When is it that you actually become a mum? Is it when you see those two pink lines on a pregnancy test, when you feel your baby kick for the first time, or when you hold your newborn in your arms? I certainly didn’t feel like a mum during any of these life-changing events. I freaked out when I got pregnant (it happened much sooner than planned – not that I’m complaining, as I know I should be grateful for being mega fertile). I found it weird when the baby, affectionately known as Peanut or the alien, kicked and moved around. And when I had just given birth I was exhausted, a bit in shock and it turned out that Peanut did look like an actual alien! That’s not to say I wasn’t awed by these moments, I just didn’t feel that they made me a mother.
Seeing as my daughter is just over nine months old, you’d think I would feel like a proper mum by now, but I’m still not sure I’m old or responsible enough to look after a small person. My life has changed so much since she was born and I’ve been doing lots of ‘mummy things’, aside from the usual parental duties. One example of what I consider to be a ‘mummy thing’ is seriously putting effort into singing nursery rhymes at baby classes in front of strangers. Although I do still find this mortifying.
However, it was only recently that I truly had that feeling of being a parent, a proper grown up lady, a mother. I felt like the kind of mother that my mum was to me. You know, the person I saw my mum as when I was a child. This only came about because my nine-month-old is acting like a terrible-twos toddler combined with a stroppy teenager. She has little temper tantrums when I want to wipe her face or change her nappy or take my mobile phone off her because she has locked me out of it, again. She also hates getting dressed. She screams and wriggles about the whole time. At times I’m worried the neighbours must think about calling social services.
Tonight after her bath I was fighting to get her sleepsuit on. In the end, I wrapped my leg around her and trapped her in a vice-like grip. I wasn’t hurting her, but she couldn’t get away. I know she can’t really understand me at her age, but I told her I was putting her in ‘mummy prison’ and the only way to get out was to cooperate with me. It felt like such a mum thing to say and just the sort of reasoning my own mum used try with me.
That was my moment. Fighting with a small wriggly person and trying to reason with her. As soon as I said it I felt like a proper grown-up mother. I wish I could say I had a powerful story about discovering motherhood when I breastfed my baby for the first time or when she finally slept through the night, but no, it was when she was being an awkward little bugger. I shouldn’t expect anything else really, as apparently I was the same as a baby. Stubborn, inquisitive and hard work. Like mother like daughter eh…
Apologies that things have been a bit quiet on the blogging front for me lately. This is mainly because a plague has fallen on our house. OK, not a real plague, but it certainly feels like it. All three of us have had sickness and diarrhoea – so maybe don’t read this while eating. I promise not to be too graphic!
It all started when I was planning to go out for dinner for my Mum’s birthday (don’t worry Mum, I won’t reveal your true age). Grump was away for the whole weekend (when is my weekend away dear?) and so my MIL was coming over to babysit. I swear children sense when you want to go out and so play up at bed time. Most nights the J has her milk and drifts off into a deep sleep with minimal fuss. But every time we want to go out, she screams blue murder.
Friday night was one of those nights. She wouldn’t settle and, in the end, I had to leave her awake and crying with my MIL, feeling terribly guilty. I asked my MIL to text me once the J was asleep, so I wouldn’t spend the whole evening worrying that she was having an awful time with a crying baby. It took her two attempts at getting the J off to sleep, with quite a bit of TV watching in between. Poor MIL, poor J. Lots of mum guilt coming my way.
In the end, I had a lovely evening with my family. This was partly due to the two glasses of wine consumed (actually three if you count prosecco, but it’s basically air). I came home at about 10pm to a happy MIL and a sleeping baby. I went off to bed and was fast asleep as soon as my head hit the pillow.
At midnight I woke to a screaming baby. Usually I wake up as soon as the J starts lightly crying, but obviously the wine had something to do with my deeper slumber (cue more mum guilt for irresponsible parenting). I went into the J’s room and picked her up in the dark. She felt a bit wet and I thought she may have sicked up a little milk, but I gave her a big cuddle anyway. What’s a bit of milk sick between friends? She snuggled into me and went back to sleep fairly quickly. It was then that I realised her head was wet and she smelled a bit gross. As she was fast asleep, I laid her down on my bed in a fortress of pillows and went to check out her cot.
