I recently read a post by Honest Mum on the tougher side of parenting, and it left me compelled to write my own version. I am all for the representation of every aspect of parenthood in the media, in order to allow both Men and Women to realise they are not alone if they are having a particularly shitty time of it.
That said, I am not anti the bloggers and writers who represent all that is wonderful about parenting – because that is there too..absolutely, it is. The magical bits that move you to tears, the precious moments you never want to forget…but in reality, lets face it they are sandwiched by the moments you are in tears, and wanting to forget. I don’t like to dwell on the doom and gloom, but my life, my blog, are a bit like my instagram feed; the fun, the beautiful, the heartfelt Is mixed up with a small sprinkling of reality.
For the record, I have been lucky to never have post natal depression, I am a stay at home Mum by choice, and I worship the ground my kids walk on. But that doesn’t mean I haven’t experienced the rough with the smooth, and weathered some stormy times as a new parent.
I’d hate my blog to ever fall into an ‘I love parenting’ or an ‘I hate parenting’ niche, because I believe we as parents go through all these emotions and everywhere in between – hopefully the former heavily outweighing the latter, but both sides totally need to be showcased, because it’s the latter that can break us after all. Sure, people have been having kids for centuries without all this whingeing…but this is the era in which we parents have found a platform and a voice – one of honesty, realism and camaraderie.
There are so many times being a mother has tested me to my limits – be it a phase of prolonged crying, a feeling of isolation, a period of particularly bad sleep deprivation or just in yearning for the old me, my old life and my old carefree brain. All these things are TOTALLY NORMAL and do not make me (or you) a bad parent.
I have bored my friends and myself to tears with my obsessive worries over the most mundane yet seemingly life altering phases..Breast or Bottle? Colic or Teething? BLW or puree? Nursery or Childminder? Career or SAHM? Calpol or Nurofen? Controlled Crying or just crying (me, that is). Schools. Asthma. Swimming lessons. It’s almost as though with access to more opinions, information and theories than ever it’s just too much to digest. Mentally, physically and emotionally, loving something so much is really quite exhausting. The rollercoaster can throw you around from one day to the next, or even from one hour to the next – if you dare think you’re winning today you might just come a cropper. Equally, the lowest of moments can seem a distant memory with a short nap and a walk to the bakery for some fresh air.
Only last week, I actually cried because I couldn’t find a parking space outside a toddler group. And then, that same morning I bit off the heads of some good friends because I convinced myself that they had blanked me. That’s what two years of broken sleep and a night of 2 hours kip does to you. Thank God for the kind stranger who let me vent, told me she also felt like crap, and opened her Novelty Terrys Chocolate Orange she had bought for a teacher gift in a show of solidarity.
That single random act of kindness turned my entire morning around. Knowing that we are all going through our own struggles and that we are in it together.
The shock of your first baby and the abrupt detachment to your former life has to be the toughest doesn’t it? That baby that you had waited and yearned for came with a whole lot of small print you weren’t quite prepared for. Most of us would, and have done it all again, absolutely…but who can blame the ones that stop at that first baby. Yet there are no prizes for ‘worst stage’ here. Squishy new ones, crazed toddlers, multiples, teenagers, pregnant Mums, new parents, working parents, PND parents, surprised parents, worried parents…every scenario comes with it’s own challenges and don’t ever be fooled into thinking you have it worse than the next family. Beneath the smiles and “we’re all fine’s” we’re all going through something.
Towards the end of my first maternity leave, I think I actually lost the plot a bit. Regressing to a schoolgirl mentality, where I was convinced there was some kind of conspiracy against me. If anyone delayed in replying to a message, or I heard anyone had done anything without me I would dive into a spiral of self loathing and worthlessness. Looking back, I was struggling massively and feeling a bit isolated. My mind was idle and needed something else to think about once the baby had become less intensely dependent on me. I was soon back at work and that short phase behind me.
Thankfully, I haven’t felt that way with the two kids – maybe the eldest has been my (usually) most excellent company, maybe I just haven’t had time, or maybe I’ve learnt how to keep the monsters at bay. They do pop up from time to time, but I’ve learnt a little bit over the last five years about what makes me happy, and what to let go. Although, retaining sanity when you are having a bad day, week or minute (for whatever reason) is easier said than done.
As I confessed to a friend who is returning back to work this week, that I felt a bit jealous, she in return declared her own feelings of envy that I am at home with my children. As I imagined her days of freedom in the office and lunch with the girls, she told of her sadness at saying goodbye to her little routine and the days she had come to love. Grass. Green. You know what I’m saying.
The fact is, it’s bloody hard, whatever way you work it.
I’m not for a moment saying I would change a thing – but, we all need to cut ourselves some slack; the working Mums, the ones at home, the ones juggling both, the Dads feeling the pressure of providing for the family, and the fellas at home doing a fine job with the kids too.
It’s tiring. It’s repetitive. It’s stressful.
It’s both ridiculous and amazing what can break you – a tantrum, a flat tyre, a long admin phone call, a cancelled play date. It’s hardly the end of the world stuff, but in that moment, it’s difficult to see the wood for the trees. I’m not ashamed to say I have made my excuses and left a crummy toddler group early to sit on a bench and cry – feeling alone and exhausted and needing to let it all overflow.
Looking back to the long and complex days in the office, it’s almost laughable that these trivial things can evoke such emotion and distress. But, stress is relative isn’t it? Back then a deadline, or a presentation may have tested us…but hell hath no fury like a toddler refusing to nap. I guess the point is, it doesn’t really matter what’s worse…at that moment it’s not going to make you feel better or worse knowing person A, B or C has it harder. It just doesn’t work like that.
You may look in the mirror and barely recognise the bedraggled, pale face staring back at you. Let alone the body that’s been stretched beyond the point of return and has some badges of honor you could have quite frankly done without. Who wouldn’t feel slightly sad about that?
It’s unity that has got me out of some dark times – times of worry, times of grief, times of tiredness and times of shocking behaviour. No one is going to ride in on a white horse and relieve you of your hellish day – and actually, you wouldn’t always want that anyway. My best advice is to get a change of scene, and find solace in a brew and a chat with someone who will understand. If you’re feeling like a social leper, be the initiator in some stuff – make things happen for yourself. Failing that, embrace your time with the kiddo – go on a play date date, just the two of you – no Mummy friends to distract and chat to, just quality you time. It’s surprising how much fun you can have focusing solely on each other.
If you don’t have that luxury today, know that I understand. We understand. It won’t always be like this. Tomorrow might be a better day, and things will get easier. You aren’t alone – you don’t hate your kids and you aren’t an awful parent.
And know that Terry’s Chocolate Oranges are currently a quid in Tesco.
If you are really struggling to cope, please talk to someone who will listen – a friend, your family, or a healthcare professional who can help you. Don’t soldier on in silence xx