Children and ages: Esme, 3 years old and Annie, 15 months old
Previous blog entry: https://the-mothers.co.uk/2016/07/21/debbie-and-esme/
Life since the last blog post: Things have changed quite a bit since my last blog post…we’ve now been joined by the lovely Annie, we moved house when Annie was 16 weeks old (I wouldn’t recommend doing that to be honest…it isn’t the most relaxing way to spend maternity leave…) and I’ve resigned from my job as a solicitor to fully embrace life as a ‘domestic technician’…albeit a ‘domestic technician with access to part time childcare’ because, you know, being a mummy is hard and if help is available, you can bet your life I am going to take it…!
Motherhood since last being on the blog: I’ve always known that I wanted more than one child, so we were thrilled to find out I was pregnant again when Esme was 18 months old – I was desperate to have quite a small age gap because there is only 20 months between me and my sister and as a result we are very close. Sadly though I suffered a miscarriage during the first trimester.
My pregnancy had been so straightforward with Esme that I hadn’t really ever considered that we could experience any problems – similarly, I had been so focused on getting pregnant, that the idea of ‘staying‘ pregnant hadn’t really entered my head. It was a very difficult time, but we were incredibly fortunate to then fall pregnant again relatively soon after my miscarriage.
My pregnancy passed by incredibly quickly – I could never remember how far along I was, I never had a clue what size fruit or veg she should be, and I spent a lot of time panicking about how I was going to cope with a baby and a 2 year old who had helpfully decided to cease all daytime naps and shun the idea of sleeping at night…even on Annie’s due date I found myself sleeping on the hard floor of Esme’s bedroom for most of the night in order to get her to sleep…a fairly sub-optimal situation when 9 months pregnant, to be frank.
Motherhood second time round has been an entirely different, and frankly more enjoyable, experience. Having two children has brought home the fact that no two babies are the same and therefore you can’t and shouldn’t compare your experience to that of anyone elses.
Baby Esme and Baby Annie were like two different species. Having Annie has made me realise that actually baby Esme WAS a challenge – it wasn’t all in my head and it wasn’t (just) the case that I was an inexperienced mother. Sorry Esme if you happen to read this when you’re older, but you were a bloody nightmare!! Why did you cry all the time? Why did you never sleep?!
In contrast, Annie was such a calm and happy little baby who very rarely cried and who I could take virtually anywhere without having to plan my various exit strategies and routes.
If you know, you know.
So not only has this been a more relaxing experience this time round, but I also feel vindicated and like I can start to be kinder to the memory of ‘first time mummy’ Debbie, who I now realise really was doing her best in very difficult circumstances.
Has motherhood changed you?: 100% and then some more…I feel like an entirely different person to who I was 4 years ago, and even more so now, post baby number 2.
To be honest, I think I’m more chilled out , which certainly wasn’t a side effect that I was expecting. The small stuff genuinely doesn’t bother me anymore.
It’s a bit ‘hashtag blessed’ to say this out loud but I can’t believe how lucky I am to have my family and to be living this life. I never lose sight of that, no matter how hard and thankless it can sometimes be keeping two small humans alive and happy. That’s not to say that I don’t have dark days (or nights!) where it all gets a bit much and feels overwhelming…I absolutely do. But now, with two little girls by my side, I don’t have time to wallow.
On the whole, that has made me a happier and more relaxed person, and I have to say, I definitely prefer this version of myself. Similarly, since having Annie, I feel much ‘steadier’ as a parent. I wouldn’t go as far as to say that I feel more capable, because I don’t think any of us can claim to have nailed parenthood…rather, I’m just kinder to myself when things don’t go according to plan (er, every day!) and I know that, as annoying as it is when people say it, most of the difficult periods genuinely are just a phase, and bloody hell, it flies by so much faster second time round.
I also know now that your kid will largely turn out the same whether you stress yourself out to go to 101 different baby classes a week (hi there first maternity leave) or if you hang out at home in your pjs watching the Real Housewives franchise with occasional trips to the Trafford Centre for coffee and to return your online Zara purchases (hi there second maternity leave).
Has your perspective on work changed since becoming a mother? Massively! My husband works very long hours and has to stay away quite a lot, and I was working as a solicitor, so keeping all of the plates spinning in the air when I went back to work after Esme was a struggle.
Inevitably I had to do the vast majority of nursery pick ups and drop offs, and I was the one who had to drop everything whenever the dreaded call from nursery came through that Esme had sneezed/vomited/coughed the wrong way.
