When I had my daughter in 2012 there was funk all out there that spoke to how I felt about motherhood. The loss of identity, the guilt about wanting something that was just about me, the mind-numbing boredom of spending time with a small person whose conversation skills were akin to a snail’s – all slime and slow movements – were not spoken of anywhere, and it was easy to think I was the only one finding it all a bit shit.
These days, however, the internet is positively saturated with “mummy-bloggers” keen to share minor, but mildly embarrassing, mishaps such as the time they dropped a (plastic) bike on the baby’s head, or took the three year old to the shop for a treat where she asked the man behind the counter for “brown balls” (Malteasers). And, as far as I am concerned, this “Honest Parenting” movement is no bad thing.
BUT, if you were at the start of your journey into parenthood – planning pregnancy, mid-pregnancy, or just about to drop the baby-bomb in the middle of your life, what would you be thinking about all of this “honesty”. Is it in danger of being a bit, well, negative?
It’s fair to say that while I try to write about owning and caring for small people with what I see as a healthy dash of humour, my posts do tend to err on the “when shit goes wrong” side of the parenting scale. So, with one eye on not terrifying new mums or mums-to-be who might be reading, this is a post about the positives of parenting. I admit this doesn’t really come naturally but, here goes:
- It does get easier. It is true that older children offer particular challenges that tiny babies do not, but when they are screaming for the blue cup not the orange one, at least you know exactly what the problem is. I can’t promise that producing the goods will stop the ear-splitting wails but if, like me, you find the completely unfathomable crying of a newborn push you towards The Edge, then you might also find the crazy-toddler-train easier to stay aboard. Grit your teeth, squeeze those pelvic floor muscles and just crack on – this early days phase is pretty short-lived.
- You will get more sleep. Eventually. (This positivity stuff is hard, you know? I can’t help myself it seems). Anecdotally speaking, by the start of the first year most babies are sleeping through the night for at least 10 hours. It might have taken some sleep-training to get there, and right now you may well feel like your brain has fallen out of your pelvic floor, but the sleep deprivation of the early days bears no compare to anything other than setting up residency in the torture chambers of Guantanamo Bay. If your baby isn’t sleeping through after a year of being Earth-side (raises hand) then you have my heartfelt sympathy. If you are happy with the situation then crack on, but if you’re not, then there are things you can try, most of which you will have tried already so I’m not going to irritate the muck out of you right now by suggesting any of them. This is all about the positivity, remember? (I’m struggling.)
- You will save money. Used to spending your hard-earned cash on fancy threads and luxury holidays? Or perhaps you once spent your weekends going out for dinner and maybe some drinks and dancing afterwards (wild, I know)? Well, none of this will be happening, so don’t worry about surviving on Statutory Maternity Pay – you’ll be positively rolling in cash. (Sort of… coffee, cake, nappies, clothes that last 6 seconds and then shoes, school uniforms, extra groceries, hair clips, shit magazines with shit toys on the front, toys, and lots and lots of socks, don’t grow on trees, you know? Gah – positivity! Must. Be. Positive.)
- You will never have to carry your own coat. There – I did it! A truly spectacular example of why having children is awesome. No matter the weather, you will always be prepared. You may well leave the house in a t-shirt and flip-flops but we all know that a rain storm is almost always around the corner, so underneath the buggy you can stash a raincoat and even some wellies if you are feeling particularly anxious. See! A perfect positive point. Sorry, what was that you said? They don’t use a buggy forever, you say? And when they stop, they expect you to carry their scooter, bag, coat and sundry “collections” that they have curated on the walk to nursery? Oh.
- Ok, ok. What about they will improve your diet? The time your children start to take an interest in food is around about the same time that you will stop being able to enjoy a cheeky chocolate bar in peace. Now I realise that this sounds like a bad thing, but think about it – the pain of listening to the whiny “What you got?” as you hide behind the fridge door, or the utter humiliation of having your breath sniffed by a three year old who then demands their fair share, is so extreme that you may well give up the good/ bad stuff forever. Or at least until they are asleep.
- Small people are the perfect social prop. Adulthood is a tricky time to be making new friends but while hanging in a damp Village Hall that smells suspiciously of sock might not sound like the most promising social engagement, at least the ice breaker is now covered. Just ask “How old is he/ she?” and you’re off! Follow it up with “How does he/ she sleep?” and you are practically BFFs.
- Confidence. Once close to 30 different people have had “access” to your once-most-private-areas, you toss off those old inhibitions and just ride on through. Ok so body confidence might not be the one once you’ve squeezed out a person or two but repeat “I grew a person, I am fucking rad” enough times (thanks @fourthtrimag) and even your wobbly tummy and saggy knees take on a whole new slant. Be proud of that body – it has done an amazing thing.
- They give you ALL of the feels. Happiness, sadness, empathy, resentment,anger, laughter, appreciation, pride and LOVE – the small people punch way above their weight in the impact they have on our ability to FEEL. I am sometimes surprised at just how small my smalls actually are, because in my life, mind and heart they take up so much space that I am certain they must dwarf me. Viewed through a prism of parenthood, nothing feels the same once you have created another person.
- They inspire you to be better. Better at your job, better at being a daughter or a friend, better at being a person. You want your child to grow up in a world full of hope and light and you realise that you have to be that change. You will fail at times, we all do. But the intention is there, and that intention makes you better.
So there you are – a whole nine ways that being a parent is pukka. Granted there was the odd lapse into old habits of “Ah, but…” but perhaps one person’s negativity is just another person’s honesty.
Being a parent is effing hard – it is relentless, sometimes mind-blowingly monotonous and I don’t think anyone is done any favours by pretending otherwise. But it is also spectacularly brilliant.