Parenting doesn’t come with a manual.
Well, actually – if you live in the UK they do give you two books when you first fall pregnant. Compiled by the leading experts in their fields the books cover “Pregnancy and Birth” and then “0 to 5”. They’re a bit like manuals. And you can buy books and find websites a plenty on the subject too.
And if you’re a first time Mum or Dad, you may just read those books from cover to cover. You may also find yourself watching TV shows like ‘Great Expectations’ and ‘Super Nanny’ with renewed interest.
But no matter how much prepping you do, how much reading and research, you really just ain’t gonna fully understand parenting, until you start being a parent.
I should go back and check my books, because I’m not sure if the information’s actually there and I just ignored it at the time, in my rosy glow of pregnancy.
But I don’t remember anybody telling me quite how much my life was going to change. Nor my body for that matter!
As soon as I knew I was pregnant that first time, I knew I wanted to be a ‘stay at home Mum’. I went on maternity leave from my fulltime job already knowing in my heart that I wasn’t going back. I am ambitious, I had every intention of working as soon as my new baby was starting preschool. But those first years, from 0-3, to me (and each to their own) it felt totally natural to be with my children, be the main carer, their main influence. I appreciate that I was lucky enough to be able to choose too.
And my life changed totally. That first year or so in particular I remember being all about our new baby. A little bit about my Hubby. And bugger all about myself.
I quickly learnt to express my feelings loud and clear to Hubby, who’d gone back to work and was largely unaware of quite how hard I was finding it. “I’m tired, like, ALL the time”, “I’m running on half-battery”, “I really didn’t realise how hard this would be”, “YOU just don’t understand how hard this is” and “What happened to my BODY!!”.
Thank Jimminy, he heard me. He got stuck into fatherhood and his life changed too. And he loves it. Today, with a four year old and a two year old, he’s a hands on Dad at every opportunity he gets. And we learnt to love my new, post childbirth body together!
But if you’re not careful to keep time for you and for you and your partner, you can get lost in those first years of motherhood.
All your focus is on your baby, and I found I had to try really hard to remember to sod the housework at times, and do something just for me or to focus on Hubby and I for a change. To make me feel good, to remind me that ‘me’ is important.
I’m glad I did, today I feel I’m developing into a stronger Mother because of it. And I always was a strong woman.
I get to work from home too, which has worked out so perfectly. I really do feel lucky every single day that my three main ‘jobs’ – Childcare, House Maid and Business Owner – can all happen in the same space. My home! It definitely makes the juggling act easier.
But I wonder sometimes if I should have been more selfless. Was that a selfish voice in my head, moaning about how hard motherhood was? Wanting time for me?
I don’t know, but I’m glad that I forced the issue. Asked Hubby for more help, made the space for me time from time to time. Kept my outside interests and ambitions going and kept Hubby and I’s romance going. It’s all as important as that new baby, who demands so much of your energy and time.
And if I have a daughter or daughter-in-law, and she’s pregnant with her first child one day, then I think I’d offer her this advice.
Ignore the housework some days, do something just for you at least once a day. Do something for you and your partner at least once a day. Make sure your partner knows how you’re feeling, it is REALLY, FRIGGIN HARD!! So ask for help when you need it. Especially when you need a break, that’s what Grannies and Auntys are for.
Oh, and learn to love your new body! It gave you your children, which is pretty darned cool and amazing, let it bear the scars.
And I’ll remind myself of that too, next time I’m whingeing about not being able to wear a bikini anymore.