When I turned on the lights it was carnage. There were piles of orange sick all over her cot (she’d had butternut squash for dinner). To make things worse I had put the cover of her Sleepyhead in the wash and so had the innard bit loose in her cot. That was also covered in sick. I spent the next 10 minutes stripping the cot and feeling even more guilty that I had gone out when she was feeling unwell and had presumed she was just being fussy. I then realised there was sick all over my pyjama top and went to inspect the J. She had lumps of sick in her hair and had obviously been writhing around in it. It was horrible. In the end I had to wake her up to strip and clean her. She was not impressed. She then started to make gagging sounds and, luckily, I managed to catch her sick in my hand. Then I had to hold her in the other non-sicky arm over the bin so she could be sick again. There was so much sick!
After all the sick was cleaned up and the J was calm, I tried to get her back off to sleep. Of course, she wasn’t having any of it. After numerous attempts to get her off – this involved rocking her and then putting her in her cot once she was asleep, which meant she woke up as soon as she was put down – I’d had enough. I thought about bringing her into my bed, but I was worried she would wake in the night and crawl/roll off the bed.
Thankfully, we have a day bed in the spare room that has two single mattresses on it. I decided to make a bed on the floor and the two of us could sleep on it together. Unfortunately the J’s room is not that big, so first I had to move the feeding chair and Jumperoo out of her room (this meant dismantling the Jumperoo – I hate it now) and then dragging the mattresses across the landing. Our makeshift bed stayed put for the whole weekend. Her room looked a bit like a crack den, but it actually worked really well. We snuggled up together for a bit and then she drifted off and slept on her own mattress. She was in her sleeping bag and I had a single duvet. The only downside was that the J rolled around all over the place and kept waking me up. But I was worried about her puking again, so I think I would have had a disturbed night anyway.
Thankfully after that there was no more sick (from her anyway) and only a few leaky nappies over the next few days. Although I did have to throw away a vest and baby grow that just had too much poo in them to even bother trying to wash.
The next morning, I phoned Grump to tell him what had happened and then he felt terribly guilty for not being there. Later on in the day, he told me he had the beginnings of a migraine and then I felt guilty for making him feel guilty for being away and causing him stress, which can lead to migranes. Why is there so much guilt as a parent? It wasn’t his fault, but I was cross that I had to deal with it on my own.
Well he and I certainly got our punishment. In the early hours of the Monday morning I woke up with painful stomach cramps and feeling really sick. Worse than morning sickness (yes THAT bad). For the next 24 hours I spent most of my time groaning in bed or being sick/pooing and laying on the bathroom floor crying. It was shit – literally.
Oh and my brother and his girlfriend bought dinner over for me on Saturday night, as I had been cooped up at home all day with the J. It was such a lovely thing to do – and how did I repay them? By giving them the sickness bug. They both got it on Monday morning and had to take time off work. More guilt for me.
Grump had to take the day off work on Monday to look after the J, as I was incapable of doing anything, let alone looking after a baby. I finally got to spend a whole day in bed – it’s just a shame I felt so awful and couldn’t appreciate it. So Grump was amazing, although he didn’t really nurse me or ‘there there’ me much like my Mum used to do, but he did look after the J all day so I could rest.
Grump went back to work as I was feeling much better and could look after the J. We had another quiet day at home. At lunchtime Grump came home looking white as a sheet and says that he had got the bug. He went through the exact same thing as me. I honestly wouldn’t wish it on my worst enemy. So now I have to nurse him and look after the J – it is like I have two children.
Myself and the J are better today, but Grump is still ill. He always has to go one up on me and be ill for longer. For once, this is not a competition I want to win.
So that’s my long weekend in a nutshell. Sick, poo, sleep, repeat.
Disclaimer: I wrote this post on Sunday, when I was feeling particularly low and was having a rubbish day. Today has been loads better and I’m feeling so much more positive. It just goes to show how a good night’s sleep can change your mood.
Isn’t it funny how some days your child is a little angel and you have a lovely, fun day. They go down for naps easily, they eat all their food without complaint and you think “I’ve got this parenting lark sorted.” Then, other days, it feels like everything is going wrong and that you are a rubbish parent, and you wonder, “Why did I sign up for this?”
Today was the latter. The J wasn’t even that badly behaved, but I had no patience with her. I think tiredness had a large part to play here – for both of us. She refused to have an afternoon nap at all, so was awake and cranky, but would not go to sleep under any circumstances.
