There’s no longer any shame in admitting that motherhood is hard work. Thanks to the internet and an abundance of fantastic women who will openly tell their friends, foes and followers that sometimes motherhood makes them want to curl up in a puddle of wine, it’s a now truth universally acknowledged.
And thank god for the support of the mum tribe out there.
Not all of them. Some still do like to pretend that it’s a walk in the park and they feel nothing but gratitude and sunshine for their little bundle of organically fed, impeccably behaved joy.
I don’t buy that bullshit for a second.
My small human is not yet two but I have learned a few truths about the motherhood and being a parent that I wanted to share. These lessons cover everything from straight after birth to the toddler doom.
1. You don’t feel like a mother right away
You feel different, you feel changed and you feel completely out of your tree – but the feeling that your planet has refocused towards this being feels so alien you don’t quite identify it to mothering quite yet. It takes a few days or weeks for it to really bed in.
You look at your small baby and think ‘holy shit’ but it might take time for you to really get it. Like months.
Now though, I’m like, ‘what even was I before I was his mum?’ It feels like he’s always been there, a part of me and now he’s there, like he was always meant to be. If that makes sense?
2. Breastfeeding actually is (or can be) bloody hard work at first
So don’t shoot me down for not screaming from the rooftops that it’s best and the most natural way to feed your baby (it is) but what they don’t tell you in those Breast is Best leaflets handed to you in pregnancy is that it’s painful at first, relentless and makes you feel like you’re a lactating machine all day and all night for weeks and weeks and some more weeks.
It can make your nipples bleed, it can cause searing pain through the breast at time of latch and throughout the feed (and no this isn’t always down to bad latch- my son’s latch was perfect, it just flipping well hurt).
But, we know that it is the ideal nutrition created by your body to match their need and development, it gives your child an excellent start in life and once it stops hurting, it becomes second nature and is a hell of a lot easier than getting out of bed to get a bottle ready with a screaming hungry baby in your arms.
I breastfed for 13 months and was officially done with it by then, but to tell you the truth, I often miss it. The snuggles, the feeling of us connecting like that. It’s a wonderful thing. Do if you can but don’t beat yourself up if you struggle.
3. You feel tremendously guilty about pretty much everything
Yeah, that mum guilt will really kick your ass. I am quite a self-torturing person anyway so once I had a real live human to care for, the guilt became almost overwhelming.
You feel bad for feeling fed up, you feel guilty for simply bringing this life into the world, you feel awful if you eat or drink something mildly unhealthy, you feel guilty if you stay in all day and guilty if you’re out and about all day (too much noise? Too much stimulation?). It’s a guilt ridden minefield, but it does get easier.
If you fancy a laugh, do read this wonderful woman’s post about the shitty guilt fairy.
4. There’s no such thing as a perfect parent
Some days I spend a lot of time preparing balance and nutritious organic meals and do not lose my temper when it gets thrown on the floor. Some days he gets a pouch of (still organic) mush and cheerios.
Some days we spend every waking moment reading, crafting, playing and interacting. Other days I let him watch TV for 2 hours while I either curl up or try and get something done in the home.
And guess what, on either of those days I’m still a good mum.
5. Don’t compare yourself to other mums on social media, it will only make you feel shit
If you have a load of Pinterest-worthy, perfect Instagram mums on your social media convincing you through their heavily filtered split second snap shots of domestic bliss, that their life is perfect and you’re doing it all wrong – then please, relax.
Those mums are only showing you the snippet of their day they actually want you to see. You don’t see their toddler tantrums in supermarkets, their frenzied school run rush in the mornings, their worries and troubles, and the days when they leave the house with only one sock on and baby snot in their hair. People love to show you polished versions of themselves and their lives, but underneath it all we’re all going through the same struggle. Which brings me to the next point:
6. You need mum friends.
If you’re the first in your social circle to bite it and have a child, then sorry to be the bearer of bad news but you’re going to need some more friends. Child-free friends are sympathetic and interested up to a point, but they will not fully understand your life anymore now that the motherhood is upon you.
