Week 9

expectations vs reality

I didn’t think. I just followed an intuitive pull I’d had since I was a small child myself. 
It’s far more boring than I imagined. I’d nannied from 14 years old so I was no stranger to childcare on a pretty intense basis. It’s also more heartbreaking and confusing and sometimes less rewarding than with other people’s kids. All that said, it breaks your ego and makes you a better person. But then also it makes you LESS of a person so striking that balance is tough. No regrets. Not about my kids anyhow.
A love/responsibility like no other as we all know. And I think life is all about these things.

After years of working with other people’s families I thought I’d be calm and take it all in my stride. Instead I love more intensely than there are words for (starting with the stillbirth of my first son and followed by two prems...and such devotion from the moment of knowing they existed)...but also being enraged by these people more than I would ever have expected. I’ve trained in a number of parenting programs as a child less professional and they are shit when faced with the reality of parenting. I am a hugging, screeching, loving, angry mess...not calm and passive.

I had no idea what parenting would be like, having little previous exposure to the reality of it. e.g.when I was told by a midwife at Sid's birth that I should book into sleep training now because there's always a huge waiting list, I didn't even know what sleep training was, or that sleep issues were a thing. Fast forward to now, and I know all about sleep issues, but never did that "required" sleep training. I've surprised myself by being more emotional and heart-driven than I expected from myself, but despite my strong desire to parent in a kind and gentle way, I find it really freaking hard to be this person...but even harder and more unintuitive to NOT be this person and to follow the more "mainstream" parenting advice out there. Therefore it's a daily struggle!! 🤯

- Yes! This totally resonates with me. At my core I can only respond when my children want me. It’s not even a choice it’s just who I am. So I never sleep trained and always slept with my babies but consequently I have also been at the brink of insanity because of the enormous personal sacrifice (sleep, relationship, personal space) that goes along with that parenting style. It was definitely easier when I just accepted that this is the Mum I am and stopped apologizing for it. In part this is why I won’t have a third child. This is the only way that feels right for me to be a mum, but there is not enough of me left to do it the same way again. I absolutely did not understand before having kids that it would involve this much questioning of my identity as a capable and rational person.

- yes, totally. The amount of second guessing is out of control, made worse by the fact that most of my friends couldn't understand why I wouldn't just "fix" his sleep, which made me even more unsure if I was doing the right thing. I feel that some people looked at me like I was responsible for my exhaustion as I wasn't addressing his sleep issues, so therefore they didn't give me any support or sympathy or solidarity. Very lonely and hard times! I too had a feeling of (relative) calm when I finally just accepted my style.

- That would have been hard on your own. I’m extremely lucky to have had an older sister have 3 kids before me and parent the same way (at the same cost to herself!). I would have been lost without her. Before I had my own kids though, I was totally guilty of thinking about my sister’s kids ‘why doesn’t she just make them sleep?’ I absolutely didn’t get it until I had my own kids and found my instincts were the same as hers. Then I felt like a dick and realized my first kid’s awful sleeping was probably karma!

I’d worked with children and adults, done night shifts and 14hr shifts, so I thought I knew what sleep deprivation and having a child would be like. Having an infant was nothing like any of that. The sleep deprivation and learning not to give all of myself until there was nothing left was the hardest lesson to learn. I thought parenting was about giving yourself to another little person entirely. I still really struggle with putting myself first and can’t do it a lot of the time, but I now know I can’t give anything if there is nothing in my tank.

 

I thought I was already quite good at self care and I'd make sure I looked after myself as well after I had a baby 🤣 Nope. It just made me more freaked out and frustrated because I knew it was needed and important but couldn't work out how to do it.  I also imagined that team work with my partner would mean equality and not being alone. Turns out you gotta split up to get things done sometimes and although you are both fighting the good fight, you don't always connect with each others different experience.

As an only child, I somehow thought mothering multiple children would be like "Romper Room" - one woman talking quietly to a heap of kids, each one listening to her every word, taking turns, not talking over the top of each other, and playing nicely. I had no idea my kids would argue about so many things - who pushes the button in the elevator, who gets to sit in the front seat/next to me/on the big couch/on the beanbag, who gets to scoop the ice cream out for everyone, who has a shower first. Truly, as an only child I had no idea what I was in for 😆

- I understand this. I have five much older brothers from dad’s first marriage but didn’t live with them after three. Being mum’s only child, dad’s only girl and the youngest by 12 years I was an only child of sorts. Sometimes I wonder if I’m capable of mothering two as I lack the relatability of having a sibling close in age. Turns out I’m much better one on one than commanding a room of plenty. ❤️

 I felt very maternal from an early age. I gave birth to my much wanted, long planned for first daughter just before my 28th birthday. Being her mum was nothing like I expected. I thought I was going to be a go-with-the-flow hippy earth mother, but I had a baby who was super routine focussed. I didn’t bond well with her and lost my sense of self so much that I cut my maternity leave short to go back to work when she was 4 months old. I guess I didn’t know you could have a child who was so unlike you. Once I went back to work everything changed for the better. She’s 11 now and I’ve learnt to parent to her style.

