One of my favourite moments in the day as a parent is the first few minutes after both girls have fallen asleep in the evening. It’s not because I hate spending time with them when they’re awake, but because those first few minutes they’re asleep, when everything is quiet and peaceful, give me a second to take stock of the day. If it’s been a good day I give myself a pat on the back. If it’s been a bad day I might have a little cry (or open the wine). Either way, that moment in the day is my moment to breathe, sit down and collect myself.
The fact I enjoy the quiet time after my girls have gone to bed does not make me a bad mother. Some days I even miss them after they’ve been in bed a while. What it does mean, though, is that I’ve come to an acceptance that parenting is many things – and “hard work” is one of them.
But you know what? That’s OK. It’s OK that it’s hard work and it’s OK to admit that you find it hard work. Being a mother is the single most challenging, relentlessly exhausting, uplifting, satisfying, joyous, heart-breakingly emotional thing I’ve ever done. To break it down into either “easy” or “hard” would be to simplify it way, way too much.
And here’s kind of my point. I’ve noticed a trend in blogging and social media generally over the past year or so. There seems to be a bit of divide between parents who “tell it like it is” and parents who are “positive”. The “real mums” versus the “Instagram mums”. I’m going to lay myself on the line here and say I don’t fit into either group, and neither do any of the mums I know in real life (i.e. not online). I respect and admire many bloggers on what I see as opposite ends of the spectrum, but that’s not to say I could easily fall into either “parenting blog niche” (for want of a better term).
I love my children but I don’t always love being a mum.
I love seeing them grow, spending time with them, watching those first laughs, kissing their hurt knees, making delicious meals for them. I don’t love trying to empty the dishwasher at the same time as consoling a crying baby and doing spellings with my five year old. I don’t love public tantrums, or crayons on the walls, or cold cups of tea. I love travelling with my kids and seeing their amazement at new places. I don’t love being stuck in a car in gridlocked traffic on the motorway with two grumpy children. I love the bedtime story and the cuddles after bathtime. I don’t love the screaming because my five year old doesn’t want to get water in her eyes when I wash her hair, or the wrestle to get the baby’s bedtime nappy on her.
It’s OK to feel like this and it’s OK to admit it. There are many, many things I love about my life as a mum. But that doesn’t mean I find motherhood easy all the time. Equally there are many, many things I don’t like, but that doesn’t mean I find it hard – not all the time at least!
This isn’t a dig at anyone who absolutely loves every second of their life as a parent. It’s not a dig at anyone who really struggles to find the joy in life with young children either. It’s just me, being honest about my feelings as a mum, because I feel like there’s been a lot of that online recently but I haven’t necessarily felt like everything I’ve read has related to me and my own experiences.
We were hit by a horrid sickness bug this weekend which meant my husband was off work sick today and my five year old was off school. At the end of the day the NLM turned to me and said, “I honestly don’t know how you do it, it’s easier going to work”. I laughed because, for me, today has been a successful day. Both girls are better and laughing. They’ve eaten the food I’ve put in front of them. We’ve done activities together, had cuddles, read stories, napped. I’ve managed to wash and sort through all the laundry, answered all my work emails and even taken some photos and done a full supermarket shop. I feel good this evening because I feel like I’ve done a good job as a mum. Not every day is like today.
I pointed out to my husband that life with two small children is full on, and that’s just how it is. Children are by their very nature noisy, inquisitive, impatient and (mine anyway) cheeky. Of course he knows this but it’s easy to forget when he’s at work Monday to Friday and only sees them at bedtime and weekends. I also pointed out that although it’s hard work juggling the needs of a baby and a five year old, it’s also pretty flipping rewarding when you get it right. He conceded on that point.
This post started out as a post about parenthood being tough, but I guess it’s actually about more than that. It’s about it being tough AND fun, tiring AND uplifting, patience-busting AND joyous. I guess what I want to say is that it’s OK for it to be all of these things, and it’s OK to admit it.
Or maybe that’s just me.