I have labelled this as part 1, because there are so many things to write about that we once had a view on that we realise is completely incongruent with the reality of your life now you have kids. I’m also constantly discovering things that seem like a fabulous idea for family fun, only to discover they are actually horrendous ideas, that are impossible to execute without wanting to massacre your family.
Lets start with things we think before we have kids about what life will be like when we have them. The kinds of things we judge other parents about, that we believe for some reason, we will be able to perfect and execute differently to these clearly inadequate parents that we have seen.
I can’t wait to have a baby and go on my baby holiday. It’s going to be the best not working for a whole year. A whole year!!!! Wow I am going to do all the wonderful things I don’t have time to do now. I’m going to be like a proper wifey and cook wonderful meals for our dinner and bake fresh cakes everyday. I can take the baby to play groups and meet other mums and be yummy mummies that lunch. It’s going to be ace.
Its week 4 of maternity leave and my partner has gone back to work. I’ve been sat on this chair for 4 hours feeding. I need to piss and get a drink but this baby won’t stop feeding and sleeping. My partner comes home in the evening and I am a husk of a human, sat in the same place he left me, wearing the same clothes. I smell, I’m desperate to pee. I want to cry.
Its week 6 I’ve still not managed to cook a meal. Every time I put the baby down they cry. I now shower in 2 minutes flat when my partner gets home. I can hear the baby crying throughout. I’ve left the house once to get the baby weighed.
3 months in and I’ve managed to get to a few baby groups. It’s like a military operation to get out of the house with all the feeding, shitting and sleeping and sometimes by the time I leave I’ve missed the group. I’ve smiled at a few other parents in the groups but not made any mummy friends yet. They all seem to already know each other and be in little clicks and to be honest I’m not sure any of them are my kind of peeps anyway! I shower every morning with the baby in the baby bouncer directly in front of the shower cubicle. Sometimes they cry but its ok I can see them. I cooked a lasagne the other day I was well proud. Gonna try and make some cupcakes soon, maybe from a packet, better not be too adventurous.
6 months in, half way through already. Now in more of a routine. Dinner getting cooked most of the time especially now because the baby needs to start eating too. I try to cook from scratch. Sometimes only the baby is eating and I make my partner pick up take away on the way home. We go to one play group a week and I meet with the NCT mums most weeks too. I’m getting some housework done so the house isn’t as much of a shit hole and I get a shower while the baby is strapped into the high chair directly in front of the shower cubicle. Sometimes they cry when the toys have fallen off the tray and I lean my soap sodden body out to pick them up and give them back. Only because they cry so loud I think my neighbour may call social services. I’m now spending all my spare time wondering where half my maternity leave has gone and crying that I only have half of it left before I have to return to work and leave my baby.
Who are these freak parents with enmeshment issues and absolutely no personal boundaries who have their children in their beds?! They must want their kids in their beds and cannot be bothered to establish a routine. The kids will grow up to have attachment issues. Having the kids in the bed must serve some relationship issues between the parents.
Week 3: The baby is waking every minute and you cant get the thing to sleep anywhere other than in your arms. As you lower them to the moses basket those eyes ping open each time. You are shattered and you decide to lay them down in bed to feed as your body is mangled from birthing the beast. Baby feeds and falls soundly asleep next to you. You consider moving them and decide you want to just rest a little while you can lay without holding them. You think its a one off and you’ll resume with baby sleeping in the moses basket again tomorrow.
Week 4: You haven’t been able to get the baby to sleep anywhere again other than your arms and your bed. You have been able to get more shut eye and everyone in general is getting more sleep. When the midwife asks you deny you have ever co-slept
Week 8: Baby is full time in that bed of yours. You don’t even attempt to put them in the moses basket anymore other than during the day when for some reason they actually tolerate it. You don’t even feel bad because you are getting more rest and not having to physically get out of bed in the night. And did you know that the rest of the world knows its perfectly normal for people to co-sleep? Its not like you are inebriated or anything so its perfectly fine and natural and actually you quite like the cuddles. Its normal for babies to want to be close to you, it’s a survival thing, you read it online on an attachment parenting website. You are not ashamed of co-sleeping anymore and will happily justify it to whomever questions your choices as a parent. You’ve bought a baby wrap for during the day and find yourself pushing an empty pram along the street with the baby attached to you because now they’ve taken to screaming their heads off as you walk around the shops!
Age 3: The sod is still sleeping in my bed. They go to sleep in their own bed and like night time ninjas hijack your bed in the dead of night to fly kick you in the head and sleep diagonally. I better get them in their bed all night by school age as that will be weird!
Who breastfeeds their kids when they are walking and talking? Are they going to be feeding them when they are 10? It’s a bit weird if you ask me. Those parents must be a bit weird. Surely that kid is going to have attachment issues?!?! I will breastfeed until 1 year max when I return to work after maternity leave.
Breastfeeding is completely natural and those follow on milk adverts and the workplace are to blame for this idea that feeding beyond a year is not normal. Do you know the world health organisation recommends up to 2 years and beyond? I’m following baby led weaning and he will wean when he is ready. What’s with cows milk anyway? What’s the rush to move from human milk to that of a cow? Why is that seen as more socially acceptable? Its because men see the breast as a sexual object that’s why!!! Well it’s purpose is to feed, that’s its natural function! People need to stop judging us breastfeeding mums, I’m being discreet its not like they can see my whole tit!!!
CRYING BABY IN A PUBLIC PLACE
That poor baby. Why can’t that parent settle or soothe them? Clearly they want something. Have they fed them? Checked their nappy? Do they need to sleep? Oh man that baby is soooo loud its hurting my brain. Come on dude, distract your child or do something. Ah man now I also have to listen to them singing to the baby too?!?!
Oh my God they wont stop crying. Everyone is staring. They all think I’m the worst. Jeez why are you crying so much? You’ve just been fed, your nappy is dry. I could feed you more but we are on a packed out bus and I’m standing up. Not sure I want the judging looks for whipping out my boob either. Maybe if I talk to you and think out loud people will hear and understand I have done everything possible?! “honey what’s wrong, you’ve been fed sweetie and I cant get you out of the pram on the bus….. shall we sing, will that help?….Twinkle twinkle little star”….. oh man I want the earth to swallow me whole!!!
Being a parent is damn tough, especially the first time round when you feel out of your depth and you feel the burden of judgement from others as well as the judgement from yourself. From all the things you thought about parents you saw out and about before you had kids of your own.
Now I’ve been there I try to be the one that notices new parents going through all the shit I did, and telling them they are doing a great job. Reminiscing with them about how damn hard it is. Otherwise it’s so easy to be like a driver, once passed and experienced, unable to remember the learner driver days, frustrated by them and unsympathetic to their plight. Zooming past them and leaving them filled with anxiety. Its easy to forget how hard it was and how it feels. Its how our parents and grandparents can sometimes look back at their own parenting through rose tinted glasses when giving us advice. Time has a great way of making us forget.
To all the new mums out there and those without children, ready to silently judge. It is so much harder than we ever expect and our fantasy of how it could, would and should be almost never matches up with reality.