Since having a baby, my mood swings are crazy. On Saturday I was in a great mood. It was my sister-in-law’s surprise baby shower, so my mum babysat the J for a couple of hours. It was a really nice afternoon and I had lots of a fun (I even won a prize for being amazing at guessing who’s who from baby photographs) and I when I picked the J up, my mum said that she had been a pleasure. She even got herself off to sleep in the new travel cot, which is unheard of. Everything just ran smoothly: dinner, bath, bed etc. Grump was at the rugby, so I was doing the bedtime routine on my own, which can be mega stressful – especially when the J tries to drown herself in the bath or crawls away when I’m trying to get her nappy on. I swear I spend my days chasing after her little naked bum. But, this Saturday was a breeze.
Today I woke up and everything was shit. I was tired as the cot alarm had gone off twice in the night and I went in to find the J was asleep at the end of the bed and not on the sensor mat. When I tried to move her she woke up and then I couldn’t get her back to sleep. Why, oh why did I move her????? Idiot (me, not her). Obviously Grump didn’t help as he was comatose in the spare room after a few too many pints. So I was mega tired, and today everything felt like a drag. My patience was zero. Grump annoyed me, the J annoyed me and then I felt guilty for hating everyone when I have such a lovely family. Oh and I’ve got my period, which didn’t help matters. Gosh this is a moany blog post.
I guess my point is that two very similar days can feel so different depending on your mood (and how much sleep you’ve had the night before). If I’m in a good mood then I am so much more tolerant when the J starts screaming when I wipe her face after lunch. If I’m in a bad mood, the noise makes me want to bang my head against the wall. To be fair, some days the J is in a great mood and that makes things easier, and some days she is stroppy and is particularly testing. Everything I do is wrong and she is grotty all day. Today is a rubbish day, but hopefully tomorrow will be better. It’s all swings and roundabouts.
When I set out to write a parenting blog, I didn’t want it to be all moany and negative, but I also want to let other mums know how I feel and that there are really crappy days and there are great days. And that if you feel the same way as me then you are not alone. Parenting is hard work. It is relentless. And it’s OK to feel like you hate it sometimes. I love my daughter more than anything in the world, but sometimes I struggle at being a good mum. I long for the glory days of cocktails, meals out and lazy Sundays. But I wouldn’t change my life now for the world and, on the bad days, I cherish those good, happy moments. Oh and I tend to finish those bad days with a bottle of wine… #just saying
Those of you who have read my blog post ‘To work or not to work’ will know that I recently went back to work after maternity leave for a week, while Grump stayed at home with the J. I was a bit concerned about leaving the J, not because she was with her father necessarily (maybe a little bit), but more how I would feel about being away from her.
Well it turns out it was bloody brilliant! OK, that makes me sound like the world’s worst mother. I did miss her and was so happy to see her when I got home, but I really enjoyed being back at work.
On the plus side, Grump loved being at home. In fact, he told me he wants to become a stay-at-home dad (to his work colleagues who are reading this, he is not actually planning on leaving his job). It was at this point that I had to gently remind him that he is the main breadwinner and, even if I went back to work full time, I would still earn much less money than him. I think it was a novelty having the J for a week and that in reality he would get fed up with being at home all the time.
So Grump had a lovely week spending quality daddy time with the J and I got to be out in the real world. I will admit, I started to get tired at about 4.30pm each day and by Friday I was certainly ready for the weekend, but it felt so refreshing to be thinking about and talking to adults about non-baby-related things. And to just be myself, not Mother, Housekeeper, Cook and Wife. I think it helped that the team I was working with were really friendly and the work was interesting. I don’t think it would feel the same going back to a job I didn’t like.
Another bonus from the week, and something I had initially worried about, was that Grump learned all of the J’s little quirks and routines – especially during mealtimes, as he tends to get home from work during or after her dinner. Now, we are now on an equal footing and it means I don’t have to talk him through what she eats and how much etc, when he does feed her. This makes life so much easier!
I know that our ‘job swap’ was a bit of a novelty, but I now have the confidence to say that I do want to go back to work part time and I know that I will be OK being away from the J. Obviously it will be different leaving her at nursery or with a childminder, and perhaps I am being selfish wanting to be away from her, but I always take the view that a happy mum equals a happy baby. I am not happy being at home all the time and I do get fed up with it. I can be stressful, relentless and, at times, just plain boring. There’s nothing wrong with feeling like that. I need more.
Now I realise that not everyone would be able to ‘job swap’ in the same way that we have and that we are in a fortunate position in that we both work in industries where we could do this. Grump is a teacher so he was off on half term and I’m a journalist, so I can take on freelance work. However, if you ever get the chance to do a ‘test’ few days or week at work (some companies do those Keeping-in-Touch days) and your other half can take some holiday – have a go! It might help you to decide what you want to do and it certainly strengthened our family dynamic.
