Over the last few weeks, several women have asked me what it’s like to have kids- and I feel I have a duty to them- and to you guys- to be honest that while raising kids can be blooming life-affirming and wondrous, it can also be incredibly tough: mentally and physically.
And it’s nothing like you imagined it would be.
I sugar-coated a lot of the truth to those inquisitive women-so sorry to the lady on the train last week and the other who emailed me about impending motherhood- I should have been more honest.
I did admit you’ll love those kids with all your heart, that the best times will simply blow your mind, the worst will make you feel you’re losing it- but I didn’t give the whole story because sometimes it’s hard to find the words. You see until you raise kids, it’s almost impossible to describe what your new life will be like.
I’m going to try here-harder than I did with those women at least.
I’m writing this post for those about to embark on this parenting lark, and for the rest of us, right here in the glorious chaos that is parenthood so you might not feel so alone.
Parenting can be tough, relentless, tiring and for the most part, pretty thankless too.
A groundhog day of meeting the needs of little people 24/7 whilst trying to stay strong, often, against all odds. On little sleep. Little ‘you time’ and fewer brain cells than you had before- because kids admittedly kill all those things off one by one.
It’s a slow war though- and one you’ll feel you’re winning one day, losing, the next.
By being honest though, hopefully we can all feel a little bit better about ourselves, more normal, less alone.
Kids will come into your world and turn it on its head.
I mean you thought you were tired that time at Glasto or the all-nighter at uni you pulled-like the time I thought it would be fun to catch a ferry to Calais for the night even if I did end up hallucinating snakes in the supermarche’s cake aisle from lack of sleep and too much booze- but parenting on no sleep is tenfold all that madness.
It’s wiping s*** off walls, bottoms, sick off clothes-theirs, yours, driving with kids screaming in your ear, in public, on buses, planes-tantums, tears, soft kisses, honey-scented heads, their warm breath on your face and chest, deep all-consuming love, great joy-a day and life, of utter highs and lows.
And all that fun, all that life-changing, wouldn’t have it any other way (OK who my kidding, I want quiet, obedient kids in the next life), starts on day one, as soon as they arrive.
That ‘my brain hurts’ kind of sleep deprivation coupled with a choppy sea of haywire hormones and a child that.will. not. stop. crying will DO YOU IN. It will make you feel helpless for what feels like forever as the nights are long, the days are longer- because for every easy ‘I’ve got this nailed’ parenting win comes an even bigger fall. And it’s lonely and sometimes boring as a baby simply eats, sleeps, poohs and repeats. You are not failing if you feel you cannot cope or are bored out of your brain. You probably went from a busy, full life to just baby and you.
And these challenges are not just reserved for the baby years. Sleep deprivation hits at all ages.
Your kid gets ill, they go through another growing pains phase-terrible twos, the threenager years, the actual teenager years etc etc.
In some ways life felt easier in those colicky, sleep deprived early days than now with squabbling kids, school fall-outs and having to letting go more as little ones yearn for greater independence. The first day of nursery, school, sleeping at my parents’.
And, yes, you will be overcome with love when your kids arrive (creating a baby that cute will do that to you) but it’s important to be prepared. To remove those mother nature rose tinted glasses and know how hard it can be too.
To know you might not find yourself immediately in love with your baby for one. And that’s normal too. I felt a heady mix of shock, trauma and love when Oliver was born. Mostly shock though. LIKE-WTAF just happened kind of shock.
We’ve been fed a mythical story of what birth and parenthood is, and should be simply adding to the ever-growing list of parenting pressures.
Birth and raising kids is no walk in the park.
Where are the film clips of kids kicking off in Tesco like my youngest did today when I refused to buy yet another kids’ magazine to add to the pile in the recycling bin.
As my two kids moaned their way through the packing, the kind cashier and understanding smiles saw me through and the offer for discounted Prosecco consumed when little ones hit the sack!
I was lucky. Some people so frequently forget they were babies once, or believe the lies they tell themselves that their kids, once here, won’t believe like that. The false promise people tell themselves to keep the world procreating.
Just know this. You are not alone and things will be OK.
That these, the formative, tough years will not break you.
And if you do feel broken, there are people around to piece you back together-that you must reach out and ask for help be it your GP, family and friends..
I had a traumatic birth with my first and a supportive councillor and move closer to my family truly helped me heal. And this site too. A place to write and share the good times and the bad. A space that became my life and my job all rolled into one.
Kids gave me purpose and grey hairs. I do all that I do for them.
It’s true that children show you unconditional love and also push you to your limits.
Just don’t forget yourself in the mix. Look after you so you can look after them and know you’re not alone.
We’re all just trying our best and parenting is tough.
I discussed how hard parenting can be in this Facebook Live if you want to give it a watch