I will never forget the first time I heard someone say “enjoy every second with her” about my time with my daughter, who was a few weeks old. My first thought was ‘you’ve got to be fucking kidding me, enjoy her, I’m too knackered to enjoy her’ and then I felt the guilt that I wasn’t enjoying my gorgeous, tiny, precious baby. I loved her, I felt incredibly protective of her and I did everything within my power to keep her healthy, safe, alive – I kept breastfeeding when I didn’t have a clue and when I cried with every latch (thankfully the bad latch was sorted and feeding was a dream after that); I got up every hour in the night; I tried to listen to my instincts and I cuddled her and I gazed at her when she slept, although that was more relief that she wasn’t crying than of enjoyment.
My first baby – who didn’t do sleep – nearly broke me. Of course I did enjoy her – when she started to interact and her smiles and giggles were infectious, when she started playing and enjoying her surroundings, I did enjoy her and I loved spending time with her. I enjoyed the snuggles and cuddles, the playing and watching her learn and grow. I didn’t enjoy feeling lost, knackered and frustrated with lack of sleep as well as the monotony and isolation of parenthood. I was probably a bit depressed if I’m honest.
When I trained to run postnatal classes I remember a discussion about ‘do you have to like your children all the time?’ and I think the answer is no. In the same way as I don’t always like my husband, who I love very much and I am sure I irritate the hell out of him at times too. I love my children but I don’t always enjoy them or even like them – and that’s probably a bit controversial. I love them, I adore them, I will defend them and if anyone was to hurt them, my lioness would be unleashed but children press buttons, they test boundaries, they can causes us tired parents some concern and stress.
My children – much the same as yours – are brilliant little creatures who learn, grow and develop with enthusiasm and adventure, they make me laugh, they make me proud, they make my heart swell to the point of bursting but they can also be irritating and annoying little buggers – ungrateful aren’t I? – who make me crave solitude and silence.
As parents we are only bloody human, we can spend so much time with our children that it is impossible not to want a break at some point. In my humble opinion, we don’t have to enjoy or even like our children all the time, it doesn’t make us a bad parent. But, and it is quite a big BUT, we also need to make time when we are focused on being with our children, when work doesn’t come first, when we have to stop looking at our phones or laptops and engage with our children. I can be so guilty of this – being self employed means work is never done so I am always snatching time on the laptop. I recently had to have a word with myself when I kept saying ‘in a minute’ to my youngest girl who wanted my attention because I had work to finish and I was getting annoyed. She was not at fault, I was. So I stepped away from my desk and gave her my full attention, which she only needed for a little while.
I am rambling now but while we all parent differently and we can’t always enjoy every second with our children, I do passionately believe that we, as the parents, the adults, also need to make time to enjoy being with our children. I think we need to be silly, to laugh, to go to the park, to splash in the sea, to make a mess, to make memories because these moments get us through the frustrating and challenging times that come with the children we love.
a specialist in pregnancy, birth and early parenting