26 Sep Parenting; Those Heavy Days
When parenting two very small children I have learnt that there are really only two kinds of days. There are those gloriously easy, happy ones where the day seems to just unfold effortlessly. My heart is warm, my soul sings and I feel competent in my own abilities to shape these two little ones into spectacular people. In contrast, are the days when the baby screams, the toddler seems frustrated and I feel like I might buckle under the sheer weight of parenthood. It’s back-breaking, soul-destroying, engulfing and heavy, so very heavy.
Our parenting style is deliberately gentle as we’ve learnt our son isn’t responsive to anger, shouting or even time out. However, on the days where he has knocked every boundary I have set, and I’ve not had the energy to keep building them back up again, I’ve seen my soul swirl out of control to the point where my fingernails dig into my palms just to feel something other than the unbelievable heaviness. This frustration, and dare I shamefully say, the normal human emotion of anger, has to manifest somewhere and I often envision throwing the toy box out the window like a rock star with a hotel tv. It would beat sorting out the mash of lego, puzzle pieces and cars that have made their way into every corner, making a deathtrap out of my home, in a very sick version of groundhog day.
And the baby, for all her podginess and dimpleness, still has a complete dependency on me for everything and being fully responsible for another person is weighty. It’s coupled by the sleep deprivation that feeding, teething, sickness and, dare I say, general attention seeking brings. Real sleep deprivation is horrendous, it’s hallucinations and vomiting and shaking. It’s crying and thinking that being under a bus is the only way out. I am not a mum who could let the overall awareness that I won’t always be needed at 4am override the sheer hell of being awake at that hour. They will move on, this too will pass, they won’t always need me to soothe them but it doesn’t stop me, sometimes, wishing they didn’t always need me, right now, in the present.
It’s the kind of weight that makes me want to drop everything and run, run far far away to a day when I was free. When it was just me and I was a fully functioning person. But instead I drag the baggage to a play date because I hope that the other mum feels like I do and we can laugh about the weight, and in doing so, lose a little along the way. But play-date mom has made cookies, and her house is clean, and she’s having one of those smiley, jaw hurting days. My toddler knows the score because he’s decided today is about table dancing and the baby is toying with the philosophy of separation anxiety. And I leave feeling worse than I did when I arrived, regretting giving play-date mum so much power. Most of all I regret putting myself into that position of sheer honesty because the general rule among moms seems to be only to tell stories of magical, empowering, pain-free births and witching hours spent co-sleeping and snuggling.
Finally, the day is inching towards bed-time and I skip the bath and rush the bedtime story, as my mind races to a glass of red. I mentally evaluate what has to be cleaned and what can be stepped over, whilst meeting demands to read “Spot The Dog” again on autopilot. I think about the effort required to a have a conversation with my husband, whilst really wanting to talk with an adult. I lift the toddler into his cot in a move I’ve done a thousand times and just as I’m doing so he nuzzles into my neck, wraps his little arms around me and I see the day through his eyes as he goes to bed after a day filled with adventure and, most of all, love. He can’t yet thank me for being his mama but he can lift the heaviness in one single move.
Then there’s the baby who coos before she falls asleep and she looks like such a vision of total perfection that, despite myself, I pick her up whilst she’s in that place where dreams are made. Even in her sleepy state she senses my presence and sighs as she inhales me. Her breathing slows as she knows mama would fight dragons for her. And the burden lifts, the day of heaviness melts away into the pool of love I have for these two. I marvel how someone else’s stillness and tranquility can make me fall in-love all over again, whilst knowing that that tomorrow they will continue to test every inch of my maternal fragility and vulnerability.
And I know it’s heavy and I know it’s hard but the most residing thought just before I fall asleep is that I’d do it all again in a heartbeat, because I can carry the weight.
Written by a Breastfeeding and Baby Community member.