Dear Me… Pre-kids, well rested Me,
I know it doesn’t really matter what I write here- you’ll probably skim over a lot of the advice, thinking you’ll master motherhood with a few months of practice. I know you’re not being cocky, it’s just you’ve not really been in a situation before that couldn’t be overcome with a strategy, hard work and perseverance, so why would you think any differently? I just wanted to tell you a few things to try to ease the stress and self-doubt that will become pretty relentless companions over the next few years. Oh, how I truly wish you could hear me.
Don’t mistake me- you will never regret having children, and you will love them more than life itself. They will light up your world, and the first time they do an independent turd on the potty you’ll want to put them forward to be elected as leader of the free world, such will be your admiration of them. But with those dizzying highs; setting eyes on them for the very first time, all waxy and smushed, or feeling their hot cheek pressed against yours as they whisper ‘Mama’ in your ear, come some pretty awful lows when you wonder just what the hell you’ve done getting on this rollercoaster in the first place. A ride that’ll make you feel like a rock star one minute, and a shell of a person the next. It’s all part of the journey, and from what I’ve seen, it’s inescapable. A rite of passage for all mothers out there.
You’re used to being fairly successful when you put your mind to things- you’ve always worked hard, been organised and have done well because of that drive and determination. Now, YOU NEED TO HEAR THIS; it won’t matter how hard you work, or how in control you try to be. There will be times (and sometimes it may seem constant) when things feel impossible and like they’re falling apart. Hear me when I say: This is entirely NORMAL. Kids don’t give two shits that you were up until midnight pureeing organic veggies for tomorrows lunch, or that you need to be at the dentist by 1pm because you can’t take the horrendous toothache that you’ve now been putting up with for a month as you keep failing to call the surgery before closing time. They will spit that lovingly made, eye-wateringly expensive mush onto the carpet with glee, and soil themselves with their worst Poonami to date two minutes before you need to leave for that appointment…and there won’t be a thing you can do about it, or anything you could have done to prevent it. They are tiny humans with no understanding beyond what their bodies need, moment to moment. Do not take it personally. Although you may feel at times like they hate you and are trying to mess things up on purpose, they’re honestly not. Babies don’t have a clue what’s going on, and toddlers spend most of their time excited, angry or confused. So I repeat, do not take it personally. You are the most important and comforting thing in their overwhelming and precarious world, so give yourself some worth.
You will also feel like you are failing- a lot of the time, and in a variety of roles; Mother. Wife. Partner. Lover. Professional. Friend. You will feel like you are coming up wanting. You’re not. It’s unrealistic to think it’s possible to hold down a regular job whilst being a mother, Stepford Wife with a penchant for nymphomania, and still meet the girls for cocktails every Friday night. Some people may manage it, but most don’t. And that’s totally OK. It’s not failing. It’s just life. And it will change as your little ones become less physically dependent on you.
Because of your particular personality, you’ll struggle with your house and surroundings being untidy and unorganised. But, remember the reason that the housewives of the 50’s had pristine houses and dinner on the table at five sharp is because it was totally fine to leave the baby screaming in the pram at the end of the garden with a cat net over it for hours on end- that’s how they were encouraged to parent back then. I was chatting to Nan a few weeks ago about how on earth she had 4 children under 5 when I was on the verge of a nervous break down just with two, and she simply said: “There just wasn’t the kind of pressure you girls are under these days- we just had to keep them clean and safe.” And she’s right. There is too much white noise of opinion out there on Net-twats, or Baby-clairvoyants.com, about how you should parent your own children. You know your child the best, even if you’re a first time mum who feels totally out of her depth. If you want to co-sleep, do it! If the thought of baby led weaning makes you feel faint and need to steady yourself on the furniture, use a different approach. And for goodness sake, if someone disagrees with your approach and starts pushing unsolicited advice on you, stand your ground. You’ve got this. You’re a Mama Bear.
Surround yourself with people. People you can cry in front of. People you can rage in front of. People you respect. People who respect you. People who can drink copious amounts of coffee and know the best cake shops. These are the people who will get you through the tough times. The times you want to jack it all in and move to Vegas. The times when you don’t think you can do it anymore. The times you’re so exhausted you can’t see or think straight, and your whole body hurts. These are the people who love you, and want to support you. So let them. Just let them.
Learn to laugh at everything that isn’t really important. Try not to sweat the small stuff, like a messy house or having your third takeaway/microwave meal of the week. Be kind to yourself; book in for a regular haircut or manicure. Don’t feel guilty for wanting and needing a bit of ‘Me’ time. You’re still a person in your own right, and you need some time to remember and value this. You are still ‘you’.
It’s hard. Really bloody hard. You’ll probably never feel well rested again, and wonder how you ever complained about only having 7 hours sleep of a night before you became a parent. But your kids love you more than they know how to love anything… and that is worth everything.
You’ll do just fine, Mama-to-Be.