Go to groups, join a class, join social media communities for mums in your area and make the effort to go.
Surround yourself with mums who support you and say ‘oh my god, same’ when you confess to stuff like drinking wine straight from the bottle the minute you finally get your little bugger to sleep. Those kinds of friendships will make you stronger, believe me.
7. You can withstand anything
When things get really really tough and you think you can’t take any more, more is thrown at you and you manage. Each phase from newborn to late babyhood to toddlerhood brings new challenges and new delights.
You are stronger than you think you are and remember, this too shall pass. Each bad patch ends. And you emerge tougher and more confident to tackle the next.
And really, the foundation of your ability to withstand anything is the absolutely all consuming true love you feel for your child.
8. You aren’t prepared for motherhood and nothing can prepare you
You might think you’re prepared, because you’ve bought all the baby things and your house feels ready and you’ve even pre-registered for all the lovely newborn classes and attended every antenatal class you could find. You might have taken a first aid course, read every baby book under the sun and be able to rattle off the different parenting approaches and the associated pros and cons.
But once you’ve given birth and you bring your baby home, you realise that no amount of any of those preparation methods will actually get you ready for the real thing. Only having the child can do that.
Don’t worry. You learn. You fail, you cry, you try again and you get through. None of us know what we’re doing.
9. There is no one-rule-fits-all. All babies and children are different
This is so true – and something that every parent forgets at some stage, I’m sure. You end up so bogged down in the ‘by this age, your baby should be’ lists on whatever website you’ve found or what your Facebook friends’ babies are doing that you forget that a) every baby is different- they’re like snowflakes and b) who gives a fuck what they’re doing- your baby will reach their milestones at their own damn pace.
Children all develop at different speeds up until the age of three, when development levels out. After then, you can worry if your little one isn’t doing what they ‘should be’. Until then, don’t sweat it and enjoy them.
10. ‘Leaving the house’ is no longer a simple task, it’s an actual military operation.
This is true of the newborn phase when you’re still getting used to carting about a living breathing human who needs a SHITLOAD of stuff when you’re both out and about. It’s actually true of every single phase in your child’s life (has been the case for 19 months over here).
And if yours is anything like mine, they will sense the moment you are locking the door and going towards the car and delight in using that moment to evacuate their bowels in what can only be described as a POONAMI, inevitably blowing through 3 layers of clothes and necessitating a full change there and then.
11. There is a strange parallel universe where all of the baby socks go. Just the one out of the pair.
If I had a penny for every one of Zac’s socks that has mysteriously disappeared, I could probably afford to fund an all inclusive 3 week holiday to that underwater hotel in Dubai.
12. All the stuff you said about being a parent before you were actually a parent can be discarded from public record for ever
Pre-parent me was a dick. Oh I’m never going to let MY child watch TV or YouTube until they’re at least 2. Oh MY child will have no sweets, no crisps and will NOT be eating a chicken nugget until they’re in school. I’m not going to be one of those mums who can’t hold a conversation with an adult when the baby is in the room. I will not become this, I will not turn into that…
You know nothing Jon Snow.
Baby Einstein videos on YouTube was actually the only way I could have a shower and get dressed – baby was under six months when I discovered this. I now use CBeebies to cook dinner and Moana to empty the dishwasher. I use Little Baby Bum to get ready in the morning and to keep him awake in the car on the way home so I can get him down in his cot. That’s life.
What parents did before the technology to entertain them is beyond me.
As for the forbidden foods, well. When your toddler won’t eat a thing for days on end, you learn that if they will eat a chicken nugget or a bowl of dry cheerios in that time, you’ll gladly serve it up on a damn silver platter if it means they will actually eat.
Holding a conversation with someone when your baby is crying? Ha. Nope, I could have nodded my head in agreement to the most obscene questions imaginable, like ‘Don’t you think Theresa May is brilliant?’ to ‘Shall we have coffee instead of wine?’
You can’t concentrate on anything except the sound of their turmoil because that is the sound you are tuned into and cannot ignore. You’re a mum.
What lessons have you learned from motherhood?