In the last couple of weeks or so the dreaded parenting guilt has crept in again. (note to self, read old post about dealing with the guilt...or write a better one!)
As anyone with more than one child will know, we become a lot more relaxed as parents the second time around. You know, you see your child eating Cheerios that they have cheerfully scraped off the floor and you nonchalantly realise you haven’t bought cheerios in a month rather than go running for the Calpol to help fend off the illnesses that’s-a-coming since they just ingested so many bad bad germs. Or you don’t go rushing to their bedroom every time they let out the smallest whimper and sit stroking their head till they fall back asleep, when you then commando crawl out the room. Now you wait till they’ve been screaming the house down for a good while….and even then you just tell them to sshh and stomp back out to finish watching House of Cards.
So I’m fine with all of that. We’ve found it all much easier the second time around and haven’t worried so much about the small things and that’s definitely a good thing.
What’s getting me though is the realisation now that some of the expectations we had for T were pretty unreasonable. Things that totally aren’t even a big deal, but they would stress me out so much at the time.
It’s the last day of the school term today here in Fife and seeing everyone’s lovely posts about Autumn recently have gotten me a bit excited myself about this season. Let’s face it, it’s usually overlooked as everyone is beginning to think about winter and the C word that I won’t mention!
So, I thought it would be nice to put together a little to-do list for our family for Autumn. It’s all pretty easy and mainly free to do so it shouldn’t be difficult. And it helps when thinking about what to do with the kids in the holidays to have a little plan.
I do have my own personal list which includes the obvious kind of stuff:
- Stop shaving legs
- Reduce hair washing to twice a week
- Buy a winter hat because of point 2
- Complain about how cold it is
- Buy a winter coat because of point 4
Hands up perfect parents?
No, of course not. No one’s perfect in this parenting malarkey. In fact, I’d go so far as to say most of us are just muddling through as best we can. High-fiving ourselves each night for surviving. I know this. I do. Yet, as I’m on this blogging journey I find myself following more and more social media accounts that perhaps give the illusion of perfection. Social Media is a platform for us to showcase what we want. And there are A LOT of very talented people out there who have amazing photography skills and who’s pictures make you just want their life. We know it’s not real, but we get sucked in anyway. This isn’t about to turn into a bitching session by the way. I love and follow a fair few ‘pretty’ accounts. But, it’s good to remind ourselves that we’re all real people with real lives. Unless you’re Beyoncé of course.
So, in the interests of ‘keeping it real’, I thought I’d let you in on some of my parenting fails. So here goes, my confessions….
My littlest baby turned 2 a few weeks ago and of course it got me thinking about when she and her brother were first born. While of course I’m sad that we won’t have that teeny tiny baby stage again, I’m also relieved that that stage is done because it’s bloody hard! And often not helped by comments that are well meaning but make you want to hit said person round the head with one of the dirty nappies you’re swimming in.
So, wondering what NOT to say to a brand new, war wounded, sleep deprived and completely overwhelmed mum? Here’s my handy list….
1. When are you due?
True story. Someone I know very well went to the corner shop a week or so after her youngest was born and bumped into someone from her village who stopped to chat and to enquire about when she was going to have her baby. Now I get it, this mistake could happen to anyone. But this woman, oh she couldn’t let it lie, instead of being mortified and apologising profusely upon being told he was at home with his dad she was insistent that Mum was joking! If you ever make the same grave error PLEASE just say sorry, tell the new Mum she looks great and swiftly move on. Or be at risk of being pummelled by the nearest object!
2. You look tired!
No shit Sherlock. A tiny person has just burst into their world and stolen sleep right from under them. They are slowly coming to the realisation that they have no, I repeat NO prospect of finding the kind of sleep they’ve been used to for a very, very long time! There’ll have been tears before your visit and no doubt more tears afterwards so, for the love of god, as with point 1, just tell her/them both that they look great. Or go a step further and offer to take the baby out for a walk so they can grab an hour’s kip.
Tom at 1 hour old
Yes I’m tired!
Your child starting school is a milestone in their little lives. Here in Scotland the dust is just settling on Tom moving on from Nursery and into Primary 1.
What have I learnt?
I didn’t really notice it to begin with, as I have spent the last 5 years completely immersed in parenthood, barely coming up for air. It was only a few months back, when I started thinking about blogging and I was reading other blogs and looking at social media that I realised how many of us are in the same situation.
Something happens after our first baby is born. We’re immediately thrown head first into this new world, with this new being that requires our attention 24 hours a day, 7 days a week. We’ve no training for it so it’s a bloody anxious time just trying to survive.
From there it’s all about the cooking, cleaning, feeding, changing, weaning, sleep training, potty training, behaviour training and completing food shops with minimal drama, and all that stress and anxiety about housework and routines and who’s turn it is to do the morning routine starts to creep in.
