I won’t be that sort of mother
Before I had kids I absolutely knew what kind of mother I would be. I would be just the same as I was before kids, but with kids. I would cool, I would be calm. You know what I’m going to say, so let’s cringe together as I type this quickly ….I was going to be ‘different’ to other mothers.
It was absolutely the right time for me to have kids. I was fit and able. I wasn’t going to let the baby dominate our lives. I believed in open communication and preparation. I wasn’t going to pull myself up to unnecessarily high standards. I was still going to prioritise my relationship with my husband and I CERTAINLY wouldn’t be having public disagreements with him.
Five months later. FUCK MY HUSBAND.
No, seriously, fuck him. I absolutely do not care what is going on in his life or head right now. I am so tired, so consumed with love and wonder and learning about the littlest, whilst simultaneously finding myself physically battered and split in half from the whole pregnancy and birthing business…
I could not care less what my husband ‘wants’. He might want a cheese sandwich because he can see I’m making one for myself. Fuck off.
He might want sex. Fuck off. He might want a rational discussion about how we could manage things differently now that we’re a family of three. Fuck off.
My life ENITRELY revolves around the baby. Even if I had an inkling that my ‘goal’ was to be a balanced and rational mama I am unable to tap into that former self anymore. I have an entire human being who I have waited thirty years to meet, they are like a keyboard with a reverse mouse or a car which you can only drive backwards using your rear view mirror, one speed control and a lot of ‘am I hitting the curb yet?’. Every time I thought I’d got this human version of Tamagotchi right the settings reset. Like trying to become the expert of a rare and delicate caterpillar and then going into their room one day and realising they’re now a flighty butterfly.
And the one fear I had absolutely not factored into this future self, when I so obnoxiously announced to the world that I was going to be the first sane mother, is that I would be forever terrified of killing my child.
It sounds so ridiculous and irrational that it makes total sense that I wouldn’t forsee this roadblock. You can’t kill your own child! How insane do you have to be to allow this to affect any decision to make?
Well, from my experience, you don’t have to be insane at all. You just have to have fallen in love. Which is way worse and far more incurable.
The baby is crying? I wonder if they’re hungry? I wonder if they have interception of the bowel? Have they got a leg trapped? They won’t stop crying! Is it a tooth? Did they fall? Do they not love me?
And that’s the shit you don’t have to deal with when you look after someone else’s baby.
When that kid is mine, I know that every small decision I make from the moment they are born will piece together, day after day, moment after moment until one day they will be 15 years old or 21 or 35 or 62 years old and I will be responsible for that outcome. Whilst a distance rational part of my brain whispers that I can only ever be partially responsible for the person my kid turns into, I accept I will never escape the feeling in my heart which tells me in no uncertain terms that I am in fact ENTIRELY responsible for that outcome. Much like buying great ingredients for a splendid meal or working hard on a painting. Will all the bits come together well, or will I have created a dud?
When I look after someone elses kid I know that I’m just a moment in that child’s life. If I mess it up for 24 hours, no biggie. The parents will iron out the kinks….
But, now I’M THE PARENT!
I don’t have time to give my husband a blow job or agree to watch some awful TV with him about future alien castaways on Netflix. I don’t have time. I can’t get this parenting ‘stuff’ wrong. In my arms might be a future pyscho. I need to future-proof it by making sure they get enough milk/ sleep/ clean nappies – but not TOO much milk or sleep or play time because then they’ll get fat/ lazy/ stubborn/ selfish… but not too little that I kill them or they get tired or cranky or highly strung….I just need to walk that invisible line between shit parenting and over anxious parenting….
So, no, I don’t have time to make stuffed jacket potatoes for you husband! Are you trying to wind me up? I don’t have time to whip up those crispy and cheesy jacket potatoes that are my signature dish whilst rummaging for my (previous) jovial personality under the layers of self-doubt and fast learning I’m embarking on.
I don’t care that I have become the mother that I never wanted to become. I have become the mother I needed to become to become a good mother, to know that I’m doing a good job.
To accept that I was naïve before and that raising my own child is harder than any other job I’ve ever had. The stakes are higher, I’m ‘all in’. Every damn day, every single dark and quiet night.
I’m proud to be the mother who shrieks ‘I don’t have time’. I’m proud to be the wife that tells my husband to find his own dinner. I’m proud to be the mother with a noisy toddler on a plane and reprimanding her kids at a family party. Because that IS parenting. I didn’t understand before but parenting isn’t just hugs and love. It’s raising a human, it’s setting boundaries, it’s trying to cater for everybody’s needs simultaneously. It’s trying not to loose yourself under the the body dysmorphia, changes in sex drive and bumps and diversions in a career that babies can bring.
I forgive myself because my kids too have tantrums and moan incessantly, they don’t stay in their bedrooms, they say ‘muuuuuuum’ which is really really reeeeeeeeeally annoying when you’re trying to get dressed in the morning.
Dealing with the profound mundanity is at the heart of parenting.
There are no quick fixes or solutions. It’s a struggle, it’s real, it’s demanding.
So, now I don’t judge other mothers so harshly. I fell off that high horse the first night I held my newborn in hospital, lost and alone.
Now, I say, be the mum in her workout gear if that makes life easier for you. Be the mum with babyspew on a shoulder moaning about how your husband bumps up against you in the night with a misplaced erection, that is annoying! Laugh about how you thought it would be vs how it is. Embrace the dry shampoo hair and constant self-doubt. Be proud of your naughty toddler and your demanding newborn. They are like every other child on the planet. It’s ok to allow people to see you getting upset and disappointed with the kids, you’re not a Boden catalogue, you don’t need to ‘win’ at parenting or prove a point. You don’t need to the ‘best’ mum or compete with anyone or, worse of all, yourself.
I am that mother I used to watch on airplanes bribing their kids with chocolate and noisy iPads. If I turn down the volume on Peppa Pig you’ll just hear my child shouting. I am that mother that wrestles a child into a car seat in Sainsbury’s car park and looks sweaty and exhausted. YES! It IS that hard to wrestle a 14 month old into his seat! YES! They truly are that strong and wriggly and it is so boring it saps you of your life-force having to do it several times a day. I am that wife that rolls their eyes when they ask their husband ‘did you pack the baby wipes?’ And they respond with ‘no, I thought you did’. I am that wife that silently seethes in her seat and thinks, ‘do I have to do everything myself’. Sometimes I don’t even think this silently. I say it to myself, out loud, so everyone else on the plane can hear my marital disagreement.
I have walked the path that so many mothers have walked before me. We can’t see the future, that’s partly the joy and the devastation of life. I like how confident I was before I’d ever held my newborns or struggled to breastfeed or felt the guilt and shame of being too harsh on a toddler, but I forgive myself like I hope other mothers will too.
I’m proud of the mother I have become.
I am a big fat and proud, clanger of a cliché…. and I’m proud of that too!
Find me on Instagram @amumvoice