Dear New Mum
DEAR NEW MUM
I've recently read a couple of powerful pieces floating around the Internet about women who regret having children. My heart-breaks for these women and the many people out there who feel similarly. I am not going to pretend parenting is easy or fun the whole time. It's a massive disruptor to the life we once had. Even if you outsource all the childcare there are still days filled with constant demands, when the kids are sick, you miss your Kin & Kind workshop (!), it rains and the raincoat is nowhere to be found, there's no milk in the fridge, the library books are overdue, and it feels like life is tipping you upside down and inside out.
So what is it ABOUT MOTHERHOOD (AND PARENTING) we find so hard and unpleasant?
I think mostly it boils down to the pressures we put on ourselves, trying to achieve too much in a given day/hour/second. I think as parents, but particularly as mums, we try and do it all: we try to feed the kids well, get the washing done, keep the house in order, take the children to 101 activities after school, organise the cleaner or baby sitter for a hastily organised date-night, book restaurant for afore mentioned date-night even though husband said he would, buy birthday present for child who you’ve never met before, RSVP to said child’s birthday party and put it in diary. Plus we try and get work done in around all of this. And when do we actually look after our physical and mental selves?
So is it worth it? For me, absolutely, unquestionably yes. But I agree with another friend who says “having children is great but it costs women more than men.” So much has been written about the cost to women and I won’t rehash people who have discussed it far more eloquently than me. But I will say this, having children is the greatest gift anyone has ever given me. It’s the gift that just keeps on giving (oh those cuddles, love letters, artworks, smiles and even that newborn cry) but ironically also the gift I often wish came with an user/operator manual (and very occasionally came with a no questions asked returns policy). Kids if you’re reading this, I don’t really mean the last point. You’re all perfect 100% of the time 😉. Except when you’re pretending to be dogs and licking me and trying to lap food off the floor.
But I wish someone had told me, right from the get-go, to be kinder on myself and not to internalise comparisons between myself and the way other mums are doing it. I also wish as a couple, my husband and I had sat down and properly discussed how we were going to navigate raising kids before we had them. It would have been a lot more useful than the hospital class on pain management (incidentally, our friends over at The Parent Village run sessions on just this). What decisions would we take over the raising of them? How would we organise our respective careers? How would we would structure our lives to make sure all our needs were met?
So what advice can I give new mums?
- Nothing can really prepare you for being a parent nor the impact on your relationships (and I use the plural because it not just a partner relationship that changes, so too does your relationship with parents, friends and colleagues). Look up these lovely ladies who do genuine couples readiness BEFORE a baby arrives.
- That you do your best but sometimes many times you get it wrong and that’s OK. Forgive yourself.
- Be realistic about what you can achieve in the time you have and re-set your expectations of yourself.
- Don’t believe a word of bragging parents – especially regarding sleeping through the night.
I don’t care what anyone says, getting up 5 times a night to replace a dropped dummy is NOT SLEEPING THROUGH. Can you tell I’m a little scarred from milestone comparison?
- If you have a partner, keep up a regular discussion about how you will BOTH manage the juggle and be prepared to adapt it as needed, frequently.
- Do not forget about yourself. Keep up your interests, hobbies and job if you have/want one. Mental and physical health are vital to your happiness and wellbeing. And also to your stamina when the going gets tough.
- Ask for help. Ahem. I hear the ‘I told you so’ from my husband and mother. I’m chronically bad at asking for help. But honestly, sometimes I just don’t know what help I need, nor might I add do I have the energy to actually organise the help. And full disclosure, I’m lucky that I do have help and can ask for and pay for help if I get stuck. But I feel interminably guilty about asking for help when it’s for me-time.
- That parenthood is f%&*ing brilliant but also f&%*ing hard. For me the brilliant outweighs the hard because the brilliant just shines so bright. I would do it all again in a heartbeat. To the parents who really wish they hadn’t and wouldn’t, I can’t offer any words of comfort except to say I applaud your ability to be honest and to talk openly about how you feel. It's an important conversation that we all need to hear. We are not all the same and I hope you have a village of support who offer friendship and encouragement without judgement.