My husband recently got a new hobby. It takes him away from the house for a few hours one weekend morning almost every week. It’s making him very happy and doesn’t seem to cost too much, so I should be thrilled, but it’s pissing me off. Why? I’m not entirely sure. It could be because it means after an exhausting week of working and dealing with the kids every morning and evening, I’m left alone with them for a few hours when I could really use some back-up. Maybe it’s because I don’t feel like I get to have a hobby of my own right now. Or it’s because I’m so, so, tired and would like to take an undisturbed nap. Or have a lie-in. Or just sit in peace and quiet for 20 minutes.
Everything I do revolves around the kids: their interests, needs, attention spans, and schedules. I don’t really mind this, I even enjoy it most of the time. I’m stuck in this weird place where I’m sad that I don’t really have any friends to hang out with, but if given the choice – I’d choose to go home and hang out with my family over any kind of social event with other women/mums. And none of this is my husband’s fault – I know that he would support me going out to do something on my own. But that’s not what I want. So why am I pissed off? I think it’s because this lack of desire to do anything for myself demonstrates that I have given over my identity to that of simply “mum.” I have a job that I love, but I leave it in a heartbeat if a kid needs me for something (usually another trip to the doctor). I have Mondays off and sometimes I take the kids to daycare to have some time to myself, but as soon as I am alone I very quickly run out of things to do that aren’t housework. Who am I? What do I like to do? I have no idea any more. I don’t know how to fill my time if my kids aren’t in it. I’ve lost myself. I think I would be able to accept this if my husband didn’t present a daily reminder that he is still very much himself. With hobbies and friends and alone time. Which I know I could have but I don’t want but I’m annoyed that I don’t have. So I’m confused and irrationally irritated. Welcome to Motherhood.
Happy Mother’s Day!
Seven whole months ago I wrote the post “Wisdom from the First Month.” I cannot believe so much time has passed and how much better I am now at dealing with everything parenthood has to throw at us. I also cannot believe that my tiny baby is now a crawling, sitting, standing, cruising, drooling, teething, babbling, wriggling, shouting STRONG miniature human being. Here are some more tidbits of knowledge and advice I have gleaned from eight months with the droolmonster:
- You get through those tough first few weeks (months) and it does get easier/better/happier. In hindsight, the rough period seemed to last no time at all, though I know it felt never-ending while I was in the midst of it.
- Sleep is a rollercoaster. Declan started sleeping through the night at nine/ten weeks old. It was amazing. The world was a wonderful place to be and everything was shiny and happy. Then at four months he stopped. At five months he started doing well again with some major-sleep-training-effort from us, then seven months brought a helmet and a cold and teething and it all went to hell again. Celebrate the good nights for sure, but don’t get too comfortable…
- Get used to being damp. We live in a damp world now: damp patches on the carpet, damp clothes, damp burp rags, damp blankets, damp furniture, damp baby. Don’t walk around the house without your slippers because the drool and/or spit up will get you. It’s EVERYWHERE.
- Eight month old boys would rather eat board books than read them.
- Teething sucks. You can buy every teething product that Target has to offer (I did), but in the end a cuddle and some Tylenol might be the only things that help.
- It’s better to have a daycare that cares about (and possibly overreacts to) every cold/cough/rash/long nap than one that doesn’t pay attention. Try to remember this the FIFTH time that you leave work to rush the baby to the doctor only to have him giggle and blow raspberries (the baby not the doctor) for the entire appointment like the healthiest child in the world.
- Babies instantly know when there is a non-toy item potentially within their reach. You can cover the floor with exciting, colorful, noise-making baby toys, but the kid will bee-line for the single, hidden item that they are not to play with. This might be a remote, a cup of tea, a pile of DVDs, or an important document. If it is not designed for babies, they will find it. Potentially dangerous items are even more appealing. Babies can also hear a baby-gate open from any distance and will suddenly be able to move at approximately 40 mph to get through it before it closes.
- Napping is a nightmare. I’m constantly aware of when Declan last napped, how long he napped for, when he next needs to nap, how long that nap should be, when he shouldn’t nap, and whether a nap was a good nap or not. I’ve spent a huge amount of time (and gas!) driving past my destination and around in circles to ensure adequate napping, and ALL outings are planned around naps. It would be nice if some of those naps were mine.
- Babies can go from lying and barely rolling to crawling, sitting, standing, and cruising in just a couple of weeks, at which point…
- Some babies never, EVER stop moving. There is no such thing as cuddle time with Declan. I’m sure that he was a restless/cranky baby because he was frustrated with being immobile, and now that he CAN move, he doesn’t stop. Ever. A typical five minutes in Declan world goes: wriggle/crawl/roll/stand/bang/shout/cruise/chew/wallop/fall/crawl/headstand/giggle/roll/wriggle/bite/hit/crawl/stand/rattle/chew/fall/cry/crawl/yogapose/scream/roll/crawl/pound/stand/collapse/shout/crawl. As a result…
- I am not capable of being a full-time mum. I don’t know how all of you do it. I work four days per week and have three-day weekends with the miniature man. Those three days are absolutely, completely, 100% exhausting and by Monday afternoon I am most definitely looking forward to going back to work to have a rest. They are a huge amount of fun, too, don’t get me wrong, but I couldn’t do it seven days a week every week. No way. Did I mention that he NEVER STOPS MOVING and BARELY NAPS? I’m tired just thinking about it.
Now I’m going to be one of those annoying gushy parents. Declan is amazing and funny and crazy and incredible and I can’t believe how lucky we are to have him. He is definitely the best thing to happen to me and to us. In those first few weeks I felt regret and fear and worried that we had ruined our happy lives by having a baby. We hadn’t. Thank goodness. Declan rocks.
One of the reasons I am struggling with motherhood is because I’m an extremely competitive person. To the point that if I cannot be the best at something, I don’t want to do it. If I can study to get better at something, I will. If it takes natural talent and I’m no good? I tend to give up. (Kind of like how Hermione was no good at flying and no amount of time in the library could help her). So I’m constantly annoyed that I can’t study to get better at being a mother. That I can’t get all the answers right and walk away with my A grade. And there’s certainly no chance that I can give up.
I also have envy issues. Several friends have recently had babies. If their child didn’t spend any time in the NICU – I’m envious. If they post a photo of themselves with their baby and their eyes are NOT puffy and bloodshot from hours/days/weeks of crying – I’m envious. If their baby sleeps – I’m envious. Social media paints an incredibly rosy picture of motherhood. I mean, look at my own feed and you’d think Declan was a permanently happy baby and that I never spend Saturday mornings screaming that I cannot cope for one more minute before locking myself in the bedroom and making Christian entertain the kid all day.
The one thing that gets me through? That helps me open the bedroom door and give Declan a cuddle? That helps me persevere with “aggressive sleep training” (my term) and will get me through whatever challenge is coming next? You lot. The people who comment on my blog and Facebook posts and, even more, the people who send me private messages and emails or call. Not to give me advice (I don’t want advice!), but to tell me your stories. Your crying in the NICU, your struggles with breastfeeding, your lack of sleep. The people who know that the oft-touted phrase “it gets better” is not the whole truth. Yes, it gets better, but then it gets worse then better then worse then better ad infinitum. You give me the reality that I desperately need, you remind me that I’m not alone. Thank you, all of you. Keep the stories coming. xxx