It has been another restless night and despite my plans to be Mrs Oh-So-Relaxed-Superwoman this time, I am feeling the stress of a baby who has fallen out with his moses basket and a toddler who needs more from me than I can sometimes spare. Oh and several million things I am behind on at home. But hey, they say that stuff doesn’t matter, I know. Until of course the toddler has no clean trousers and we have run out of nappies, and food.
Amid the chaos of the first weeks with a new baby, I sometimes find myself trapped in a state of change and exhaustion, like so many before and after me. We are all adapting to our new normal, my dinky little son the most; still figuring out why he’s no longer inside me and wondering how come my heartbeat has been replaced by ‘Babbling Brook Sounds: White Noise’ from YouTube.
Sometimes he is fooled, others, not so much.
So I want to get this down while my hands are free and before I risk drowning in thoughts of all the things I can’t do right now, or can’t do well.
Because actually, I am doing a great job, and so are you.
I can’t seem to sweep the kitchen floor in one go, even though it is only a five minute job, and the clean washing is piled high over every spare surface with realistically no hope of finding its proper home. I know why this is – I am busy. A toddler and a newborn take up time, almost all of my time. There are long feeds, meals to prepare, baths to run, games to play, crying to soothe, appointments to attend and in between it all; sleep to snatch.
Yet despite this, things niggle at me; things I know shouldn’t really matter and things I am certain I will look back on and wonder why I cared about them.
I don’t want to succumb to guilt and pressure this time, I don’t want to run myself into the ground. Having our two children is all we’ve wanted, we are so in love and complete. I don’t want to miss this, to forget the important parts of raising our boys by getting lost in impossible and ultimately unimportant standards which are completely self-imposed.
Because I am already doing a great job, and so are you.
Being a parent means adapting to circumstances which can change not just daily, but hourly. Babies are unpredictable, toddlers are high maintenance. Both are demanding, reliant and – luckily – loveable. I may have five minutes before the baby loses his rag in the bouncer to dress the toddler and myself, but that unfortunately clashes with my eldest one’s plans to run around with pants on his head followed by an almighty tantrum when I try to intervene. And I may be packed and ready to head out, maximising the preciously short window between feeds and screams when the baby fills his nappy, then, while being changed, pees over both of us. And I may with the greatest of ambitions, begin a blog post about cutting ourselves some slack but end up typing most of it with one finger while trying to soothe a newborn back to sleep on my chest with a desperate pat. (Do excuse typos.)
So it is okay that I struggle to make dinner, or am unable to get anywhere on time, or that things feel busy and disorganised and of course; that I am not perfect.
Because I am doing a great job, and so are you.
Last week I sat feeding our three-week-old baby; he fed and fed, burped and groaned and fed some more. He grunted and nuzzled, slept and startled. The feed took an hour in all and I noted the day slipping by and wondered how much longer it would be before I could settle him in his pram. My gaze kept drifting towards my feet, where I spied biscuit crumbs and carpet fluff; the place could really do with a clean. Our toddler sat happily beside me on the iPad, cheering each time he matched a pair of diggers and I thought, ‘I mustn’t get into the habit of him needing this, we should be playing, I should be taking him outside – and in between the rest – I should hoover.’
Maybe, what I should have thought was this: ‘My baby is being fed. He is brand new to this world and getting what he needs – milk, comfort, love, closeness. He is happy. My toddler is enjoying himself. He is not feeling left out – he is snuggled in close and having fun as well as some much-needed downtime. He is happy too.
Because I am doing a great job, and so are you.’
The house will eventually get cleaned and the washing done – there is after all my husband – daddy and duster extraordinaire. But the reality is this won’t actually change my day or make me happy. And then it will get messy again and the laundry will pile up, and I shouldn’t let that ruin my day or make me stressed.
There will be days I play with my boy a lot: cars, puzzles and sand – we will do it all – sometimes I will nail the whole stimulating play gig, we might even do some goddam baking and I will resist swearing when half the cake batter gets lobbed on the floor.
Some days, though, I will break my promise of the park, not make it to the potty on time, resent the baby’s screams, lose my patience, struggle to get dressed, forget to make dinner and feel like I’m failing at everything.
It will be this way, in varying forms, for many years I know, not just the earliest months. We all feel challenged by parenting, we all struggle sometimes, we all doubt ourselves.
But I am still doing a great job, and so are you.
There will be good times and bad times; frustration, joy, laughter plus irrational, overtired tears. There will be magical moments and ones I would rather forget. There will be times that, although I know it is wrong and stupid to put myself under pressure, I will do it anyway. And others where I will go with the flow… cut myself some slack and realise: that I am doing a great job and so are you.
Because when our kids go to bed and when they wake up, they feel loved, secure and happy.
And that is because I am doing a great job – the best I can – and so are you.
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