Children and ages: Winnie, 5 years and Pearl, 3 years
Location: Old Trafford
Previous blog entry: http://www.the-mothers.co.uk/p/about-me.html
Life since the last blog post: There are no major changes in our family. I think perhaps things are at the point where parenting is slowly but surely getting a little easier though. Things are good.
I’m fully aware, while writing this, however, that I’m temporarily in a positive phase of parenting. I’ll be cursing myself in a couple of weeks; counting down the seconds to bedtime and using a nice big glass of wine as the carrot at the end of a long, hard day.
Motherhood since last being on the blog: When I last wrote my answers for the blog I was definitely in a ‘honeymoon phase’ with Pearl, my second daughter.
I do believe that having a second baby when we did was the best decision we made, but we really did not feel ready at the time. We suspected that in the long-run having two children close in age would make sense so took a risk. And, thankfully, when she was born Pearl was everything that Winnie wasn’t: easy to read, predictable, happy (sorry Winnie). It made the whole experience of motherhood so enjoyable. I feel so lucky to have had it this way; I could ‘enjoy every moment’ as you are so often told to with your first baby (even though there’s no way you can). I found myself just relaxing. I was not stressed at all. We didn’t do too many baby groups because I didn’t feel the need to. I had a good set of mum friends, and felt totally secure in my ‘mum’ role by this point.
It made me realise that the hardest thing to deal with after having your first baby isn’t that you’ve got a difficult baby, it’s that you are having to change so many aspects of your life at the same time as bringing up a difficult baby. Everything changes: relationships, responsibilities, career, social life, and it all has to be negotiated whilst you are getting very little sleep. Second time round the only tricky changes you have to make are logistical – like working out childcare, for example. You’re already a mum and your partner is already a father at this point. But saying that, petty arguments were perhaps more commonplace at first for us, as we realised that family time and work time were such a difficult set of variables to balance. We spent time, and still do, praying that some higher power might decide to extend days to 30 hours long rather than 24, or having 3 day weekends rather than 2. This is yet to happen, and so we still continue to debate the pointless topic of who is busier and who is more tired again and again and again.
My family are all runners, and for years I’d denied that I had any interest. The rebellious teenager in me always came out when they suggested I gave it a go. I was dreadful at it at first, but for some reason I stuck with it. There is definitely something about giving birth that empowers you – I suspect it’s the fact that you get through it without dying. It makes you realise you can do anything. I cannot put it into words. Before I’d always considered my willpower to be be pretty lacking, although, after starting to run I saw progress quickly and that helped.
Running became so important to me. It became an escape at the end of a long day. When my husband arrived home from work I’d put on my trainers and have half an hour on my own, watching the world go by, and not hearing, ‘mummy, mummy, mummy’. No-one whinging at me or demanding anything of me. And fresh air. Birds singing. Being rained on. Within months I felt so much more in control, and happier. I hadn’t really considered that I was unhappy before, but I think the fact that I no longer had negative thoughts about my physicality meant that I had one less stress in my life.
Hardest parts of being a mother:I do realise that there is a scale of ‘hardest’ things to cope with in parenthood, and the things I’m listing are definitely on the less devastating end of the spectrum. These are the things that are pretty insignificant, but can make day to day life feel impossible.
When Winnie started primary school I suddenly thought that things would get easier in terms of work. I had daydreams of all the work I was going to get done (in my perfectly tidy office that looked like something off Pinterest – because I’d have so much time on my hands that I’d organise everything in rainbow colour order). Oh, how wrong I was. With two children in two separate childcare scenarios, timing was and is tricky. And, being freelance, not knowing when the next job’s coming in, I couldn’t justify putting them in full-time childcare either, and at the same time I didn’t want to.
(If any freelancers have found the perfect solution I’d love to hear.)
Other hard things are: 1. The time between 3.30pm and bedtime. Everyone’s tired, and running low on energy. That’s why kids need food and parents need coffee at this time of day. It is always made easier, however, when you’re with other parents (or at least out of the house) in my opinion. 2. When your child is made sad by someone else. It’s pretty gut-wrenching the first time you see your child affected by something someone else has said or done. 3. It was hard when I found out Winnie needed glasses (despite the fact she refused to wear them in these photos – but this is another issue). I felt temporarily really sad for her, and I thought I’d really miss seeing her lovely, innocent spectacle-free face. I got over that almost instantly when I realised she wasn’t bothered about wearing glasses at all. 4. Whinging is torturous – it’s like a really unassuming headache; it makes you feel exhausted yet it takes ages to notice what is is that’s making you feel so agitated. 5. Oh yeah, and hearing your name a million times a day is up there too.
Best parts of being a mother: 1. Siblings interacting (nicely) with each other. 2. Reaching that stage parents of older children talk about when the children go downstairs on their own in the morning and can make their own breakfast. 3. Seeing them behave impeccably in front of strangers. 4. Brief, in-depth conversations that you have with them that give you a little glimpse into their lives without you. 5. Spying on them when you pick them up from somewhere and they don’t realise you’ve arrived yet. 6. Learning about the things that they specifically love or are good at. 7. Holding hands with them. 8. Uncontrollable tickle giggles. 9. Spending weekends together as a family. 10. The moments that make you think, ‘yes, this is it. This is why we had children’.
What you wish you’d known before having children:I wish I’d had an idea about how my gender could affect my career. Growing up I was lead to believe that whatever career I chose I was going to be equal to my male counterparts, but it has just not been true for me.
In having two children, in purely practical terms (by physically making 2 children) I’ve had to take time out of working. I’m therefore already behind. Then there are the really tough decisions that have to be made regarding what’s best for you and what’s best for your child: do you put them in childcare, or do give them a big chunk of your time? I don’t believe either is necessarily better than the other.
In the last five years, I have seen myself trailing behind male peers in work and it will take a lot of time and effort to make up for that discrepancy. It is the same for my male friends who have been the stay at home parents too. I think I was under the impression that I could be a career person AND a good parent. I’m still not sure if that balance is possible to reach.
Any more advice for mothers and expectant mums: I had no idea how little co-parenting my husband and I would do. I am alone with my children a lot, and this reality never occurred to me beforehand. It is fine – no, it is fun – when they are in good spirits and I’m in good spirits, but it is not always the way. It is really hard work to be alone with a baby who doesn’t talk or interact all day. It is really isolating. For mums who feel like that, and are really experiencing the isolation, it gets much easier when they learn to talk but in the meantime surround yourself with other mums.