Having young children is not all about coffee shops and idle chatter. It is not a holiday. It can be one of the toughest times in a woman’s life.
With your first child, the learning curve is steep – learning to keep a baby settled, soothed and alive while recovering from pregnancy, birth and unrealistic expectations of how motherhood would be. We are often sleep deprived, in need of supportive mum friends and it can feel like we are on our own with the day-to-day responsibilities of looking after our baby.
In our society mothers are often judged, with unreal expectations stacked against them and their children. It can be a hard slog. When you become a mother it doesn’t matter what job you do, how old you are or how much you spent in Mothercare preparing for your baby’s arrival – you have a baby to look after and it can knock your confidence when they cry, need a poo, won’t sleep and won’t settle anywhere but in your arms. You can question everything you do and it can take a while for your instincts to kick in.
There are lots of magical moments – the intense love you feel, the cuddles, the smiles and the laughs are all worth it – but it can still be a lonely place to be at times. Motherhood doesn’t carry alot of worth and when you are tired, hungry and maybe a bit stressed so it’s hard to stay positive and focused and see the benefit in what you are doing – especially if all you see around you is jobs to be done. Motherhood can be about what you have failed to do rather than seeing everything you have done, especially if it is hold and comfort your baby all day.
Eventually you will have more days when you feel like you have got this. And then your baby turns into a toddler – a fantastic creature of exploration and curiosity and fury like you have never seen before. You then you enter a world of patience, reasoning, negotiation and bribery – for you, not your toddler, there is no reasoning with a toddler! And once again you can be thrust into an unknown world as your child wants more control of their world – food, sleep and behaviour can all become issues which we have to deal with and once again we can feel in the spotlight of everyone’s judgement.
I have had days where I have wanted to call my husband back from work, days where I have been dreaming of bedtime, days where I have counted down to 5pm wine-time from 7am and days where all I have wanted to do is cry because of exhaustion, challenging behaviour, a crushing loneliness and lack of worth.
Being a mother can be a lonely place because you are the one who has to cope with the tears, tantrums and ever changing needs of your child as well as the life changes that take place when we have children – priorities, work, relationships and money can all shift, sometimes dramatically. And no matter how normal these things are, the buck stops with you – you are the one who is handling it all and you are usually pretty tired from doing it. From my experience of being a mum, there are two main things going on – the fear of getting it wrong and the need to just get through each damn day without feeling like we are getting it wrong, without being judged and with as much sanity as we can cling to.
This is why I do what I do because sometimes you just need a hot cuppa and a warm welcome and at other times you may need to offload, talk things through and get more one-to-one support as a parent.
So, when it all feels too much – keep going, take it each day at a time and find good support because it is going to be tough at times. So whether your baby is new or a teenager, cry when you need to and take a deep breath – you are not doing anything wrong, it is all normal and remember the mantra “it’s just a phase” because you’ll need that until they move out.