During our baby massage courses we chat a lot about the best and the worst parts about being a parent. It always gets me thinking.. what are the things that I enjoy and what are the things that drive me a bit crazy. I have to say, depending on how my day is going, depends on how long a list of each I have.
I am very honest with my friends (those with children and those without) that I have always found parenting quite challenging, physically, mentally and emotionally. So I sit here trying to evaluate my likes and dislikes of being a mum,
When I had my first daughter the instant life change was totally overwhelming. I was no longer an individual, but part of the new person in my life. My priorities, anxieties, hopes and fears changed completely. I no longer knew myself and it scared me a bit. Motherhood was all consuming and often monotonous and isolating. Gone was the fun, energetic larger than life person I once was replaced with a sleep deprived, anxiety driven, baby obsessed crazy woman. I missed my old life at times.
Oh.. the sleep deprivation – lets talk about that – with both my first and my second daughter I found it to be one of the hardest parts of parenting. When I had children, I did expect a degree of sleep loss, but I also expected to at least be able to function. I didn’t think that managing to wear matching socks would be a days greatest achievement sometimes. There were days where I would feel totally exhausted, and it hadn’t even got to 9am. I honestly thought that I would be the first person ever that would not survive the months until my baby began to sleep through the night – and with my first daughter – she was well over a year old before we got anywhere close to getting a full nights sleep.
Parenting during those formative months was such a steep learning curve. Other mums would tell me they could tell what their baby wanted by the different types of cry their baby made.. for me.. a cry was a cry.. I would just work my way through the possibilities – hungry? Nappy? Cuddle? No..then what !
What I loved during the first 12 months of both my daughters lives was watching in awe at their development. Seeing their individual personalities evolve, and they were both oh so different. Communicating with them, learning how they would respond to things they liked and disliked.
A baby turns in to a toddler – more challenges , pushing of boundaries, tantrums at the most inopportune times, mostly in supermarkets – breadsticks became a life saver in occupying them whilst I did the mad dash down the isles trying to do a weekly shop in the 10 mins I had before they would inevitably want to climb out of the trolley.
But the smiles, the hugs, the joy in their faces as I collected them from nursery. The love they had for me and each other.
They are young girls now, with their own thoughts, opinions (which they have no problem in sharing).The battle of wills is a daily occurrence (as it has been since they each turned 2 yrs old). Some I let them win, some times I stick stuck to my guns..
Parenting for me is a constant state of trying to figure out the right and wrong way to respond to the needs of my child (which mostly means ignoring the needs of your own and your partners). The majority of the time I feel I am just winging it as a parent and hoping for the best.
I have this incredible, indescribable love for my kids but they also have the ability to bring me to the edge of craziness some days (and beyond it on occasion).
I remember thinking after the birth of my first daughter ‘my life has changed forever’ I held and stroked her tiny hands, watched her every breath, it feels like only moments ago. To say that time goes fast sounds like such a cliché.. but it does.. it really does. During the early months and years I found myself wishing for the next development stage, being excited by her growing and changing. I now find myself wanting to freeze time. I love the fact that my kids are a bit older, we talk, we exchange ideas, we make plans, but I still lie at the side of them, looking in to their faces and think ‘ please don’t grow up, not just yet’. But they are growing up, and nothing I do will stop that.. all that I can do is support and guide them as they face the challenges of life, whilst giving them the free agency to try things on their own.
So on reflection, what I have always enjoyed the most, no matter what age or stage in their lives is the endless, insurmountable, constant love I feel for and from my children no matter what. There are days I don’t like them much (think hissy fits, sulking, bickering.. I could go on), I am sure they will say the same about me (think tired, grumpy , short tempered!) but the love is always there. I see it in their smiles, I feel it in their hugs.
What do I find the hardest – the endless, insurmountable constant worry I feel for them. I worry I work too much and don’t spend enough time with them, that I don’t earn enough and can’t give them everything they deserve. I worry about them getting hurt or sick. And like most parents, I worry that I’m simply not doing a good enough job.
So for me, and I would expect for many others too, parenting is wonderful, infuriating, confusing, inspiring – I hate the use the term ‘journey’ – so overused these days.. so maybe adventure would be a better word. One big, often scary, but more often joyous adventure.