Embracing The Village

My partner went on a 5-night stag do this week.

Aside from all the usual un-fun-stuff that pissess off wives and girlfriends during times like these, I was left alone with the small people.

For 5 nights.

Alone.

I love my kids, but 5 nights alone with a 3 month old and a 2 1/2 year old is too many. I knew I had to suck it up and ask for help.

It was hard.

I realised that asking for, and accepting help was just as daunting to me as doing the dinner, bed and bath routines without it.

I have beautiful friends that really have never let me down; they are incredibly supportive, patient, understanding, and they are amazing with my wildlings  children,

but it was still so hard.

I don’t know if it’s something to do with desperately trying to cling to whatever pride I have left, now that I live amongst the carnage of 3 boys (2 little and one big), or that I feel like I have so many unrepaid favours already, or maybe I’m just in denial.. but now that I actually have this magical ‘village’ to help with my kids, I’m barely opening the door.

On night 1 we absolutely smashed it. Both kids were fed, bathed and sleeping.

On night 2 the toddler and I had rice cakes for dinner. The baby couldn’t bath with the toddler because he was such a grub, we had literally 4 powercuts and the only way I got them to sleep was on either side of me in my bed.

Night 3 I had help, takeaway, wine, and a mental breakdown.

Night 4 I was beyond exhausted, the 2 year old slept for 5 minutes before freaking out about ‘the man’ in his room; he ended up downstairs narrating Survivor for me: ‘raining! Man! Man walking! Fire!’ etc. etc.. and I was refusing to accept my partner’s calls.

Night 5, thankfully, came at the end of an extra daycare day I had requested. It was relatively calm, but I ended up between kids again, and dinner was olives and crackers.

I had a massive amount of weekend help from 3 of my friends, especially on Saturday night and for swimming lessons on Sunday, but since then I have also had a heap of comments along the lines of: ‘you know I’m always here’ and ‘just yell out, I’m happy to help’.

It’s so silly that I felt so bad about asking for something I so clearly needed.

I know that when I make comments, and offer my help to someone, I am completely willing to actually do whatever it is I’ve said I would.. Aside from the warm and fuzzies I get from helping a friend, my favour tally really is that long, I feel relief whenever I can make a dent in it. But it’s also nice to feel useful, and trusted. I know that these friends are absolutely part of my family now, and I shouldn’t feel shame in treating them as such.

At the end of the day, I know I’ll be insulted if they pick another babysitter over me when their time comes.

Unless I’m part of the reason they need one, obviously.

Anyway, my partner learned never to do that again, and I learned that I just have to open up, and embrace my village.

 

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Awkward silences

My two (and a half) year old started at a new daycare this week.

It made me realise how much I dislike starting from scratch with people now.

It’s such a minor issue, but I’m so tired of explaining myself, and worrying about the impression I’m giving off. I also worry that if I don’t explain myself I’ll give off a much worse impression.. so I basically stand there like an idiot weighing up each option until too much time has passed and whoever I’m with feels awkward.

Winner.

It happened when I mentioned that N had started at daycare at 6 months; I wanted to explain that we have no family over here and I hadn’t slept since he was born.. he went for a few hours once a week so I could have a shower and he could be held by someone other than his dad and I. I went back in to breastfeed him whenever he was hungry because he refused a bottle, plus I didn’t want him to feel abandoned.. please don’t think I’m a bad mum.

But it’s a daycare centre and I didn’t want to act like there was anything wrong with a kid starting at 6 months, so I got confused and said nothing.

It happened when I asked about putting N in for one extra day a week for a month or so. I wanted to explain that I’m studying and hoping to finish ASAP so I can start to work from home; then we can save some money and maybe actually buy a house. I also feel like he’s so bored at home, but he scares the shit out of me when we go anywhere; he’s mostly really good, but he’s strong willed, and two, and I can’t always chase him while holding/feeding the baby. I wanted to explain that I also feel like I’m missing out on the tiny baby stage his brother is at, the one that I barely remember with him because he never slept and I was a zombie. I do love him though, please don’t think I’m a bad mum.

But I felt like the more I made excuses the crazier I’d look, so I kind of mumbled: ‘I’m studying, plus the baby..’ followed by an awkward silence.

It literally happens every time I’m around new mums, because I have this laid-back squish now, but N was so different, so I want to make suggestions if they are questioning themselves and their parenting, but I also want to add some sort of disclaimer every single time, like:

‘but that’s just what eventually worked for me, and I have two completely different kids, so I’m not trying to tell you I know everything, because I definitely don’t, and it only worked for one of them anyway, and please don’t think I’ll be offended if you don’t try it, I definitely won’t. Also sorry if you’re bored of me mentioning the never-sleeping-with-my-first thing, but I feel like I should explain that I don’t think I’m the best mum because this kid sleeps like an angel, I just got lucky and I know it. I’m still confused, but maybe just a bit less, because I’m aware of it getting easier? Anyway, you can tell me to shut up, I’m not easily offended. Please still be my friend?’

Some sort of shortened version usually comes out, or I just stick to my awkward silence. Winner.

At this point I’m not even sure what I come across as anymore. I’m not even sure how to explain that I start off caring what people think, but then I get tangled up and come out not caring at all, occasionally blaming my silence on being tired, but mostly just hoping to skip being awkward and  assume that you already know me.

Maybe you do, and I’m just being paranoid?

*Insert awkward silence*

Motherhood’s misrepresentations

(Part 2: self)

Back in the olden days I taught infants swimming lessons in Wimbledon. I worked 6 days a week; mostly singing nursery rhymes and playing with babies, but also trying to find ways to explain physical movements to little kids that were only just learning their own names.

I loved it.

I loved getting to know the families and watching the kids grow, I loved watching them learn, and most of all I loved the reward that came from helping someone conquer their fears.

I also had a lot of time to watch families.

Babies with their moods, their development, their body language. Toddlers with their stories, their demands, their tantrums. Children with their fears, their questions, their pride.

Parents with their babies, their toddlers, their children.

My job gave me this amazing access to literally hundreds of families, and with it came so many impressions on what to expect when my time came. How to hold my baby to show him/her that they are safe, that I am confident. How to talk to my toddler to show him/her that they are listened to, but I am in control. How to show my child that he/she is an individual, but I am always there, always supporting, encouraging, and disciplining.

Cut to 6 years later and the realization that not only do children change the game hourly, but your instincts do, too.

I know not to cling to my baby; that will make him sense my fear and panic.

I do not always know how to tell that to my arms.

I know that a tantrum needs calm, it needs patience, it needs love.

I do not always know how to provide those things, when (for whatever reason) I cannot find them within myself.

I know that my child has his own mind and needs freedom to be himself.

I do not always know how to explain that there is a time and a place for freedom of expression, and even then there are limits.

Yes you may play in the mud, run as fast as you like, sing ‘twinkle twinkle boat, row row spider, what you aaare’, but no, you may not throw mud at other kids, run towards cars and scream your glorious new musical interpretation at your sleeping baby brother.

I want to raise an individual, but I do not want to raise a dickhead.

I was so lucky to get some experience with kids before having them, but really nothing prepares you. It’s all well and good to have an idea, and yes, sometimes a screaming kid will listen to the calm voice of a friend/family member/teacher/stranger and suddenly behave, but that technique may have failed 9 times already for mum/dad that day. That kid may just be shocked into agreement. That kid probably won’t be testing their boundaries with that person the way that they do with their primary caregiver.

I’m glad I had some experience, but it’s so much easier from the outside.