It’s the eve of your 5th birthday. I’m not going to lie, I’m utterly exhausted. You’ve pushed me to my limits today. This is a recurring theme I might add. I would be lying if I said you were a laid back, low maintenance kind of boy. You’re not. Never have been, probably never will be. So, our days are jam-packed with chatter, activity and general hyper-ness. There’s not an awful lot of respite. And I get impatient with that. For that I’m sorry. But man, you make your dad and I work our asses off, all day long! So please do forgive us for the times we’ve wanted to hit mute and wring your scrawny wee neck.
Let’s skip back to 5 years ago this evening. I had already been in labour for about 2 days. You were the laziest little monkey around. If only that were a sign of things to come. After 56 hours and copious amounts of pain relief, you were eventually born via forceps in the Edinburgh Royal Infirmary at 9.09am on 23rd May 2012, weighing in at 7lbs 13oz.
That morning our lives changed forever. It’s amazing how you are simply entrusted to look after a new baby with zero training and everyone just expects you to get on with it. Turns out you just do. We had no idea what we were doing, and we probably still don’t.
The thing is, before you have children you don’t really have to think about others so much. You just kind of do what suits you and that’s brilliant. Why should you live your life any other way? Here’s why: Because as a punishment for those care-free times you will be sentenced to YEARS of parenting guilt to commence almost as soon as your baby is born, or sooner if the crime is believed to be severe enough.
Mine started before. I obviously partied WAY too hard and enjoyed life just far too much pre-children. So my sentence commenced after a lovely brunch of poached eggs with my friends when I was around 6 months pregnant, when I suddenly remembered that you’re not ‘allowed’ to eat runny eggs while pregnant. I then proceeded to call my best friend and make her call her midwife mum to find out what the lasting damage would be to my unborn baby after my reckless and selfish behaviour. Since then I don’t think I’ve missed a day of guilt.
You’ll be given no advance notice of when your sentence will commence, it will probably happen at the most unexpected time.
I question my parenting on pretty much a daily basis…because I’m resigned to the fact that even the picture perfect days will have me hollering like Peggy Mitchell at least 6 times.
This has got me thinking back to my pre-parenthood days and all those ways I knew I would parent if and when I was lucky enough to be blessed with little angels myself…
I wasn’t naïve, I ensured I did my research. This covered three main areas:
- Babysitting. This is obviously the best way to conduct research as it’s like high school work experience. A couple of weeks sweeping up at the hairdressers from 9-3 with breaks every 5 minutes gives a great understanding of the ease with which this job comes. It’s a similar concept when you’re lucky enough to be the childless auntie. I was called on to babysit on a regular (sometimes as often as bi-monthly) basis for both of my sisters’ children and from here it gave me a great understanding of what it was like to be a parent. Endless brilliant days spent walking in the woods, taking trips to the park, painting, baking etc. I even had sleepovers (after they were potty trained of course). This was almost exactly the same as looking after them 24/7 with no break, little sleep and when they are in the first few months, no adult conversation. The experience meant I was well on my way to perfect parenting. It also meant I was well equipped to offer advice to those with young children who were going through any challenging behaviours.
- Alongside this hands on experience I felt it imperative to broaden my research base by observing parents I didn’t know when out and about with little ones in places like the supermarket, on public transport and in restaurants. It was here that I noticed most of the parenting fails and knew exactly what I would do if/when it was my turn.
- Lastly, when I became pregnant with baby one I invested in some baby books. Handy little guides on how to get your baby into a routine early and all the priorities for their health and happiness. Fabulous, I love a list, I love a timetable and my children would too.
So I’ve mulled over the idea of writing a blog. I told myself no! You don’t have the gift for taking fabulous pictures and posting great stories that make everyone want to move to the seaside just to be like those amazing bloggers. You don’t have many amazing travel stories (unless you count the 6 hour tailback on the drive back to Scotland from Cornwall that time when you were 6 months pregnant, that involved Tom watching back to back movies and having his first KFC like it was THE best day ever, while I sweated my ass off (literally) , our swearing got louder and louder throughout the day and we fell out at least 40 times). You don’t have the humour. Well, let’s be honest, everyone think they’re hilarious, that their cutting sarcasm is wasted on their weary colleagues, but to actually describe yourself as funny? That’s terrifying! Not sure my fragile ego could take that kind of e-rejection!
So I left the idea.
Then I changed my mind. Why? Prepare for my first oversharing post…
I’m a bit of all or nothing person. When life is good I think no-one’s life could compare to mine. I’m in list-making/internet research overdrive (think, the next 5 years holidays, all the clothes I want to buy, great family days out, house renovation ideas, and so on and so forth). It’s when I’m feeling good that I count my lucky stars for my amazing house, family and friends, and pat myself on the back for working, keeping fit, trying my best to cook healthy meals for my family and for all the quality time we have together.