or shouldn't be counting down the seconds until bedtime.
If she is so easy, I can't ask my husband for more support because I really shouldn't need it. And the fact that I do is a sign to me that I'm inadequate and a sign to him that I'm overreacting. It's not a valid struggle.
It's a "me problem."
Parenting is hard. Full stop. No matter what kind of baby you have (and why is there really any need to rank them anyway?), parenting is full of anxiety and struggle and feelings of failure. Maybe someday when I have the experience of raising other children, I'll look back on this time and reminisce about how easy I had it. But right now, I don't feel that way. I constantly feel like a mess and being told I'm so lucky to have such an easy baby when I'm struggling (which is basically always) only piles on.
So next time you think about remarking on how "easy" someone's child is, remember there is a lot that happens behind closed doors you don't actually see. And while she may seem like the perfect little baby, a lot of actual blood, sweat and tears, go into nurturing her. Things always seem easier when you're not the one chasing them around the bathroom at the bridal shower while they smear poop all over the floor and all over their pretty party dress which you didn't bother to bring a backup for because who could have foreseen having to change the baby on the bathroom floor of a popular country club because they didn't have a changing table and yelled at you when you tried to change her on the bench in the hall.…
A simple, "Good job, Mama! I know it isn't easy" will more than suffice.