April 19, 2024
Search
Close this search box.
Search
Close this search box.
April 19, 2024
Search
Close this search box.

Linking Northern and Central NJ, Bronx, Manhattan, Westchester and CT

Is She a ‘Good’ Baby?

I think the next time I overhear someone use the expression “good baby” I may scream.

Yes, this is a common statement. Yes, I am perhaps being hyper-critical and analyzing a subject to which others might not give much thought—welcome to my brain!—and even so, please hear me out.

I feel like I’ve heard so many parents, especially moms, use the expression “Well, she’s a good baby” or even at times people ask the question of whether or not the baby is good. And this is not on my mind just because I had a baby this month; I’ve noticed it regularly recently. And this baffles me.

Perhaps it is because I’m quite sensitive to all-or-nothing language, but in general I try to move away from labeling or calling anything good or bad, these days. Life is too nuanced to be able to adequately use this descriptor. “Did you have a good day?” Well, I can reflect overall, sure, but my day was filled with a conglomeration of moments and events, and limiting it to good or bad not only ignores the roller coaster of events, but it also pauses the conversation; when you ask someone if they had a good day and they say yes, there’s usually a sigh of relief or just a “moving on” mindset. Day was good? Great, that’s how it should be. If the person says no then we ask and try to find ways to spin it—how can we help the person see that it actually was good (looking for a silver lining) or remind them that “It’s OK! Tomorrow will be better!”

By doing this, we ignore the current moment, the room for things to not always be “good.” And while this would be lovely, it would not capture our real lives. Life is about the ups and downs, not just about waiting for the ups. This is a difficult concept to swallow psychologically as people rarely want to live—or even briefly sit—in discomfort. We want to enjoy and relax and feel happy rather than recognizing that the full spectrum of emotions needs to be expected and is OK—it might not feel OK, but it is OK. Instead of living for the “good days,” we need to ground in the nuance and mess of it all, experiencing the moments of lightness or gratitude and also accepting the times of struggle.

The same applies, if not even more so, when describing another human being. It is damaging to judge another person as good or bad, and yet we so easily fall into the trap of thinking this way. In general this likely stems from our all-or-nothing, good object/bad object mindsets: When we are young we’re taught using language that is dichotomous or binary as a means of promoting safety. It is much harder to explain to a baby or toddler how to use outlets in a safe way, and instead we teach that touching an outlet is “bad”—to promote safety and protection. The issue is that we tend to struggle with learning the gray area as we get older. We find structure and comfort, typically, from having rules and identifying something or person as “good or bad.” It takes away the questioning. But this questioning is what allows for flexibility.

When you ask yourself if you are “a good ______” you are limiting yourself. Instead, we should strive to note that we may feel good or have expertise or confidence in some areas and not others. That is OK. That is human.

Hearing parents say, “Oh, he’s such a good baby; I’m lucky” is typically a way of communicating gratitude, whether it be around the baby getting sleep, not being fussy, etc. But what this does is subtly hint at the idea that some babies are “bad,” or may even promote the idea that if the parent is having a hard time or feeling overwhelmed, it must be the fault of the parents because the baby is good and therefore the parent is the problem. So many of us think according to equation mindsets: If the test was hard it must mean I’m not smart enough, or “If my friends said that they immediately connected to their baby, there must be something wrong with me if I feel overwhelmed.”

We need to create more space to move away from the dichotomous thought traps. We are not all good or all bad. There are questions to ask and emotions to feel, and changing our language, while it may seem overly analytic or nitpicky, actually will allow us to remember the gray area, the dialectic and create a space where people do not feel blamed or judged.

Whenever I hear parents say, “Well she’s a good baby; I’m not sure why I’m so tired,” I remind them that this is a new chapter, that there is no right way for the baby or parent to be or feel and that some days, hours, or even minutes can feel harder or easier than others. Recognize your humanness. Feel the emotions, and know that you need not define yourself or others. You can, instead, make your best efforts, acknowledge areas of growth, and do what you can.


Temimah Zucker, LCSW, works with individuals ages 18 and older in New York and New Jersey who are struggling with mental health concerns, and specializes in working with those looking to heal their relationships between their bodies and souls. Temimah is an adjunct professor at the Wurzweiler School of Social Work, an advocate and public speaker concerning eating disorder awareness and a Metro-New York supervisor at Monte Nido. To learn more or to reach her, please visit www.temimah.com 

Leave a Comment

Most Popular Articles