Whenever i’m having a hard time with the boys, and i tell people in real life about it, i end up regretting it almost instantly. I mean aside from the fact that i hate to ask for help, never listen to advice and dislike showing weakness (Yeah yeah i have ishoos. Care to pay for therapy? Thought not) It’s actually their reaction that usually triggers my “should have kept my mouth shut” reflex. Inevitably they will say “It only get’s harder as they get older!” and/or “Enjoy them now, while they’re little! You can’t get this time back…it’s so precious…”
Both these things may be true. But they’re not helpful. It’s like those people who tell you how painful labour is, after you’re already pregnant, or how easy Rover Metros are to break into, after you’ve already had yours stolen*…oh, is that last one just me?! What i mean is, it’s all well and good trying to pre-warn people that parenting at any age is never easy, and trying to encourage them to see the beauty of their current situation, but if that situation is them considering stuffing their cherubs in the understairs cupboard and taking up drinking during the day as a past-time, then your wise words are likely to fall on deaf ears.I’d be interested to know if people react similarly to non-parenting rants. Like if someone has a bad day at work do they say “You should be grateful, at least you have a job!” or “But you applied for the job, you worked so hard to get it, you said it was your dream job and now you’re complaining?!” Maybe. But i doubt it.
When people have a moan, it’s because they’ve got something they want to get off their chest. And if you think that their grumblings are invalid and they need a little goddam perspective then that’s your perogative, but don’t be expecting them to come to you weeks, months, or years down the line when they have quote real problems unquote. Because that ship will have sailed. If you can’t listen without judgement (or at least listen with silent judgement) to their little moans and niggles how can they trust you to do the same with The Big Stuff?
And on that note, because none of you are real, i shall now tell to you the top three things i have found hard about being a parent.
Let me fill you in: Children harbour germs, they swap them with each other, and transfer them to you, your partner, and any siblings you might have been crazy enough to have. You all get sick. But because you’re the one doing all the get-ups in the night, and running around like a headless chicken after everyone else, eating only things that take less than 10 seconds to prepare and drinking your weight in coffee, you get sicker than everyone else, and for longer, but it’s no matter, because when you’re a parent there is no such thing as a sick day. Feel like shit? Congratulations! You get to do all the stuff you normally do, plus extras such as cleaning up other people’s (and possibly your own) vomit and poop, wipe noses endlessly, make trips to the chemist, haggle with GP receptionists for an emergency ‘on the day’ appointment, and wash endless loads of laundry, all whilst feeling like your insides were recently ripped out, thrown back in willy-nilly and sewn up by someone with my level of craft expertise. Lucky lucky you.
Never being able to call in sick is one of THE single mostest hardest things i personally have found about becoming a Mum. When i feel unwell i need to take to my bed and have everyone fuck the fuck off. This is not an option with two small children, so i always always struggle when these occasions arise, and the delightful thing is, that there are so many different kinds of germs to go around, so arise they do, and often.
Not self-inforced isolation to protect the general public from all your germs. I’m talking about how lonely it is being home with two small kids all day and no one nearby to just drop in on or invite around for a coffee. When Toby was a baby there’d be some days when i’d just sit at home feeding him all day long, and not one single person would come by, or call or even send a text message to say “Hey, heard you had a baby, how’s that working out for you?”
I’m not sure if social isolation is a problem for all new Mums, perhaps it’s different if you have friends or family living nearby, but our closest family members are some 50 miles away and most are even further. We do now have a small number of friends living locally but it hasn’t always been that way. Making friends gets harder as you get older. Becoming a parent bridges some of the gaps, and gives you an ability to talk to anyone, even people you just met about a whole myriad of typically taboo topics such as vomit and faeces, but it can be a challenge to take that to the next level, to move from inpolite chit-chat to being in a position where you could call that person on a bad day and say “Save me! I’m losing my mind!”
