Before I had kids, I used to think:
- what do stay at home mums do all day?
- what can be so tough about bringing up kids?
- why do parents moan in that affectionate way about having kids?
Before I gave birth, while still pregnant I signed up for an online 2 year part time course, thinking it would be a breeze. After all, I was only having a baby. I would have plenty of time to do this course! Wrong!!
Jake was my first child and the first few months were a complete shock! Why? non-parents are thinking! Oh yes! other mums are thinking!
So what was the problem? Well, imagine starting a new job but you haven't seen the job description. Nobody tells you what you are supposed to be doing, or how to do it, or what's going to happen next. Imagine having to learn it all from scratch. You ask people for help: everyone tells you something different. Things don't work out the way you expect them to. There is a small baby, who is suddenly the most important person in your life, and all you care about is making sure this small person is happy. But they are unhappy a lot, it seems, and what should have been easy (feeding, changing nappies, sleeping) seems to be very difficult.
I had struggles with breastfeeding and felt extremely disappointed that I couldn't do it. I was very worried about my baby who was not putting on enough weight and seemed to be getting thin when babies I knew should be chubby. Nobody could tell me why this was happening. I was under pressure not to give up exclusive breastfeeding, and I was under pressure to introduce bottlefeeding. In retrospect, this is a very bad state in which to spend one's first months as a mother. If I knew what I knew now, I would do things differently.
Well, we got over the breastfeeding difficulties: I introduced formula and eventually Jake was formula fed completely after 2.5 months. He started getting chubby! Hooray, here comes the chubby baby I was expecting! With his gorgeous dimples....
Next comes other difficulties. Sleeping...groan. Naptimes? My baby seems to take catnaps and wake easily. I don't know what to do. I need some time to do some housework and other things. But unless he is sleeping, my baby needs me to give him attention or he feels lonely. Then there's feeding and changing nappies that is needed frequently. And when he does have a sleep, I know it isn't going to be long so I can't bring myself to start something that I am unlikely to be able to finish! And I need to relax as much as I can so that I can recharge my batteries in order to be a responsive mother when he is awake. there's simply no time for housework.
At night, he wakes regularly and I find myself getting angry with him because I have to wake up from a delicious sleep and rest to a crying baby. Then I feel guilty because I got angry with a tiny helpless baby whom I love. then I get upset because I'm not the perfect mother I'm trying to be.
The first few months were hard. But as he grew, there were times when he would play happily by himself lying nude in the sun until he dozed off and meanwhile I would be able to zoom around and do the essential bits of housework.
Then he got older and able to move around. I have to keep watch on where he is and what he's doing so that I know he is safe. That means I am unable to concentrate on other tasks while he is awake.
Then he starts to talk, and begins making demands for things and needing more stimulation so I have to take him out to play. Then I have to start teaching him what he can and can't do and helping him with the consequences of what he does. I need to give him extra attention now that his imagination works well, as he develops fears and anxieties. I need to start potty training. I need to manage fussy food habits and my own anxiety about his getting a balanced diet.
Then I have another baby!!!! Now there are two!!!! There are no buts. It is hard work, it's stressful, it's undervalued as a job. Motherhood is the most important job anyone can have (even dads!), and I love it!