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.

 

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.

Motherhood’s misrepresentations

Part 1 (probably)

When I fell pregnant we were living in Queenstown NZ. It’s arguably one of the most beautiful places on earth and we had great friends there, but my partner is an Aussie, and had been offered a job in Queensland; it made sense for us to move.

Now, before this move, I had genuinely never worried about making friends as a grown up. I’d never even considered it. I’d moved country twice (alone), moved interstate (alone), travelled around Australia and New Zealand (alone), and made friends. Easy.

All of a sudden, I was 22 weeks pregnant, in a new place, unable to get a job and unable to go out drinking. My partner had a grand total of two friends in town (his boss and boss’ wife) and we had a life to build.

It was weird.

I was extremely lonely and extremely confused about how to fix it. The couple we knew went out of their way to introduce us to people and invite us to BBQs, but we were very much amongst childless people, and it showed.

The thing is; I don’t think people feel all that comfortable hearing anecdotes about drunken misbehaviour when they are coming from a pregnant girl. The genres don’t mesh. As everyone else was childless, they hadn’t yet experienced the feeling of loss of your past-self combined with the incredibly exciting anticipation for your new-self, and trying to get to know people while you’re going through such a massive change in your life isn’t easy. I felt as though I was already being treated as a ‘mum’, or at least as a ‘sensible person’.

To be honest, neither label really fit.

I felt as though no one here really knew what to talk to me about. The obvious topic was my pregnancy, and as much as I knew they were trying, I really REALLY wanted to let them know I was still just a chick in her 20s.

You can still swear around me, I’m not your mother.

You don’t have to feel bad when you mention ‘not being anywhere near ready for kids’.

I’m not going to judge you for drunkenly arguing with a DJ over his terrible choice in music; even if it did get you thrown out of the bar you were in.

I’m still one of you.

Almost three years later, we’re far more established. Those friends now speak freely around me, and we have our own anecdotes to share, but I’ve come to realise that the awkward new-friend phase is just a part of my life now. It comes along with the label ‘mother’ and all its connotations. It’s even existent in mothers’ groups, but I’ll waffle on about that another day.

Anyway, I guess my point is: parents are still people! Who knew?

 

 

Congratulations, and welcome to a lifetime of guilt!

Well, this has been a fun fortnight.

Dentist appointments, car services, accountants, doctors, deadlines and rainy days have bundled themselves into a happy little care package and landed slap-bang in the middle of an already frustrating month. With it: a suffocating parachute of guilt blanketing my life.

Because of the weather and the baby, my two year old had three indoor-days this week.

He is now genuinely excited by the prospect of popping out to get some milk.

At one point I managed to get the baby to nap in his cot and attempted to make some sort of progress with the mess-covered kitchen, when my two year old appeared at my side, quietly asking me to ‘play?’ and I felt so much heartbreaking guilt I vowed to just ignore the mess and do something fun. Within ten minutes I felt horrible for subjecting him to such poor living conditions.

My house is absolutely covered in toys and almost-dry clothes that will probably remain in that state until summer arrives, and the kitchen is beyond salvation. I’m aware of a long overdue blog post, and assignment (or two), my baby has reached a point where he just does. not. want. to be put down any more, and each evening, when my partner comes home from work, I just want to sit in silence.

Cue the guilt.

It creeps into everything, and I know I’m not alone.

I could hire a cleaner, but then I’d feel guilt about the money. What could I buy the boys with that amount? Of course, I can’t just buy their love, that’s terrible.. they really want my attention. I can’t clean and pay them attention at the same time, and I can’t involve them; that’s child labour. Ugh I’ll get a cleaner.

When you become a parent, someone should give you a pat on the back and say: ‘Congratulations! You’ll never sleep again, and there’s a strong chance you will feel guilty about every choice you make from this day forth. Good luck!’. That way at least you’d be kind-of prepared.

Whether or not you work, breastfeed, study, bake from scratch, use flashcards, ban screen-time, discipline calmly, only ever buy organic paleo vegan gluten-free unicorn kissed food: someone will disagree with your choice, and you will doubt yourself.

Or is that just me?

I don’t know. Maybe I should just suck it up and remember how lucky I am to have such minor issues in my life right now.

Aaand cue the guilt..

No, I’m not more relaxed this time around

20150324_174934_resizedSeven(ish) weeks ago we had our second child.

We were totally geared up for another 9ish months of being awake every hour, on the hour (or more often if it was a ‘leap week’ or a tooth was coming through). We invested in more swaddles, a better breast pump, a better baby carrier, a gorgeous new pram/capsule combo, and I stocked the cupboards with food I could make one-handed.

Then he arrived, and he slept.

We spent the first couple of days in the hospital wondering if he was just exhausted from the birth; our first was already making an impression by this age.

Then we came home, and he slept.

I was able to have a shower, and eat. At three days old our first literally let me get as far as putting shampoo in my hair before he demanded my return.

He napped long enough for me to cuddle my darling 2 year old, and in the last 7 weeks, not much has changed.

When my 2 year old was a baby, he needed me; a lot. He napped chest to chest, and fell asleep on the boob. If we dared put him down before he was well and truly out, he would fully wake. I had so many strangers smile at this beautiful boy in my arms, and tell me ‘this is the best age; they get so much harder as they grow!’ and it was all I could do not to bawl my eyes out. If this was the easy stage, I was not going to survive.

Now, people keep telling me that #2 is so relaxed because I’m more relaxed/I had a calmer pregnancy/I’m more experienced.

I want to scream at them.

They are just two different people.

Lets be honest: I’m not calmer now; I have a miniature dictator running around the house screaming at me because he wants his toast in ‘triangle squares’. My pregnancy was exhausting, especially when I had to physically stop my toddler from doing things like throwing his scooter into the duck ponds, and I was petrified that I wouldn’t cope with the hourly feedings after a day full of tantrums.

I want to go back in time and tell myself that I’m not doing anything wrong, that I can stop meticulously writing down my baby’s awake times and the duration of his feeds. I want to reassure myself that my one cup of coffee a day is not preventing my baby from sleeping, ever, and that it’s okay to take him for long walks every day if that’s what lulls him to sleep. I want to give my exhausted self a hug, and to let her know that she will behave the same way with her next baby and he will sleep, blissfully, because that’s what he wants to do.