I don’t know much, but I do know that everybody’s parenting experience is so wildly different that there’s almost no point in writing a blog in the vain hope of comforting others with shared experiences. Almost, but not quite. See, I’m about to write a blog that will describe an experience that I am pretty sure will apply to only me. But, there’s always the slim, vague and ghost-like chance that someone will read it and say, “Oh thank God. I thought it was just me.” So, here it is…
After nine months of being a mother, I was pretty sure I had this gig nailed. I’d got over the heart-wrenchingly hard first bit and morphed out the other side a slight shell-shocked but infinitely more realistic, confident and settled mother. I was happy and enjoying my baby girl. I was excited by all the new things she was doing – no longer was motherhood an exercise in carrying an increasingly heavy weight around that you fed and rocked and cleaned occasionally. Now the days were filled with
reading ripping books, playing with randomly chewing toys and eating home-cooked, real-life meals Ella’s Kitchen…life was exciting. I felt like I was making a difference, that we were connecting, building love, life-experiences and developing new oh, so, important life skills.
Then, it all took a serious nose dive. At first I had no idea why I suddenly did this emotional u-turn that left me feeling tired, lacking in confidence and useless. I’d been doing great! We were having a blast but now, all of a sudden, I was struggling again. Eventually, I realised exactly what it was – for me, it was burn out. I had been through nine months of universe-shifting changes and done it all while I’d been at my most tired.
I was on my knees. For the first time in my life, there had been no time off. There had been no respite – the only time away from Billie had been to work and I had to do that ten times faster and harder than I’d done before because time had become such a precious commodity.
I was spending the day expertly divvying the time up between getting her up, feeding her, tidying up after breakfast, playing with her, putting her down for a nap, showering, cleaning the house, doing the laundry, preparing her lunch, getting her from her nap, feeding her lunch, taking her out to the park, coming back, folding the laundry, stopping her from electrocuting herself, tidying up lunch, stopping her from eating cat litter, preparing dinner, emptying the dishwasher, loading the dishwasher, soaking her vests in oxy powder, giving her dinner, tidying up from dinner, going to the supermarket, putting the shopping away, taking her out of the dishwasher, putting the dirty plates in the dishwasher, giving her a bath, putting her to bed, cooking dinner for me, eating dinner, answering work emails, doing work, clearing away dinner mess, cleaning kitchen, considering organising receipts, household bills and then thinking better of it, then beating myself up for not doing it and then, finally going to bed hoping to get through more than one page of my book only to find myself waking up at 3am because I dropped my Kindle on the floor. Also, not being able to get back to sleep. Obviously.
After my disastrous start at motherhood – not being able to breastfeed, having to go back to work so quickly, finding it WAY harder than I ever thought I would find anything – I had emerged determined to be better. I had spent the next nine months trying to be everything to everybody. I had worked my bollocks off trying to be wondermum and I had come close but I had still fallen short (my taxes are still not done, and I have no idea where I’ve put my new debit card) and after nine months I was physically and emotionally spent. Done. Dusted. Depleted.
Of course, I didn’t have anything like this kind of perspective. I wailed about being a terrible mother, about not being able to do it when actually, in reality, I needed to do two things:
1) Forget about the fucking cleaning every now and again
2) Give myself a break
I’ve been trying to do this. I haven’t perfected it but I have gained way more perspective and sometimes, when she naps, I don’t do the laundry and I don’t clean the bathroom (I can’t actually remember the last time I ceaned the bathroom now) I sit down and watch Netflix with a cup of tea and relax. Well, I try to relax. I spend most of my time thinking, ‘I really should do the laundry’, but it’s an improvement.
You can’t be perfect but you can break yourself trying.