Before i became a parent i had no idea how much time i’d spend feeling guilty. It’s such a useless emotion i know, but knowing that and being able to stop feeling it all the time is a different thing. I know have an uncanny knack for feeling guilty about anything and everything. Here are a few of my favourites:
- My children watch too much TV
- My children don’t eat enough fruit/vegetables/fibre
- I should be a better cook in general
- We should bake more often
- I am not “crafty” enough
- Our house is a mess
- I should care more that our house is a mess
- I should care less that our house is a mess and just let the kids enjoy themselves
- I should iron our clothes
- We should go for more family walks
- I should yell less
- I should buy them more toys
- I should buy them infinitely less toys
- I should spend more time on the floor, actively playing with them
- I should be able to feel more enthusiasm for lego/toy cars/train sets than i actually do
- I should stop swearing in front of them
Obviously the guilt intensifies when it comes to more serious issues such as when either of them gets sick or injured (automatic guilt, regardless of whether you could have done anything to prevent it). Or when they have to have something unpleasant but necessary, such as-
- Eye checks
- Foul medicine
Also, when i properly lose my shit in front of them (although i have no qualms about saying “sorry” to either of them if i genuinely feel i have been unfair/over-reacted).
Then there’s the times when i have to make big life decisions for them without knowing how they’ll feel about it later in life, such as-
- Whether to have another baby
- Which nursery to send them to
- What schools to apply for
- Moving house
- My own career decisions which will impact them
- Which family members to keep/break contact with
- Which friends to expose them to etc
The opportunities for self-doubt, second guessing yourself, and feeling generally guilty are endless.
When my eldest son was born it was like a film had been lifted from my eyes and i was seeing the world clearly for the first time. And it was a baaaad place. War, murder, rape, hatred, greed, intolerance, what the fuck had i been thinking bringing a child into this?! Alright it wasn’t quite that bad but i was suddenly acutely aware of the perils of everyday existence. The previously mundane suddenly became terrifying. Car travel. Walking down the stairs. Crossing the road. Taking a shower.
One evening, when Rudy was maybe 3 or 4 months old, i grabbed a rare opportunity to shower and wash my hair whilst both boys slept. I was enjoying the peace and thinking what a miracle these ten minutes of “me time” were when i lost my balance and slipped. Thankfully i managed to grab both the shower curtain and the wall and came to a halt contorted backwards over the edge of the bath. I was absolutely fine. Physically not harmed in the slightest but mentally i was scarred. What if i hadn’t caught myself? What if i’d fallen and hit my head and been knocked unconscious? Chris was in work. How long would one of the boys have to cry before the neighbours had suspected something was amiss? How many missed calls on my phone before Chris came home from work and found me? How long before i’d have gained consciousness? What if i’d never gained consciousness? The question was unbearable and yet there it was, in my head, refusing to go away without a satisfactory answer- “What would happen to my children if i died?”
Now i have to be honest here and say at the time of this particular incident my mental state could be described as “fragile” so maybe if i’d been a bit more balanced, the entire thing would have been summarised as “Shit! That was a close call!” but because i was already feeling anxious, stressed and vulnerable, instead it only served as further evidence to add to my “The world is a scary place” file.
I’m in a calmer place these days, but by that i mean i’m a calmer version of me. I wouldn’t be nominated for any zen mummy awards. Unless someone was feeling ironic.
So those are my top four. I imagine it’s different for everybody, dependent upon personality and circumstances so i can’t speak for anyone else but those are things i’ve struggled with the most since becoming a parent.
*Fortunately, the thieves were unable to actually steal my metro, as the battery was flat. Unfortunately they didn’t realise that until they were already committed so i had to pay for a new ignition switch, and then it later turned out that the reason the battery was flat was because i needed a new alternator motor. The moral of this story? Driving heap of crap cars can sometimes pay…although, in truth i’d probably have been financially better off if they’d manage to steal the bloody thing.