I had a moment of realisation this afternoon, as I was trapped under a sleeping toddler who had one of my nipples clamped firmly in her mouth. My lightbulb moment hit me with such clarity it surprised me. The thing? That being a mum is a basically impossible task. Mum life is littered with moments of failure right from the very beginning. From the 3am baby screaming sessions when you can’t work out what’s wrong to the forgotten homework or missed school permission slip in later years, we’ve all experienced that moment of uh-oh dread and then all-consuming parental guilt.
But the other thing about mum life is that it’s littered with many moments of joy and complete happiness. And often these moments come hot on the heels of a moment of complete crapness, so you’re stuck in a state of confused emotion feeling both heady joy and frustation / anger / nostalgia all at one go. Which leads me back to my original point: being a mum is an impossible task. Or, I should say, being a “super mum” is an impossible task, at any rate.
The reason this realisation hit me at this particular moment on this particular day is because Super Mum is exactly what I’ve been striving for these past few weeks, without even realising it. And today, just like that, I gave up. It’s not possible. I’ve been chasing an impossible ideal based on a mixture of internal pressure, social media and external expectation.
Let me explain. It’s been a whirlwind month. Straight after going away for Easter we had an overnight trip to Chessington, then we went to Paris, then I was away at Badminton, then a hen do, then away to Bournemouth. Some of these trips were work and some were pleasure, but they were all fun. However, all these trips away have squeezed time at home, meaning I’ve had less opportunity to do all my usual work and keep things running smoothly at home. Balls have been dropped, the inbox has stacked up and, the past couple of days, I’ve felt a bit fraught.
Add to this the fact that my toddler has basically given up sleep and it’s a recipe for a complete mum meltdown. Afternoon naps – prime work time – have been replaced by afternoon naps on me. Bedtimes have been hell, going on and on and on. And then, in the middle of the night, we’ve had various issues from both children who’ve woken up multiple times due to one thing or another. I’ve been running on empty and, as we all know, you can’t pour from an empty cup.
Except pour I have. At least, I’ve tried to anyway. Rather than just giving myself a break and accepting that I can’t do everything at once I’ve been trying – and inevitably failing – to do everything at once. The final straw came this afternoon when, underneath a sleeping toddler I was trying to answer emails on my phone, fretting about photos I still haven’t edited and videos I still haven’t made and getting myself worked up into a state of nervous exhaustion. I thrive on deadlines and juggling multiple projects, but I don’t thrive when I have literally no time (except for the middle of the night) to complete them. That feeling of too much to do and no time to do it is my own personal anxiety trigger point and, in the past, would have led to a full blown panic attack.
And so, as I sat on the sofa underneath my sleeping tot I just decided to let it all go. I realised that I was trying to do something that no one could do – even Super Woman herself. I was trying to split myself into four when, actually, I needed to just sit down and focus on my slightly poorly and very over-tired toddler.
So this is what I’m going to do. It’s the weekend now which means the NLM is home to help share some of the burden and I can get work done without feeling guilty at using Peppa Pig as a childminder. But I’m also going to switch off completely for a day or so, not even go on Instagram (yes, really), and just try to catch up on sleep, my kids and the things I need to get done at home which have completely fallen by the wayside recently.
What I’m not going to do is set myself up to fail again, trying to be some kind of multi-tasking octopus going full throttle on barely any sleep.
Do you ever feel like this? Can you relate?