Well, hello to you all. To those of you who have managed to palm off at least one of your offspring on to school, well played. To those of you who braved the family ‘holiday’ over the summer break, I applaud you (from what I’ve heard it’s essentially trying to parent in a hotter, more expensive environment, usually without the availability of a babysitter…for upwards of £1000. Fab). It has been what feels like lifetime since I had chance to blog, so I’m grabbing this opportunity as the toddler sits on the potty doing an unmentionable in front of Mr Tumble (on the TV, you understand), and I pretend I’m somewhere sophisticated with alcohol on tap.
Sod a dog, I feel like I’m finally emerging from a particularly long, dark tunnel into something resembling a light- although it’s been so long since I saw light that I’m not sure I recognise it. When I last wrote, Bean was a serial sling napper. Well, after some military efforts we managed to get her napping in the cot, and for three weeks life was frickin’ sweet. I felt like I finally knew how the ‘other’ mums felt whose babies that actually slept without the need of a support crew and sacrificial offerings to the gods beforehand. You see, it’s not just because I want time to sit and drink tea (although that would be all kinds of AWESOME)- it’s the toddler. She’s flicked from ‘angel’ into ‘life-ruiner’ mode, and is no longer content sitting in front of CBeebies for 20 minutes whilst I wrestle her little sister to bed like bloody Crocodile Dundee. She’d rather be scaling the mantle piece, or saddling up the Jack Russell whilst shoving 3 DVDs into the Playstation. So Bean going to sleep without a great deal of fuss became a necessity rather than a ‘desirable’ quality in order to keep her sister…well, alive I suppose.
Except, she decided this was the time to catch Bronchiolitis (selfish) and then a second chest infection (more selfish), and sleeping ceased completely. Like, ENTIRELY. We went from a baby who would nap for up to 2 hours in the cot and through the night (which had taken a lot of hard graft before anyone readies the instruments of torture for my smugness), to 6 wakings overnight and 20 minute naps in the carrier on a GOOD DAY. And she was understandably clingy and just downright miserable. It was a complete nightmare, made even more nightmarish by the fact I literally couldn’t leave the toddler alone for one minute without her breaking something, or maiming herself.
So one day it all came to a head. Bean was screaming upstairs and Pickle was screaming in the lounge simultaneously, at that volume that only kids can. You know the one; “Louder than hell”. I was rooted to the spot in the hallway between them, and I had absolutely no idea what to do. None at all. Nada. I couldn’t move. My brain was metaphorically tapping its pockets then shrugging at me as if to say “Sorry, literally haven’t got a clue. You’re on your own”. So I did what any self-respecting, in control, ‘I-can-have-it-all’ woman would do; I cried. Big, fat, heavy tears. Tears of frustration. Tears of sorrow and shame that I wasn’t ‘enough’. Tears that were testament to the fact that I felt completely lost. In over my head. Clueless. Useless. Like a child myself. Never before had I felt so completely without instincts or direction. I was exhausted. I was out of ideas. I was grieving for the idea I’d had of being a mum which, so far, had not come to pass. I was angry. Why had no one told me it would be THIS hard? Who the HELL said that going from 1 to 2 children was an easy transition?! Of course, I know if you had a friend spewing that kind of negative crap about you’d never invite them to anything as they’d be total bastards, but you see my point. I’d been so disciplined at telling myself how ‘fine’ having two very dependent little people would be (rather than my usual pessimistic self) that I hadn’t really prepared myself for how very, very un-fine it can be at times. It may only happen once of twice, or it may feel like a daily occurrence, but at some point having more than one kid Vs. only one adult is a complete bloody disaster.
Why am I writing about this? Why does any of this matter? Well, I’m writing about it because I was quite scared by how this all made me feel after one, and then two, and then three weeks of illness, antibiotics, sleeplessness, toddler tantrums, and food refusal. I started to feel numb, and I started to feel sad. And I was finding it very hard to not feel numb and sad a lot of the time. I felt like my world was getting very small, and by this time the toddler had started going on violent rampages in public (I’m told it’s just a phase?!), so going out felt even more impossible. Luckily, I have a mum nearby who is 24 carat gold and camped out with me and kept my spirits up, or if that failed took the kids out so I could have half an hour to just ‘be’. I have an awesome husband who shared the night wakings and made sure there was always wine in the house. I also had very open and honest conversations with friends who gave me hugs and cake, and agreed they’d felt the same at times, and yes, this parenting thing is really hard. And I think that it’s important to share the sad and numb times, as well as the pithy stories about baby vomit and online forums. Because in this world of Instagrammed toddler outfit ‘Flat-lays’ and Facebooked ‘brand-rep’ babies, the shitty bits get buried and normal experiences start to feel like failures or even catastrophes. And that isn’t right. In fact, it’s dangerous. So maybe by sharing the good, the bad, and the ugly it might encourage someone to do the same when it really matters.
So, hand on heart, I can honestly say that parenting kicked the crap out of me this month. But with a little help, a little more gin, and a lot of sweaty rants, I’m clambering back up onto the horse to have another go.