We don’t have any family support day-to-day as neither of us are from Manchester, so it was a struggle and it felt like keeping the family rolling from day to day was akin to running a company, with my husband and I just barking ‘to do’ lists at each other whenever we happened to see each other face to face.
I was permanently stressed and it felt like Esme spent her days being dragged in and out of the car seat. It wasn’t working. So, when Annie arrived, I decided I didn’t want life to be so hard anymore. I wanted to slow things down, get some breathing space and spend more time with my girls whilst they are still little.
We are in a fortunate position because of my husband’s job so I decided to stop feeling like I had to do it all – I only wanted to focus on what would make life easier for our family.
So, I resigned! And it felt good! It has absolutely been the right decision for our little family and I honestly haven’t regretted it for a minute. I understand that this wouldn’t or couldn’t work for everyone, and indeed maybe it won’t work for us forever, but at the moment it feels right so I am determined to enjoy it – I appreciate the situation I am in and I feel incredibly lucky to be able to breathe in these moments whilst the girls are so little.
Hardest parts of being a mother: I think the hardest thing for me at the outset was getting over the shock that having a baby wasn’t going to be as much of a joint endeavour between my husband and I as we had both initially (and naively) thought…I think its true for most of us that, before the baby actually arrives, we romanticise about what it will be like to have a mini person in your life and how you and your partner will bring them up together. Yet, when Esme arrived, it was a shock to me to realise that parental responsibility wasn’t actually an equal split between my husband and I.
My husband is fantastic – he is one of the most engaged, hands on Dads I know – no mean feat when he works away a lot. But, the fact remains that the difficult bits, the mind-numbingly tedious bits of parenthood, were largely my responsibility.
The long, lonely night shifts. The inability to be away from my baby for any stretch of time because of breastfeeding. The never ending days which start pre 6am and leave you actually panicking about how you will survive. The boredom. The feeling that life is passing you by. The sickening feeling of trepidation as you attempt to visit a shop or cafe and wonder if you’ll have to abandon your trip because of any one of a million possible baby-related issues which could arise. All of that fell down to me and I remember in those early days feeling like I’d been missold what being a parent actually involved in reality.
Best parts of being a mother: This is such a big question that I think anything I actually write down will sound flippant and won’t do justice to how I actually feel. I love being the person my little girls think will make everything better. I love introducing my little girls to new places and new experiences, and seeing how they react. I love watching their personalities emerge and getting a feel for the type of people they will grow into and where their interests will lie. They’re an absolute joy and I feel so lucky to be their mummy.
What you wish you’d known before having children: I wish I’d realised that, actually, babies are just tiny people, not a different species or a weird science project, which is kind of how I approached it when I first had Esme! Just keep them alive and let them know that they are loved. That’s literally the only thing you need to worry about. Humans are all different and what works for one won’t work for everyone – the same rule applies for babies. I know, crazy but true.
First time round I was obsessed with doing things ‘the right way’. Now, I am just happy if Esme and Annie are happy. There are no rules, despite what the books, websites and snake oil salespeople will tell you.
Only have time to feed your baby at the end of the working day whilst they’re in the bath? Do it. Need to do cry it out or controlled crying in order to survive? You do you. If it makes your life easier and allows you and your baby to better enjoy each other, all power to you.
I also wish I’d realised much sooner that its okay to admit that you don’t like all aspects of parenting. Admitting that you find parts of it hard or boring or difficult is not the same as admitting that you don’t love your child. We understand that caring for elderly parents can bring out complex emotions, so why not caring for kids? It’s okay not to get excited about wearing trackie bottoms for the 47th day in a row whilst simultaneously picking up food off the floor and waving a toy in your child’s face. It is boring at times. It is hard at times. It is lonely at times. But it does get better. And when it does, it is the most rewarding and beautiful thing.
Luckily they seem to know when to throw you a lifeline by doing something cute or funny so you can carry on for another day!
Any more advice for mothers and expectant mums: I remember one time when I was stressing out about something baby related (I can’t even remember what it was but the potential options are sleep/weaning/gross motor development/fine motor development/school choices/how will our children ever afford to buy a house/what if they don’t find a career they love/Brexit/what if they never actually learn how to swim….), I remember my husband saying to me ‘Deb, this is meant to be fun you know’.
As obvious as it sounds, that was what I needed to hear. I appreciate that not all elements of motherhood are fun – there is nothing funny about those next level tantrums which they save for public places when every other child in the vicinity is behaving beautifully – but it did remind me not to over-complicate things, and to stop looking for monsters around corners…having tiny people around is oh so frustrating at times, but its also so much fun.
And if I remind myself of that, even on the tough days, I can usually find something mildly amusing about the situation, and plough on for a bit longer.