I watched most of my friends have kids before me and thought I had a good understanding of what lay ahead.... the practical bits, the repetitive days, sleepless nights weren’t far off but the self doubt, the guilt and the relentless exhaustion at times were beyond what I had anticipated. I was always the friend saying “just leave them with a babysitter- they will be fine!” I had no idea how much I would want to be with them 24/7. But then at the same time fantasise about time by myself at a luxury beach resort( or just a trip to the toilet by myself). Every one says this but I had no idea how much I could love another person.

 

I thought it was going to be harder once I got back to work, but I’ve actually found the balance pretty good. I think the fact that I have an incredibly supportive husband who understand how important my career is has helped. It is still exhausting, and I feel the guilt running out of the office on the dot of 5.00pm every day. In terms of the newborn stage, I don’t think anything can prepare you for that sleep deprivation. It’s just astronomically hard and you have to do what you can to get through it. I’m very apprehensive about the idea of bringing another baby in to the picture, I think I’m far more nervous about that than I was having my first.

We both felt like it would be wonderful to coparent a child from a committed relationship. 21 years after my firstborn, my second arrives and the commitment to both child and relationship comes in waves, as quite a shock for me. Coparenting is hard! We both find the periods of sleep deprivation debilitating. Sometimes all we have in the tank is enough to manage our part time jobs and hand each other the care of the varying family needs, like a baton. It's hard not to let resentment poison the value of a loving family and this glue feels like entrapment sometimes. I yearn to be free to think and move and yes, go to the toilet peacefully. Once school starts, its not easier necessarily, because then the jail of the establishment presents itself; but quiet unfettered walking, journalling, art practice, conversations, music, start to filter back in and the self work can begin again.

 

I was pretty calm and naive about what it would be like to be a Mum. I had plenty of friends and relatives who already had kids and I have always been drawn to little kids.
Once my first arrived, it took me a good few months before I began to function vaguely normally again as he was a terrible sleeper.
I could count on my hands the amount of times he slept through the night in those first 18 months, and most nights I was up several times for feeds and resettling. I feel like I took this in my stride and learned to function reasonably well on such little sleep.
When I became pregnant with number two, I thought I knew what I was in for, and was reasonably confident about what lay ahead.
I now have a 3yo and 6mth old, and I had no idea how relentless two would be (particularly if one or both are having a cranky day). There are definitely good and positive times, but I’ve found my patience levels to be way less second time around even though I’m getting more sleep this time. I’ve also found myself giving in and compromising on so many of my parenting expectations. Not something I’m super proud of, but I’m beginning to accept that this is just how I’m going to have to roll with two little active boys.

I wasn't ready for the loss of me, I wasn't ready for not feeling valued or appreciated in the thing that took up most of my time, of never being asked how my day was or how I was feeling. I knew being a parent would be hard, it is, more than I ever thought and it is worthwhile and more wonderful than I ever thought, but being invisible hurts, feeling guilty because I feel selfish wanting more for myself is crappy all round. And the anger, I never knew I could feel such anger, my anxiety that pre children would turn to depression shifts to anger far too quickly, or it did, because I'm working on that....on the flip side I never imagined the empathy and love that could come from small children when I was genuinely down, visibly upset...that love is overwhelming and pure.

- 100% nailed it for me too. I hate to know someone else feels the desperation and anger like I do sometimes... but also somewhat comforted by the fact that I'm not the only one feeling THIS much. It is SO MUCH sometimes.

One week I was expecting one and the next week two. My pregnancy included spending the last month in hospital I was sooo big. The delivery went well and then the fun began.Twin feeding I was loosing weight they were putting it on. The things you remember the Iraq war featured when I was doing all night feeds. Motherhood was an extraordinary feat and even my son with two under two still says wow! how did you do it. Possibly teaching 5-7yo for many years before kids helped. But I kid you not when the door opened at night and my partner arrived the look of relief on my face. Grandparents were amazing as were friends.