If I had a pound for the number of times “it’s not forever” has been uttered in my ear in the wake of one parenting disaster or another, I’d probably live in a mansion in the Maldives rather than a three bed cottage in Devon. Ditto “It’s just a phase” / “enjoy them while they’re young” / “it goes so fast” etc etc.
While I know these phrases always come from a place of heartfelt meaning and kindness, they just don’t help. Not today, anyway. Because the thing is, I know it’s not forever. I know they’re only little once. I know I need to make the most of them while they’re young. So when I’m not? I get a double dose of mum guilt served up with a side of “I’m a bad person” drama.
You know what? The truth is, I don’t enjoy every moment of mum life. In fact, if I’m brutally honest, recently there have been some days when I haven’t enjoyed mum life at all. I feel like a horrible person for admitting this, but it’s really hard to enjoy the company of someone when they’re throwing glitter into every orifice of your home or screaming at you when you offer them the wrong colour socks. It might seem like jokes and lols and chirpy parental camaraderie but, actually, after a while the constant toddler mayhem and inability to go for a solo wee for 20 seconds grinds you down a bit. Or it does me, at least.
The thing is, it’s a very different thing to say you don’t always like the company of your child compared with you don’t LIKE your child. I like both my children very much. I love them from the tops of the fluffy hair on their head down to the tips of their tiny toenails. But do I always like being with them? No.
Of course it’s just a phase. And I know it’s not forever. And yes I’m grateful for having healthy happy kids and a roof over our heads and food in our bellies. But it is possible to feel simultaneously lucky and #blessed while also wishing you could clap your hands and just have one moment – one teensy tiny 2 minute moment – without a small person hammering you with a barrage of irrational requests and threenager meltdowns.
Our best weekdays are ones where I can give Effie 100% attention 100% of the time. Days where we drop Freya at school and go for an adventure. It doesn’t matter where we go or what we do, so long as I’m entirely focused on her she is happy. The picture of content, an angel child that people literally stop me in the street to comment on. We can’t walk 20 paces without her making a new friend or an old lady bending down to ask her her name or tell her how lovely and beautiful she is. On those days we’re the picture of Insta-perfection. Happy mum and happy child, walking hand in hand chattering away, loving being together.
But of course not every day can be like that. Some days need to include laundry, or life admin phone calls to the bank, or a quick email, or just basic tidying of dirty dishes. Or even – heaven forbid – a trip to the toilet. And these are the days I struggle with. Because Effie currently needs 100% of my attention 100% of the time and, actually, it’s 100% impossible to give it.
As I cried down the phone to my husband earlier, he repeated the “it’s not forever” line. It was his desperate attempt to cheer me up after a pretty disastrous morning. But all it did was make me feel worse. It made me worry I would look back on these days with regret at not “cherishing” every moment. It made me feel guilty for looking forward to January when Effie will be in pre-school for three full days a week. It made me wonder if it was possible to put off laundry, life admin and all other related essentials of adult life until January – because, ideally, that’s what I’d need to do in order to enjoy every moment with my mini whirlwind before she ups her hours at pre-school.
I DO cherish all the good moments, really I do. But the shit ones? Those I’d rather forget. As for forever, I’ll be the first to admit that rather than be sad it’s not forever, I’m GLAD. Who wants a tantrum to stretch to infinity or a life of never-ending company on the toilet? Not me. And I don’t think that makes me a bad mum, just an honest one.