You have kids and they become the centre of your universe and with it, comes the mental load of the mother.
I get it. I always got it. OK, I didn’t always get it, certainly not 9 years ago, my first baby in arms, I, utterly shell-shocked at the prospect my life was now no longer my own as I morphed from carefree, spontaneous, pretty selfish, ‘stay in bed on a Saturday until I could be arsed to move’ to frightened new mum who now stayed in bed on a Saturday now, until I could be arsed to move because I couldn’t physically move from an emergency c-section, and lack of sleep thanks to a colicky baby who bloody hated sleeping.
Overnight, I’d made the upgrade from trying not to kill my beloved Bonsai plant to being responsible for keeping a miniature person alive. Anyone who says that isn’t a mind f***, is lying.
Life inevitably does, and did, ease up once the mind-bending sleep deprived nights subsided (and I’d received therapy for the trauma I experienced in childbirth) and 9 years as a mum has cheesily, but honestly, shown me vast amounts of strength I didn’t know existed, well-earned slithers of accumulated armour borne from all the times I sat in A & E with unwell children, supporting them through the loss of my auntie Zak, and they, me, or the times I wanted and needed to parent my children despite acute throat problems and a thyroid op as just three of a million examples.
There’s been bags full of delicious fun of course to boot, playing on the swings, my kids on my lap even now, meaningful conversations I rarely have the answers for on life, death and relationships, and contagious laughter I wish I could bottle up and must remember to record next time (mostly at Alexander’s impressions-get that kid on the stage) but admittedly, some days and moments and minutes feel hard. Those initial challenges in the early years have become more complex and nuanced, along with my children’s needs. Now, it’s no longer about milk feeds, it’s about navigating friendships, hormones, confidence and homework.
Sometimes, I wonder if I’m well enough equipped for all of this, whether I practice what I preach to my kids enough, particularly on body image and self-worth (I’m working on it), and often find myself reflecting on how easy the baby days were in retrospect, despite never believing I’d ever feel that way during the front-line days.
I mean, toddler tantrums are undoubtedly easier to bear than your 6 year old telling with teary eyes they’re not good enough at writing, or a friend has broken their trust and won’t talk to them anymore.
Nothing feels worse than seeing your child hurt. You feel their pain viscerally, you echo their every emotion. You, as their parent, want to cushion their every fall or ideally protect them so they never had to fall, but that’s not real life, you know they need to make mistakes, to learn, to hurt to become resilient in this life. They must become able to rely on themselves, to trust themselves and not seek self-worth from others. Lessons you learnt yourself just later than you should have done.
That’s a lot of load to take on, and, not forgetting, in addition to all the practicalities parenting brings: feeding, driving, school-running and more. The ground work.
That, coupled with the emotional load can often feel so heavy, it can be crushing.
As women, we so often take on the duty of being everything to everyone.
I have the flexible job, so take on the lion’s share of the parenting in the day time but my husband makes up for it when he’s here making the partnership equal.
But, some days feel too much.
Just looking at the Reminders List on my phone alongside work project deliverables make my eyes hurt:
Buy more thread to sew swimming badges onto shorts.
Cancel swimming lessons for the summer.
Find out if swimming lessons can be booked ad-hoc during the summer.
Help Oliver on the Vikings (Oliver’s school project I’m helping him with-mostly Googling Norse phrases).
Ask school about Xander’s missing trainers.
Book family train tickets.
Arrange play date for the kids.
Collect Xander’s medicine from school
Book specialist appointment with an ENT for Oliver (on-going ear issues).
Fill in letter for Oliver’s new school.
Post letter for Oliver’s new school.
This is just the kids’ list for TODAY by the way, the work list and the miscellaneous personal list (send Mum holiday books, buy baked beans (!) etc etc) form another. It’s frankly, never-ending. The things I need to remember, and do. I know it’s the same for you.
So, yes, this post is one long ghastly moan but sometimes it’s important to just let it all out and share away for catharsis’ sake, and in case someone else might be feeling overwhelmed and flat, knows they’re not alone.