I read this post “Why do parents make parenting sound so God-awful?” recently and then again on DailyLife under the title “Do parenting blogs put women off motherhood?” and I’ve heard childless friends express similar feelings, so I thought I’d throw a little glimmer of hope your way.
I’ll start by saying that I don’t think it’s all bad to vent online, or in real life, it can be liberating, entertaining, and it can still be brave. I know for myself, I was telling people that I was feeling great, how much I loved being a mum, how easy my son was as a newborn – that he was sleeping well – gosh it was a fairy tale that everyone said it would be! While in actual fact I was struggling to bond with my baby, who screamed for up to 2-3 hours every single day for no reason, he fed every 2 hours around the clock, I didn’t have much practical support and all while this was going on I’d put myself down multiple times a day if I even dared think how hard it all was, because my little boy had stopped breathing at 11 days old and he came back to me, so I’d tell myself I should be just be grateful for that, and never complain.
So, speaking about those things was brave – for me – because I believed if everyone else thought I was fine, that I would be okay and if people knew I wasn’t, then I thought I’d fall apart. When, in fact, the opposite was closer to the truth.
I can imagine how scary all the “horror stories” of sleepless nights, poo-explosions, tantrums, hassles of taking children out, messy house, endless laundry and no privacy or space could be to someone planning a family, or pregnant with their first. It certainly does paint a very unpleasant picture of what parenting is like. While we do often follow up with “but it’s worthwhile” “it’s rewarding” “I wouldn’t change it for the world” I imagine that is hard to believe with all the negativity out there.
But it IS – it truly IS worthwhile. So I thought I’d have a shot at sharing some of the things that are amazing and wonderful about being a parent – to try to balance the scales a little.
- When I was pregnant, I never felt alone. It was the most magical feeling knowing that someone very small and very precious was inside me, and was very much a part of me. Feeling them kick, roll and stretch, finding little hands and feet through my belly. It’s an indescribable feeling, but it’s wonderful feeling to be that close to someone.
All the “Firsts”, first ultrasound, first kick, first contraction, first feed, first night, first week, first smile, first roll, first crawl, first stand, first walk, first word, first time they look at you and say “mummy” or “daddy”, first time they kiss you, or wrap their arms around you. There are so many wonderful “firsts”.
- Night time feeds. I’m sure I’m not the only person who sort of loves that time with a new baby where they wake in the middle of the night, when everyone else is asleep, and the house is silent, it’s just me and my baby, and as far as I’m concerned we’re the only people in the world, staring at each other through the soft light. This is when my baby girl would smile for the first time, around 5 weeks old, when getting up for night feeds was starting to get exhausting, one night I went to feed her and she looked me right in the eye and smiled up at me. It was a breathtaking moment. Then she didn’t smile all the next day, until again in the middle of the night when it was just her and I, she gave me another little smile. It was like our own little secret, I started to look forward to those night feeds. Though soon after she was smiling all day long.
Watching my children play together or hearing my older boy speak nicely to his sister, asking her if she wants to share his toys or if he can tickle her belly. How much they love each other amazes me. They also offer boundless forgiveness to one another – they can fight bitterly one minute and cuddle the next.
- Seeing how much my partner loves our kids. There is something heart-explodingly lovely about seeing a man cherish his children, especially when it’s the man I love caring for the children we made.
When the kids are naughty in the most delightful ways, those moments where you have to use all your self-control not to laugh when you should be telling them “no”.
- Breastfeeding for me as been one of the coolest things about being a mum. Obviously I KNEW where milk comes from – ya know – cows… and it makes its way from the dairy to my fridge via trucks and stuff. It blows my mind sometimes that I produce milk, without particularly knowing much about how. I just do it. And have done it fairly effortlessly, for 5 years. In fact, I’m doing it right now (I’m on the computer, so my toddler thinks that’s an invitation for a feed) The “I make milk. What’s your Superpower” T-shirt pretty much summarises how I feel about breastfeeding.
- Giggles melt everything away, even if they’re giggling at their own brilliance when they do something cheeky and you cant help but giggle with them.
How funny nap-attacks are – when babies, toddlers and children just fall asleep without warning in the most bizarre positions and uncomfortable locations. Often in high chairs, or mid-play.
- How much we love each other. The “live for you, die for you” love. It’s intense and scary and beautiful and overwhelming. It makes everything okay and everything worthwhile. The way my kids love me, with so much trust and adoration, can pull me up out of any bad mood. I can be frustrated with my little boy not falling asleep on his own and he just needs to say “Mummy, I just want you to stay with me” and I just can’t help but give him another big cuddle and lay with him until he falls asleep. And as difficult as it can be that my daughter gets distressed if I’m ever separated from her (even to have a shower or go to the toilet alone) the way she holds onto me and says “mummy!” and kisses my face when I come back to her (from all the time I was away in the loo) it’s hard not to get caught up in being loved so much.
Imitation, as they say, is the sincerest form of flattery. And little ones learn often by copying their parents, so it’s endearing seeing yourself in their actions.
- Baby smell. Oh my goodness – baby smell. Baby smell should be bottled and preserved. Newborns heads, baby’s breath, even my kids still smell beautiful to me, simply because it’s their smell. I could breathe them in all day. (Okay, of course babies and children come with a whole bunch of less-than-wonderful smells, but like some kind of baby addict, I actually even like the smell of off-milk on a new baby.)
Children are the funniest people, even when they don’t mean to be. The things they do and say. My 5 year old often strikes up conversations about wees and poos, like it’s a perfectly normal dinnertime conversation. Sometimes just the way children speak the simplest and most sincerest truths, can be hilarious. Or the questions they ask, like today my son asked “Why is bark around a tree and bark how dogs talk?” and I answered that they’re the same word, but they have different meanings, and he said “I think that trees need bark and dogs need to bark, so that’s why they sound the same”. Or they just do funny things because they don’t see the world how we do, they don’t know they’re being funny.
- Everything they do can be adorable and endearing, because they do it. Whether it’s the blindness of love, or these things are genuinely cute, but things like baby farts, that they just let rip, sometimes loud enough to challenge any adult man’s farting ability, it’s just delightful. Made even funnier when they get old enough to laugh at their own farts… though less funny when they get old enough to laugh at yours (in public, especially if they follow it up by “Do you need to do a poo mummy?”) And their sweet little sad faces, my toddler dissolves me when she drops her bottom lip and her big eyes tear up.
- …Tiny socks and shoes…
Does that help make it seem a little better? What are the best things about being a parent for you?