Now I’ve just got to find a job… and some childcare… oh crap
Think you are stroppy when you’ve got PMT? Think again. Pregnancy and being a new Mum is a challenging time, made ten times worse by those raging hormones that make you more than a little tearful, emotional and slightly crazy. I never thought I’d lose control of my body and actions in such an all-consuming way.
2. Mum guilt
When you become a Mum you also inherit ‘Mum guilt’. This basically means that whatever you do (right or wrong) you feel guilty. From breastfeeding (or lack of it) and how many times you change their nappy to leaving them with anyone else and being angry with them for stealing all your sleep. I feel guilty when the J bangs her head, when she cries, when I get cross that she won’t stop crying, when I feed her Ella’s Kitchen pouches instead of home-cooked food, and when I wish she would go away for a bit so I can have a lie in (I don’t really wish she would go away, but I am bloody knackered).
3. Lack of free time
If anyone is reading this who doesn’t have kids, make the most of your free time. I had no idea how precious this was until I had a baby. Coming home from work and sitting down in front of the TV with a glass of wine. Being able to straighten your hair in the morning. Having a bath or shower that is longer than 5 rushed minutes. The J has just started crawling and I’m waiting for that dreaded day when she follows me into the toilet – so that’s what Jumperoos were made for.
4. An immense love that changes you
I thought I knew what love was before I had the J, but a mother’s love is a whole different ball game (sorry Grump I do love you too, but it’s different). It’s this unconditional love that makes you fiercely protective. I would seriously hurt anyone who harms my baby and I’ve never felt like that before. It’s a feeling of awe about this amazing little person that YOU made. It makes all those sleepless nights and stressful days worthwhile.
5. The inordinate amount of time spent talking about the contents of your child’s nappy
I’ve always had a crude sense of humour, as had Grump. He once took a photo of his poo (it was so long it came out of the water), saved it on his phone and showed it to everyone we know. So I’m not shy about talking about disgusting things, but it amazes me how much time us mum’s spend talking about our babies’ poo. The colour, size, consistency, frequency and smell are all discussed in minute detail. Oh and you think it’s bad when you have to deal with newborn poos and then you start weaning and things get even worse. Be warned!
6. You become an amazing multi-tasker
Thought you were organised before you had kids? I certainly believed I was, but now I can juggle so many more things at once. Even with baby brain. Every time you leave the house you need to remember a ridiculous amount of things: nappies, wipes, change of clothes, muslins, bibs, dummies, toys and so on and so on. Your baby has their own social life and you somehow manage to remember doctors/health visitor appointments, baby classes and meetings with friends, as well as doing the food shopping, clothes washing (which increases three-fold with all the sicky/pooey baby clothes), cleaning and tidying of the house. Oh and cooking meals for yourself and for baby and pureeing them and finger foods and sterilising bottles… the list is endless.
7. Early mornings are the norm
I think the latest I have slept in since having the J is probably 7am. Lie-ins are most definitely a thing of the past. Unless you have amazing parents who are prepared to take your baby overnight (mine haven’t offered yet…), you might as well say goodbye to sleep for the foreseeable future. Also going to bed early doesn’t seem to help. Our usual bed time is now 9.30pm. Anything past 10pm is pushing our luck. I even tried going to bed at 8.30pm the other night and still felt shattered the next morning. Oh sleep how I miss you.
8. You don’t have time to care what people think about you
I never used to leave the house without mascara on. I think I’ve probably gone without it most days since becoming a mum and I hardly ever brush my hair. The other day I was out for lunch with my parents and the J’s nappy leaked onto my white t-shirt. In the past if I’d got poo on my top (whose poo I’m not sure? Just to be clear this has not happened to me before) I’d go straight home and change. However, I simply gave it a quick wipe and continued eating my lunch (obviously after wet wiping/changing the J). I don’t have time to give a crap what people think about me now and it is quite refreshing.
9. You are more affected by world events
I used to get a little bit upset by tragic world events, but I always felt very removed from them. Since I’ve had a baby I find the news really difficult to watch. Anything sad or cruel and I’m welling up. And if it’s anything involving children I go out of my mind. It makes me question what kind of world have I bought my child into.
10. You do everything you possibly can to avoid a hangover
Not that you really have the opportunity to go out on the lash, but there is absolutely no way I could look after a small child with a hangover. I still like the odd glass of wine, but the thought of feeling rough all day and having to wake up at 6am is just too much to bear. I’d rather stay sober and have a pleasant weekend!